Country musician and songwriter
Leo Rondeau and his band headlined
the first Soundcheck Summer Music concert
sponsored by the Pinedale Fine Arts Council
on Saturday, June 29. Sunshine and warm
temperatures greeted concertgoers - perfect
weather for an evening picnic with music.
“We had around 700 people at the show,”
said Tim Ruland, PFAC marketing/outreach
director. “It was a great turnout.”
The evening opened with a performance by
local Pinedale musician Jason Tyler Burton.
As the sun began to set, Leo Rondeau, a
wiry man sporting aviator sunglasses and a
long braided ponytail, stepped up to the stage.
Band mates Vaughn Walters on bass and vocals,
John Whitlock on drums and Ben Worley
on electric guitar squinted out into the natural
bright light at the audience.
Rondeau opened the concert with some traditional
country fare – songs about lost loves
and broken relationships. In the song “Get On
With It,” Rondeau recalls the exact moment
he broke up with a girlfriend – 11:38 p.m.
“Central Standard Time.” Rondeau’s advice:
“Get on with it.”
The county musician writes all his own lyrics
and is a notable storyteller. Rondeau told
the audience that the words to his songs take
a back seat to his ultimate goal of “getting everybody
up to dance.”
Rondeau’s verses and choruses stick with
you, however. He sings with openness and
honesty, and the themes he covers are diverse.
Unafraid to put it all out on the table, Rondeau
refuses to shy away from any theme.
One song is dedicated to the last human
truck driver in an imagined, yet probable future
where all trucks are automated. Another
song is about the “Alligator Man” who sleeps
in a bed of Spanish moss deep in bayou country.
Rondeau also sings about pool hall player
Dwayne Felkin who just can’t seem to catch
a break. And no concert in Pinedale is complete
without a song about the cold. Rondeau
performed in Pinedale several times before
his appearance on Saturday, and said he was
glad he wasn’t here last weekend when snow
Midway through the show, Rondeau
stepped on the stage alone and some of the
songs took on a more serious and intimate
tone. Descended from the Turtle Mountain
band of the Chippewa Indian Tribe, Rondeau
took on the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the
casino-based economy on some reservations
in one song. Another song touched on the
issue of alcoholism and diabetes that runs in
Rondeau’s family, although he approached
the subject with dry, black humor.
Rondeau left his home in the Turtle Mountains
of North Dakota to pursue his career in
Austin, Texas, ground zero for emerging artists.
Then he picked up his guitar and followed
the well-worn country path to Nashville, Tenn.
People in Nashville cannot appreciate his
song about bitter cold weather like folks in
Pinedale and his mom in North Dakota, he
said on Saturday.
Rondeau’s creative lyrics mixed with traditional
country beats leave his songs stuck in
your head for awhile.