Thursday, January 1, 2009

"Uncle Johnny's Tips for Musicians" (Scene) January 2009

Update: This entry is from my column that originally appeared in the Northern Colorado entertainment magazine The Scene. While I'm not doing this column anymore, I'm still as involved as I can be in the Fort Collins area music scene in general.

This edition’s topic: When You Hate the Audience

Okay, that’s a bit of a harsh headline and deserves some clarification. Let me preface this rant by saying that 95% of the audience members I’ve had the pleasure performing for over the years have been wonderful in every way, making me more than happy to shake hands, sign CDs, take pictures and have a beer with them. A couple of my best friends are people I met at shows. Not only do I feel honored and lucky as hell to have the opportunity to play for these people, but they also pay my bills and keep our band in business. I could do a lot worse.

Still, there are those nights and those people who make it tough to be nice. I’m referring to the audience members who by virtue of being drunk or just plain socially impaired throw a wrench into the machinery of an otherwise great gig. Let’s refer to them as “gig clowns.” I’m speaking for all performers as well as for the concert going fan in all of us here because these people are disrupting everyone’s enjoyment, aren’t they? Many of you will recognize these clowns. Maybe you have BEEN one of these clowns. If so, stop reading and go back to drinking your cheap swill beer and annoying your soon-to-be-ex-roommate.

OK, everybody gets maybe one or two lifetime “passes” to be this character, limited mostly to your 21st birthday and the weekend after your marriage breaks up. But some of these audience members are obviously career troublemakers. These characters are overwhelmingly male and usually wasted. Sometimes it’s innocent clumsiness, other times it’s your basic, attention seeking, ego deprived “Look at me!” assholeness. These are the guys that wait for a quiet, intense point in a song to yell something brilliantly original like “This chick is SO F___ING HOT!” They are sure their public display of appreciation for a neighboring fan will win them a date. The proper retort (stated loudly over the microphone) is of course “Yes, she is, and NOW she knows you’re an idiot.”

Another gig clown sighting: I like Halloween as much as anyone. Unfortunately, through the years Halloween has been bleeding over to the preceding and following days and weekends, a sort of Halloween Season. Some people apparently use donning a costume as an excuse to be complete jackasses. This year, a few days after Halloween, I was onstage with my musical cohorts about halfway through a somber, quiet song. The audience was silently attentive. Suddenly two morons wearing the stale, oh-how-2-years-ago “My Dick In A Box” costumes forced their way down front. Lousy timing aside, these guys were clueless. Gyrating and clunking their boxes into female audience members, they raised more than a few angry eyebrows. Finishing the song, I almost yelled: “Hey..this girl down here just told me those boxes are WAY too big for your ‘junk’...anybody got a spare ring box?” But, I resisted. Why reward them with attention? Dogs, toddlers, drunk idiots. The rules for dealing with them are often the same.

One of my favorite gig clown scenarios is the pitiable soul who keeps yelling for a song you have already played. He may have been in the restroom hurling his unwise schnapps and beer combinations or out having a smoke when the song went down. He has been told this by exasperated people in his vicinity but continues to bellow like a beached walrus in search of a mate he will never find. Sometimes the walrus accepts defeat and slinks away grumbling. Sometimes however, he waits, wobbling in his misguided, booze addled fury until the rest of the crowd has left and the gear is being packed up. The bouncers are close to 86ing him but he feels forthright in his indignation. At this point (sorry) I find him amusing and proceed to taunt him like a cat toying with a huge drunken mouse. It goes like this: He sees me poke my head out of the backstage area. “Hey guys didn’t play blurberblurber!!” He yells between hiccups, his finger pointing in circles around the spinning room of his reality. “Yes we did!” I giggle and pull my head back in, closing the door. “NOOOO YOU DIDN’T JJJOHNNY! MAAAN, I PAID TO HEAR Mother f.....n BBRRRRUBLBBRUB!!” He throws down his beer can and begins to pound on the backstage door as my fellow band members laugh and shake their heads at my sadistic pleasure. As I hear the security guys leading him swearing and swerving towards the exit, I stick my head out and yell “Okay man.....we’re gonna play it right now!” and walk towards the stage with my guitar. You can imagine the scene as the side door closes behind our poor walrus. I sincerely apologize to this gentleman if he’s out there and recognizes himself in this story.....well.....actually, I don’t.

Uncle Johnny, over and out.