The Name of the Band Is

Cowboy Mouth.

That’s what you say. When the lead singer/drummer yells “the name of the band is?” you, concert-goer, are to yell “Cowboy Mouth.”

On your feet. Hands in the air. Jump up and down. Give me rhythm. Get down, on the ground, everybody. Now scream. Dance like your life depends on it.

These are all things the lead singer/drummer of Cowboy Mouth will tell you during a Cowboy Mouth show. The word “show” there is key because it’s not a mere concert, not a display of musical talents or abilities or the playing of one’s collection of songs. It’s a show. From the humor to the energy to the uniqueness to the tossing of red spoons and the “Jenny Says” finale — a night with Cowboy Mouth is an experience. And the lead singer/drummer Fred LeBlanc likes it that way. His goal going into the evening, so he’ll tell you and so it is, is for people to forget about the world outside, let go of their fear and inhibitions and just enjoy life, something that too often we don’t get to do.

I went into the show nervous about my ability to “let go.” I fear looking like a fool, being a fool, being found silly or “uncool” or something. I probably can’t even name all the fears I have in social situations like that. But at a Cowboy Mouth show you’re better off letting go and giving it everything you’ve got than trying to be a sneaky wallflower. There are no wallflowers at a Cowboy Mouth show. If you’re standing or sitting Fred will call you out and make you stand. I would much rather work on my inhibitions privately than be called out for it publicly.

So I did. I started out the night standing on the floor a few feet from the stage because again, as I said, I’d rather choose to be there than have someone call me out and put me there. I knew a handful of songs, none of which were played in the first set, so I warmed up slowly. But when he got to I Believe, I started to loosen up because I like that song and I knew the words. Rock concert tip #1: You’ll have more fun if you can sing along.

From there they played a few I knew, a few I didn’t, a few covers, and I got some water. Tip #2: Having something in your hand makes you feel less nervous because before that I didn’t know what to do with my hands and thus felt “awkward.”

They played another favorite, Everybody Loves Jill, and I threw a red spoon at the stage (you’re supposed to). And for the big “Jenny Says” 10-minute finale, I did what Fred said. If he said give him rhythm, I clapped. If he said jump up and down and enjoy life, I did that too. When he said get down on the ground, I kneeled down with everyone else and jumped up when he said it was time. It was fun and freeing and a little silly. I would have looked more silly to not do all those things than I did doing them.

The discussion I had afterward was about how the actions the band ascribes to the concerts are their opinion of what it looks like to have freedom and let go and live life like there’s no tomorrow. Mine could (and does) look different but it’s their show. For them, that involved a lot of jumping up and down. I’m not a big jump-up-and-down-er. I’m more of a hip-swayer, but not once did they say sway your hips. And maybe hip-swaying is less universally accepted (lots more people jump up and down at concerts, perhaps). I swayed my hips anyway and I don’t think Fred or the band or the people around me minded at all because I was enjoying myself.

It was an interesting juxtaposition to be told “be free” and simultaneously be told “this what that freedom should look like.” What if freedom looks different than that? And to be sure, the assigned actions are all aimed at helping all find their comfort zone, their ability to loosen up. I jumped up and down a few times, both when I was told and a few times when I wasn’t told to but felt like it anyway. More than anything, I was given permission to let loose both in the way ascribed and in my own way.

Bottom line: I had fun. Which I’m pretty sure was the point.


2 thoughts on “The Name of the Band Is

  1. you nailed it….but the reason fans are told ‘this is what freedom should look like’ is because over 16 years of sweaty concerts most people really only forget their problems and ‘let them go’ when they get into some significant physical activity at the show. We don’t know why; maybe it is because the sweatier and happier people get, the more camraderie in the audience and the less inhibitions to moving the whole thing forward. But unlike alot of shows where the stars perform for the audience and look for polite applause, a Cowboy Mouth show is really about the individual audience members having the best possible time.

  2. Johnny says:

    Knowing the words is very important to me. You can enjoy a song you don’t know. But you can really let go on a song you know. There are still folks who complain about concerts having become sing-alongs in the past 20 years or so (“If I wanted to listen to the people next to me sing, I would have just gone to a karaoke bar rather than spend X dollars on a concert.”) But all my favorite concert moments have been when I was singing at the top of my lungs and moving however I felt like. From dancing to “Where the Streets Have No Name” with U2 to playing air drums on “Red Barcetta” with Rush, that was the ultimate for me.

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