August 4, 2007

Dealing with hecklers...

by Chris Randall

In my years of playing live, I had to deal lots of hecklers. Twice I jumped in the audience to try and fight them (which was foolish) and once I stopped the show to have a conversation, which was admittedly lame, but overall I could usually take 'em down in the between-song banter. I have some stock takedowns, but I generally just go with the flow. As you may imagine from reading this site, I'm pretty quick with the mediocre wit.

In any event, the best artist I've ever seen on stage consistently dealing with hecklers is Billy Bragg. I think, by this point, people heckle him just to get him to do his thing between songs. On the tour he did with Wilco doing the Woodie Guthrie stuff, people heckled him between every song, and I couldn't really figure out why someone would pay $45 to see a headliner then talk so much shit, until it occurred to me that dealing with hecklers was kind of his stock in trade, and as entertaining as the show itself. Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers) is another one I've seen who's pretty good with that sort of thing.

In any event, I just watched the Kevin Smith pwnage from ComicCon the other day, and have to say that this is more how I'd deal with a heckler than how Billy Bragg would. My thought was always that, well, I have the last laugh for two reasons. (1) I have the microphone, and (2) you paid to see me. So while you might not be entertained, I'm still leaving with your money. That always made me feel better.

How do you deal with hecklers? What's your favorite takedown?



Page 2 of 3

Aug.06.2007 @ 12:13 AM
I am shocked when you are talking about professional touring artists having problems with hecklers. A common thing to do is have a couple of guys in the audience (usually a couple of the more thugish roadies when they aren't doing their roadie stuff), and let them quietly take care of any trouble makers before it turns into a big problem.

But I mean, usually it doesn't get to that point... usually the venue bouncers are already far too eager to rough someone up, and take care of anyone acting obnoxious.

I hate hecklers, but I would hate it if I paid good money for a ticket and had my time wasted by an artist responding to a heckler. The one time I can remember that I saw a music act get heckled, 99% of the people in the audience (myself included), didn't even hear the heckler and had no idea any heckling was going on until the guy on stage was cursing into the microphone. Mostly, everyone was just kind of confused, and the whole thing just felt very awkward, and I to this day can't remember who the artist was or anything about the concert except it was just kind of lame and uncomfortable all around.


Aug.06.2007 @ 12:39 AM
Several years ago I got a 1.5 liter cola bottle (full of liquid, definitely not cola) was thrown at me, missing my face by an inch and hitting my SE-1, damaging its patch selector (actually, it broke both the potentiometer and the knob) - fortunately, I could see the bastard standing in the first row, just before the edge of the stage. I rushed out with the bottle in my hands, stood on his fingers (I'm 6 ft 5 in, 209 lbs) and poured the liquid all over him. The liquid - as it turned out - was urine and the rest of the crowd went just crazy, cheering and whistling. Thank goodness for that.

Having said that, I'd rather take spitting and beer thrown at me for two hours instead any hard objects or broken bottles, whatever. Probably the weirdest thing that has landed next to me on stage was a ten-inch dildo. That would hurt too. :-)

I'd say it's up to the band's personnel to take care of the clowns. If it's the venue gorillas, it's trouble. Those people don't usually deal with hecklers too often and like to exaggerate quite a bit. If anyone gets hurt, it comes back to you. Band name + people hurt = bad rep.


Aug.06.2007 @ 12:54 AM
Bill Hicks! link []">link []

Aug.06.2007 @ 8:46 AM
I saw the Stranglers in the mid 80s when, I guess, they were trying to be a little more... mature... Some guy at the front insisted on gobbing at them; they stopped mid-song, roadies grabbed the guy and there was a good ten minute scuffle on stage while they tried to shove a banana up the guys arse. They gave up eventually so nicked his shoes and threw them in the crowd instead.

Punk rock.


Aug.06.2007 @ 9:24 AM
Hmm, I don't remember any hecklers except this one HC Metal/Punk/Post Hardcore gig, I don't even know the bands name, and it was in sweden. They were loud as hell and the main goal of the night was to mosh, jump, bodyslam, and maybe get in to a fight - or that's how it seemed to me. So, anyway, some guy went to scream at the vocalist right in the face. I can't understand swedish in middle of loud HC Metal, so I have no idea what he said, all I know is that the vocalist took a swing at the guy with the microphone, and the guy dropped like a wet rag, bleeding on to the stage. A roadie came and gave new microphone to the guy, and they continued. Mind you, music didn't stop at any point.

Rather hands on approach, that.


Aug.06.2007 @ 2:05 PM
I normally just lurk on this forum, but these comments are so good I registered. Here's my vote for the best heckler pwnge ever:

link []">link []

Some random fan rushes the stage and Maynard from Tool judo tosses him and chokes him out. And he keeps singing while the band never misses a beat. I guess technically this is not a "heckler", but still very funny.


Aug.06.2007 @ 3:07 PM
Chris Randall
Dealing with people that get on stage during the show is a whole separate ball game. I was usually for it with SMG. Until they touched me. After that, it was on.

My worst personal experience was when some asstard grabbed the mic stand while I was singing and pushed it in to me so that the mic whacked me in the mouth, cut both my lips, and broke the ends off my two front teeth. I'm fairly certain this was in Cincinnati; I know I have it on video (VHS, natch.) I grabbed the guy by the hair and pulled him up on stage, then pitched him in to the pit.

But generally speaking, I'd leave people alone that got on stage until they started to annoy me. Then I'd either give 'em a good shove back in to the pit or a quick shot to the kidney, _then_ a good shove.

But for that type of music, bottles and shit flying up on stage was quite normal, as was stage diving, so it's just something I (and the rest of the band) dealt with; part of the show and all that.



Aug.06.2007 @ 3:31 PM
I got thrown out of an Acid Mothers Temple show for yelling "Ritchie Blackmore!" at their beardo lead guitar wank artist. I was bored, and they were boring me. Something had to be done.

Aug.06.2007 @ 3:32 PM
In counterpoint, what's the general opinion of bands who get directly physically involved? When I was younger and went to shows, if a musician got off stage with a mic and actively jumped into the crowd, I was often impressed. Then I grew up a bit, and I'm not sure. It usually ruins the quality of the music in my experience, and that is best case scenario and assuming the musician is sober.

Aug.06.2007 @ 4:44 PM
Worst audience-on-stage experience I had was at a show in Sacramento. And by stage I meant "area of the floor in which the audience decided not to occupy by respecting the band's arbitrary placement of large metal objects". And by "show" I mean "large racket created by means of sloppy banging on said large metal object with other metal objects and power tools in the back of a record shop". One audience member (known to be slightly mentally unstable, as it would turn out) runs up on "stage" and grabs an unattended SkilSaw (tm) and tries play along.

Luckily for everyone involved, I accidentally cut through the power cord with my own power tool not 2 minutes before, rendering it useless. Not that anyone else watching knew this, but she was quickly "ushered away" after seeing that the SkilSaw didn't work.

That was a rarity, though. Usually, it was the band engaging the audience. We got bored with being a spectacle that people didn't react to. Seriously, you had to have your wits about you when we were playing nearby.


Page 2 of 3



Sorry, commenting is closed for this blog entry.