(May 10) Amidst all the campus rebellions across the country in which students are expressing anger and hate, a hard-rocking New Orleans musician at the city’s annual Jazz and Heritage Festival this month yelled out a better idea.

 

The musician is Fred LeBlanc of the band Cowboy Mouth, which plays a unique fusion of different genres of music that LeBlanc once described as what would happen “if the Neville Brothers and The Clash had a baby.” That still doesn’t capture its overall vibe, though, because to the R&B-infused, punkish-alt-rock sound, Cowboy Mouth adds a heavy dose of what sounds something like Gospel revivalism. One of their most popular songs, “I believe,” features these lyrics:

 

Step inside this endless moment for a subtle touch of grace/ I’ve always found my strength inside the act of faith/ I believe in the spirit of rock and roll/ In the eternal strength in the immortal soul/ ‘Cause sometimes everybody’s gotta let it go/ I believe in the power of love

 

And LeBlanc, one of the rare drummers who serves as his band’s lead vocalist, frequently encourages crowd participation, interrupting his verses by shouting “hands in the air now, I can’t hear you; are you with me?!?” After 34 straight years of playing the Jazz Fest, the band knows how to work an audience.

 

LeBlanc’s biggest message, though, repeated about two dozen times in the hour-long set, is that we should all be happy and grateful that we’re alive, because life is good and should be raucously joyful. Here, too, is where the relation to the protests comes in. While LeBlanc’s act is decidedly apolitical, he essentially does target an adversary: not “the man” or “the system” or some other hackneyed, slogan-heavy enemy, but instead the prevailing zeitgeist that life is something dark and grim to be merely endured. Hence, he shouted in one of his revival-like interludes, “Celebration is the best form of rebellion!!”

 

It wasn’t exactly subtle, but it was indeed a touch of grace.

 

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