Road Rants #2 - Resisting The Urge To Yell "Freebird"
“The Ocean Scares Me.” - Brian Wilson (of The Beach Boys)
Some time ago I attended a concert at First Avenue. The club was packed. The singer, who shall remain anonymous, narrowly dodged a beer bottle which was thrown at him from somewhere within the crowd. When the song ended, he waited for the applause to die down an appropriate amount, grabbed the microphone and said something that not only made the crowd go absolutely bonkers, it stuck as perhaps the best stage comeback I've ever heard: “Whoever threw that bottle…I’m gonna kick your ass after the show, and EVERYONE HERE IS GONNA HELP ME.”
HECKLE - verb heck·le \ˈhe-kəl\: to interrupt (someone, such as a speaker or performer) by shouting annoying or rude comments or questions
While it may not fit the definition exactly, I think that, in some cases, heckling can go further than just SAYING WORDS. Who cares what Merriam-Webster Online says? Whatever. Shut up. Your mom's a dictionary.
Let's get to the meat & 'taters...
The act of yelling “Freebird” has been a sort of tradition ever since Ronnie Van Zant asked "What song is it you wanna hear?" during the recording of Lynyrd Skynyrd's first live album "One More from the Road" in 1976. I wanted to learn more fun facts about this phenomenon, so I decided to get down to business. After hours of intensive research, a lot of number crunching, some stealthy reconnaissance work and the exchange of a briefcase for a bulging manila envelope in a parking ramp at night wearing a trench coat and sunglasses, I finally landed on the following: Since 1981, yelling “Freebird” has been funny or cool exactly zero times.
Here's what I think. You ready? Okay. People who yell "Freebird" fall into one of three categories:
1. You aren't even sure why you're yelling it. It's just a thing that people yell at concerts. That's all you know. You don't even know what it means. This one is my favorite, and the easiest to deal with. It's kind of like the time a younger gentleman shouted "PLAY THE DOORS" at my band, to which I responded "Name one song by The Doors." He looked at his feet and stepped out for a smoke.
2. You're somewhat aware of the origin. You know it's a song and you know people yell it as a request, joke or not. You feel the need to demonstrate your rock and roll savvy to those around you, and you feel this is the best way to do so. I think this type is the most common.
3. You know exactly what you're talking about. Now it's like a twisted dare or a challenge. You actually feel it would be appropriate for us to interrupt our deceivingly unstructured show to appease only you by proving our musicianship via a fourteen minute version of a 30-year-old song, the majority of which is comprised of a guitar solo war.
No matter which category you fall into, you will have one thing in common with anybody from any of the three: The brands of validation and acknowledgement you will receive from your fellow concertgoers, and most likely even your buddies, won't likely be what you had hoped for.
I'm really not being a jerk - I'm actually looking out for you. Keep it classy on the floor, and try yelling "Ghostbusters" or "Footloose" or something like my weird Brazilian friend Steven does.
All for now. Take care,