What To Do When The Crowd Yells "Free Bird!"
Sooooooo.... Thursday, the U.S. Constitution was read aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives, an act that Rocks Off views as the government equivalent of doing your homework on the morning bus, but whatever.
Just as Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. was reading the bit about the eligibility to be president a woman heckled him by shouting out "Except Obama!" from the visitor's gallery. If this was a Justin Townes Earl concert, she probably would've gotten a punch in the nose. As it is, the unnamed woman was simply escorted out by capitol police after proving that there is not a single safe venue left in America for good spoken-word performances.
What to do with hecklers? The question is as old as performance itself. Rocks Off decided to ask some of the rockers who have unwisely given us their personal email addresses what they advise.
"I usually try and start singing about them while they are doing it. Once a guy humped my mic stand. That ended in a fight."
The closest I've come to being heckled, is when I started the Krunkquistadors with my friend Danny. It was just he and I at first, making the beats and spittin' the rhymes.
We did a hip hop show at Jet Lounge a few years back, and we did not fit in with the crowd at that particular show. When we got on stage, you could hear snickering and comments like "WTF is this" and "For real????"
We knew some criticism would come with two white boys doing hip hop, one looking like he just got done shopping at the GAP and one lookin' like a country fried version of Tom Jones, especially after following an extremely gangsta group from New Orleans who just performed before us, who were talking about anything you can think of that's gang related, and the crowd went nuts for them.
We didn't let it faze us, though. We were well rehearsed and knew the set like the back of our hands. As soon as the beat dropped to our song "Sweet Sweet," the entire club changed their attitude real quick. We pretty much won the crowd over after just one song. There was a small group that just didn't wanna hear our upbeat and dance club type songs, but that didn't hurt our feelings, they just went outside during our set.
I say hecklers sometimes can make a motivated person do even better at a show, so they can shut that guy/girl up and hopefully win them over. Now if you come to a show unprepared and not giving two shits about it, heckling might be for the best.
"I once held my 55 Gibson hollowbody like a baseball bat from the edge of the stage. That stopped the heckling."
I simply do not engage hecklers. I keep on playing through the set and ignore them. Usually they either get tired and leave, or the audience encourages them to quiet down. Only on the very rarest of occasions have I had to step in and say anything because audience was angrier with the heckler than I was.
There is a long-running joke having to do with this young punk who stood in front of me through an entire show yelling his thoughts about how much he thought we sucked. I thought it was funny because if he did not like our music, he could have just left instead of wasting his time and energy screaming at us.
Apparently the word got around about this kid, because at our next show a longtime fan started doing an imitation of the boy, shouting 'The Hates suck!' at random moments throughout the gig. Some of the fans were getting ticked, so we actually had to stop and explain the joke.
To this day, whenever that one guy comes to a Hates show, he tells us how much we suck, we have a laugh, then we smile and tell him he sucks right back. It's all in good fun.
"I let my singer stand on top of their table and scream lyrics in their face. I then proceed to inform them that no matter what they think...I still get paid. Then I spend their $8 on at a strip club."
I was heckled the first time I ever played solo at an open mic. I was like 19 or something, and this was the first time I had ever played without hiding behind the rest of the band. I was nervous as hell and these three biker dudes passing through came in right when I started. They made a bit of sport of me during the first two songs - I was mortified.
[The] manager kicked them out though when they wouldn't stop halfway through the second song. I crawled off the stage determined never to perform again, but the manager caught me as I was packing up my guitar, said he thought I was great and asked if I could come back and do an actually do a paying show there later that month.
"Never been heckled since in any performance - just rotten beginner's luck, I guess.
Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.
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