Cowboy Mouth / Collective Soul
Muskegon Summer Celebration, Muskegon,
July 10, 2005
By: Janet Reid Boltz
Southern rockers Cowboy Mouth and Collective Soul came to western Michigan on July 10, 2005 to close out the final night of the 11-day Muskegon Summer Celebration. A warm sunny day turned into a beautiful summer night - the perfect setting for an outdoor evening of rock and roll.
Following a fun set from Buckwheat Zydeco, New Orleans band Cowboy Mouth took the stage. Beginning with just the beat of the bass drum joined by a beautiful 3-part harmony sung by the men in the band, Cowboy Mouth started their set with the mellow Amen/This Little Light of Mine. Anyone in the large audience who was unfamiliar with the band may have been surprised by the crazy energy that would follow the subdued intro. People who had planned to enjoy the concert peacefully by sitting back in their lawn chairs would quickly realize that they'd better watch out, because crowd participation at a Cowboy Mouth concert isn't optional - it's required.
Not satisfied with the polite audience reaction to the first song of the set, drummer and front man Fred LeBlanc told the crowd that they would have to make a lot more noise. As LeBlanc pounded his drum set perched at the front of the stage, guitarists John Thomas Griffith and Paul Sanchez ripped into Light it on Fire, backed up by the bass playing of Sonia Tetlow, a recent addition to the band. At one point during the song, LeBlanc told the audience members to hug and kiss the person next to them. Spotting some people who were less than enthusiastic about that request, the barefooted LeBlanc grabbed a microphone and took off into the crowd to hunt down non-participators. He explained that Cowboy Mouth shows are a time to forget about anything that may be bothering you, and at least for the night, go nuts and have the time of your life. By the time he headed back to the stage, LeBlanc had worked the crowd up to an impressive level of energy, especially considering that the band was only on the second song of their set.
The band maintained the high energy level throughout their 16-song set which featured a good mix of both older and brand new songs. For a good part of the set, LeBlanc and Griffith traded off lead vocal duties. Griffith took the lead for energetic brand new songs such as Supersonic Overdrive and Winds Me Up, as well as older songs like Man on the Run and Everybody Loves Jill, a song during which die-hard Cowboy Mouth fans made their presence known as they threw red spoons during a lyrical mention in the song. Similarly, fans threw Tootsie Rolls during a line in Hurricane Party, a fun song lead by Sanchez about throwing a party in anticipation of an approaching hurricane instead of running for cover.
The band wrapped up their set with their traditional closing song and biggest radio hit to date, Jenny Says, which is found on their 1996 album Are You With Me? as well as their most recent full-length release, 2004's Live From the Zoo. The culmination of the song came when LeBlanc told everyone in the park to get down on the ground then jump up and scream their hearts out as the band finished the song. He asked the audience, "Isn't it great to be alive today?" and after the show Cowboy Mouth had just provided, the answer for much of the audience was clear.
Cowboy Mouth's high-energy set may have seemed hard to follow, but Collective Soul was certainly up to the task. From the opening chords of Counting the Days, it was obvious that the audience still had quite a rock show yet to come. The band followed the opening song with hit after hit - Where the River Flows, Listen, Heavy, and Precious Declaration. Lead singer Ed Roland's energy was infectious as he danced across the stage smiling, tossing and twirling his mic stand. Guitarists Joel Kosche and Dean Roland occasionally crossed the stage to jam together while bassist Will Turpin overlooked drummer Ryan Hoyle keeping the rhythm. As soon as Kosche began to play December, the crowd roared with cheers of recognition. Ed Roland joined in on guitar for the song as well as many of the ones to follow, while Turpin provided backing vocals that helped shape each of the songs.
Ed Roland stated early on that he was going to keep his talking to a minimum because of the fireworks scheduled to follow the show. The crowd didn't appear to mind and seemed happy to hear as many songs as the band could fit into the set. Mid-set the band played a cover of The Who's Squeeze Box with Ed Roland on the acoustic guitar. They followed the song with a mellower portion of the evening, featuring pretty songs such as Satellite, Run, and Under Heaven's Skies. Turpin walked to the front of the stage to play the familiar opening bass lines of Gel, which kicked back into a heavier, more rocking part of the set. Ed Roland put the guitar away and moved around the stage as he juggled his mic stand from hand to hand, while Kosche fired the crowd up with his strong guitar solos.
Similar to the beginning of December, when Ed Roland began The World I Know on the acoustic guitar, the crowd went crazy. Lighters lit up throughout the crowd, and those without them waved their hands from side to side. When the band played their current single Better Now from the 2004 release Youth, they broke it down to just the drums and bass in the middle of the song and prompted the crowd to sing, "The world's done shaking me down." During the sing-along, fireworks began going off opposite of the stage. Ed Roland said, "You can look that way but you better sing!" At the finish of the song the band left the stage, leaving some people wondering whether Collective Soul was done for the evening. After a few minutes the band returned to the stage and Ed Roland said, "We're going to play along with the fireworks. This is so cool - it feels like a KISS concert." That prompted a KISS guitar riff from Kosche, who also proceeded to play part of Cat Scratch Fever by Ted Nugent. They kicked into Feels Like (It Feels All Right) from Youth and fans watching the large video screens saw images of the band overlapped with the fireworks. There was a huge cheer with the finale of the fireworks, and it continued as the band began to play their huge hit Shine. The crowd sang along at full volume as the band wrapped up their 18-song set. The combination of the great music with the beautiful fireworks made for a very memorable evening and an outstanding ending for the 2005 Muskegon Summer Celebration.
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