Hecklers: How to Deal With the Jerk In the Audience
There’s almost always one person in every club… and… sorry to say this; it’s usually a guy (but I’ve seen women who were just as guilty). You’re in the middle of one of your greatest sets ever. You sound absolutely fantastic, and those who came to see you are riding high! Suddenly; without warning; COMPLETE disruption.
The one thing you would NEVER do, in a million years is ask them what the problem is. This is empowering them even more. To this extent, you must ignore them. However, there are moments (mentioned later in this article), when addressing a heckler by turning the tables on them can actually be quite effective.
How does the person on stage deal with such a problem, effectively?
The BEST choice is always to ignore them. Usually, someone (the bouncer, or club manager, usually), will come and usher them out; maybe call a cab for them. But, if no one is there to bail you out of this uncomfortable situation, you will have to think of other means.
Remember, the rest of the audience is on YOUR side; their sympathies lie in your corner. I have seen a heckler dealt with this way: The announcer / musician stops dead sentence and stares at the heckler, as if to say, "I lost my train of thought, now; I can't think with the noise of this person going on." Usually this works. Often times, the audience (which has now formed some hostility towards the heckler; after all they paid money to see you!) will come to your aid, and usher the person out for you.
If that isn't enough, you could vocalize your thoughts. You could even say, "Sorry, was there something you were trying to say? I'll wait, 'til you're finished."
Turn The Tables
If none of these solutions work, one of the roads less travelled is a solution which may be thought of as a "last, ditch effort". A very effective way to deal with a "provocateur" is to turn the tables on them. I didn't believe this until I actually tried it a few times. It's a dangerous ruse; but nonetheless - almost always - effective.
For instance, if a person is complaining that you are "singing the song all wrong" and "that's not the way so-and-so recorded it" you may have a comeback like:
"Really; what's your name?" Spotlight on the troublemaker. Usually, this alone will freak the person out to the point that they stop bothering you; maybe even head for the door. That's because, once a heckler has lost their anonymity, they will usually leave, in embarrassment. However, in the rare case, they will answer, "(insert name here)".
"Well, (insert name here), great! Glad you know it. C'mon up and sing it with the band. C'mon; don't be shy! Let's hear it for "insert name here"!
Astoundingly, "insert name here" will nearly always decline, and duck out the back door.
Let's face it, sometimes it's a whole group that's disruptive. They seem to be oblivious to the fact that everyone in the audience has paid a $12. cover just to see you, and they are straining very hard to hear the songs, and stories of the featured performer.
My favourite musician-retort-story happened one night with a disruptive table at a high profile club gig. Everyone else was listening, except for the one disgustingly loud table. The legendary musician stopped playing his intro on piano and turned around to the noisy group sitting behind him and said, "Can you HEAR me?"
The whole group looked startled, because he had said this on the microphone!
He continued... "Because, I can hear YOU!!" The table stopped being disruptive for the rest of the night.
When Nothing Else Works
Of course, there are moments when none of these tricks work. Of course, that is what bouncers are hired for; to get rid of the riff-raff!
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About Cheryl Hodge
Cheryl Hodge has been in the music and songwriting business for well over 30 years; recording on several labels; among them Atco Records (Raindogs, 1990), and has released 4 CDs of her own; on her own label: Jazzboulevard.com Records.
She has performed her music for the last 10 years with noted jazz guitarist John Stowell (amongst many others), and they are about to release a CD of co-written originals. She has been private instructor to many; including the gifted Paula Cole. She is also the author of "A Singer's Guide to the Well-Trained and Powerful Voice", and is a published vocal arranger.
Cheryl is currently the head of the vocal dept. at Nelson, BC's: Selkirk College Music Program. There, she teaches Songwriting and Advanced Songwriting, Business of Music, Arranging and Vocals.
She continues to write and produce her original materials, and has just released "Cheryl Hodge: Original Article" - a compilation of her favourites.
Cheryl Hodge On The Internet
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