Only A Masters Of Awesome

When I first saw Cowboy Mouth, it was purely lagniappe.

This weekend, when I saw them for the fourth time, it’s more of an educational experience. Professional development, if you will.

The first time I saw them was at Huntsville’s Big Spring Jam music festival back in 2006. They were part of a block of acts on Sunday evening with Sister Hazel and the Gin Blossoms. Basically, at that point, I knew them solely for “Jenny Says,” which I recalled as a sort of off-beat hit from college radio at Ole Miss. In fact, all three acts were staples of Rebel Radio, and I thought it might be a nice nostalgic evening. I was mainly interested in hearing the Gin Blossoms do “Hey Jealousy,” but didn’t know if I was willing to pay to see just that. But since one ticket gets you in for the day, might as well go catch all three, right?

While Cowboy Mouth was sort of just an added bonus going into it, they were, for me, without question, the stars of the show. “Jenny Says” was awesome live. And it turns out that I liked more of their songs when I heard them. But …

The show was amazing. Just incredible. I wrote recently about what I like in a concert, and number one on the list is an experience that’s different from the CD. Well, watching Cowboy Mouth live is an experience that’s different from the CD. Even the live video at the top of this post doesn’t begin to describe it.

As I said, I’ve seen them now four times — that first time in a chair at Big Spring Park, a ways from the stage; the second time standing near the stage at a club downtown; the third time sitting on the ground, even farther from the stage at Big Spring Park; and the fourth time this weekend again standing near the stage at the Elvis Festival in Tupelo. And, really, if you’re not within 10 feet of the stage at a Cowboy Mouth show, you’re not at the same concert.

I went back, and keep going back, because the thing that surprised me most at that first show was how much I learned at the first show. Cowboy Mouth drummer and lead singer Fred LeBlanc is an amazing showman, and he has an incredible ability to engage the audience.

I had been in the Face2Face improv troupe for just a few months the first time I saw them; I don’t think I’d even been on stage yet. But I was awed at his energy and stage presence.

By the second time I saw them, I’d been in the troupe a good bit longer, and think I’d even started hosting shows. And that was where I really started learning. My hosting stagecraft owes a huge amount to LeBlanc. He made me realize that I’m not hosting a theatre event, like a play. I’m hosting a rock and roll show. I need to get the audience fired up. I need to get them energized. I need to get them engaged. Are you with me!?

Every time I see them, it’s like a one-night masters degree in stage presence and performance. Every time, I learn a little more, come out of it with a little more. Frankly, it’s a good thing I’m not hosting the show this Tuesday night at Sam & Greg’s; I would probably steal too directly from Saturday night’s concert.

Maybe next week …

2 Responses

  1. Wow. Cowboy Mouth, Sister Hazel and Gin Blossoms. Those three bands bring back some memories. I saw all of them in Oxford, probably every time they played during my tenure there. Not really because I wanted to, but because I didn’t have to pay to get in. The Gin Blossoms are the only ones I was really a fan of. Chances are I still have the cassettes and whatever press material, if they had any, for all of the bands tucked away somewhere. Though the t-shirts are long gone.

  2. I’m so jealous of you! Cowboy Mouth is my favorite band. I’ve only seen them 3 times, and I’m desperate to see them again.

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