with Peter Searcy
The Roxy Theatre, Atlanta, GA • July 15, 2000
Roi J. Tamkin
When drummer Fred LeBlanc announced at ten-thirty that the band was going to play a long set, I suddenly realized I just wasn’t the Cowboy Mouth fan I thought I was. The show was sold out, and the crowd of college-aged couples and some older, single guys seemed to appreciate a long night of their favorite songs.
Peter Searcy opened the show promptly at nine to an audience that was still filling in. Shedding the teen-punk Squirrel Bait days, Peter was promoting his new CD, Could You Please and Thank You, a collection of radio-friendly pop-rock tunes. Instead of punks, Peter was backed up by Atlanta bassist Greg Lee, guitarist Charles Wyrick (dressed as Col. Sanders, for some reason – Peter called him the Matlock of rock), and Detroit’s Billy Adams on drums. The opening songs, “Ceiling Stars” and “Broken,” warmed up the crowd, lulling them into pop complacency with the subdued tunes. With “Hateful,” the band became more alive, with a tougher rock sound. Peter’s energy increased the longer he played. Even when he switched to acoustic guitar, he was able to maintain a good energy level with the young audience. His forty-five minutes seemed way too short, as the crowd was still growing, with couples swaying in each other’s arms. Before too long, it was time for him to get off the stage. Peter and his band really should have played another ten minutes. But then they would run the risk of upstaging the headlining act.
It was well after ten, and I began to notice something weird about the stage setup. The drums were pushed to the front of the stage. Where would the rest of the band play? When Cowboy Mouth took the stage, I quickly realized that all four members were frontmen in their own right. Fred handled all the pop-rock hits, bassist Rob Savoy sang the country tunes, John Griffith on rock, and Paul Sanchez took the blues-country mix. One wonders how these four different styles came together as one band, but it works, giving the audience a variety of danceable, happy tunes.
This New Orleans band is energy from the word go. Fred LeBlanc is a big, muscular guy who commands your attention. It’s worth the price of admission just to watch him pound on his drum kit and snap drumsticks, which he discards behind him with a flick of the wrist. Even when he’s not singing, all eyes are on him as he makes facial tics in time with the music and shakes his sweat into the audience.
They also constantly engage the audience. The band threatened not to play until everyone stood up and shook hands with the people around them. Once we established that we were all here for one reason – to hear music – the band played. In the middle of songs, Fred would keep the audience active by ordering “everyone scream NOW!” or “wave your arms NOW,” and if Mr. Muscle said scream or stand up, everyone screamed and stood up. Fred’s non-stop energy transferred right into the audience with the crowd constantly jumping and moving.
The songs were a mix from all five studio albums, but mostly from their new release, Easy. They opened with “Whatcha Gonna Do,” moved to Rob Savoy’s country “Maggie Don’t Two Step,” to Sanchez’s “Shotgun In My Soul,” back to Griffith’s “Everyone Loves Jill.” They sang pop, country, and rock, with each member taking turns at singing and engaging the audience. The pop songs that fell under Fred’s domain were the most popular with the audience, even singing the choruses so Fred could concentrate on sweating and beating the crap out of his drums.
Through all the spit, sweat, and excessive instrument abuse, it was clear that the crowd loved the long set. Most couples spent the evening embracing, some were two stepping, and everyone was standing and screaming at Fred’s call. But for me, it was getting too long. I enjoyed “All American Man” and “Here I Sit in Prison,” but it was almost midnight, and I still hadn’t heard “Jenny Says.” I figured they were saving that for the encore. The live show just hadn’t convinced me to be a bona fide Cowboy Mouth fan. I left the Roxy to head over to another venue to hear the new and improved Pleasantdales. But I’m saving that show for another review.