We were all bobbin’ our heads and shakin’ our hips to some of Doldrums’ irresistibly weird dance grooves when it happened. I observed a red-faced man with a mean mug move in what seemed like slow motion. He shouldered his portly 6’6” frame in front of me. He reeked of booze and testosterone. Pearls of beer sweat gathered in the crevice his furrowed brow, and rolled onto the tip of nose as he hunched over, obviously angry, ready to yell. A strawberry blonde bowl of hair crowned his head, styled after what I imagined he envisioned when he dreamt of Donald Trump joining the Franciscan order. I couldn’t tell if it was a toupee, his real hair intentionally styled that way, or an unfortunate cow lick. If his fists were clenched any tighter, his glass of Budweiser would probably have shattered into bits.
Airick paused between songs to say something lovely about being in Cincinatti.
The giant’s neck rolled into his back and started to turn an even brighter shade of red as his lungs filled with air. Wow… I thought, this guy is sure something to behold…
"YOU SUCK!", he bellowed. Then, he raised his posture in a surge of new found self-confidence, and stepped behind me.
Everyone in the crowd looked around, bewildered. I didn’t want to say anything. The guy was standing right behind me and I feared would take no issue with beating females… I just turned around and gave him the dirtiest look I could manage. A couple fans started to boo, and yelled for him to get out.
Airick seemed to suddenly register what just happened. ”Who said I suck?” he asked into the echoey microphone.
"I DID! YOU SUCK!" the drunk guy retorted.
Airick locked eyes with him, “Hey man, I’m just a skinny guy from Canada, here in Ohio trying to have some fun. So if you think, I suck, I’m sorry. But these people came to have a good time, so you should probably stop ruining it.”
The crowd cheered wildly. The heckler tried to think of something to say in return. Defeated, he muttered, “Asshole fag,” and lumbered back to his bar stool. Airick shook his head, smiled, then invited his brother to join him onstage as he fired up a heavy bass beat. The crowd began to dance even harder.
photo by Miharu Kato
Here are some guidelines for those who wish to heckle, and a pointer for those who find themselves the target of a heckler.
- If the show is free, you don’t get to complain. This particular show was free and for ages 21+. If this guy truly hated what he was hearing, he had the option to leave, grab a drink down the street, and return if he wished. If he had paid to see the show with his hard earned money, maybe his comments could be justified.
- Heckler’s must prepare for the boomerang effect. When a heckler chooses to voice their negative opinion in a public space, they must be prepared for their to defend themselves. They must also prepare for backlash from the crowd. They can’t be surprised when the boomerang comes back to hit them in the face.
- Hecklers should stop trying to relive their glory days. If the reason why one decides to heckle a musician stems from a longing for their glory days of rocking out to bands like White Snake, Bon Jovi, and Kansas, don’t frequent a bar that caters to crowds who enjoy music on the opposite end of that spectrum.
- A defeated heckler should make like a tree and leave. If one decides to heckle and is ultimately defeated… don’t stay at the bar and keep drinking one’s self into a stupor. We will continue looking at you with satisfied smiles on our faces whilst we recount the tale to those who missed out on the action.
- Artists who are heckled should kill them with kindness. Take a note from Doldrums. He came out on top because he addressed the fact that he had been heckled, and never once threw a low blow to insult the guy’s comedic appearance. I’m 100% sure the band walked out with a couple more fans because of it.