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Part 3: Hecklers and Other Interruptions

Tori Amos (Photo by Matt Mazur)

Hecklers, bless their souls, push performers to say things that no person should ever say out loud. Here we honor the best on both sides of this eternal dance of the foul-mouthed.

Call and Response (or, Heckler Hell)

Hecklers, bless their souls, push performers to say things that no person should ever say out loud. Here we honor the best on both sides of this eternal dance of the foul-mouthed.

5. Smoky Robinson

2 July 2007: Amsterdam

This show was something of a letdown, as Smoky Robinson has, in many ways, become a shadow of his former self. Still, the man has written lots of gems -- too bad he didn’t play them. Instead, he opted for newer material. In between a quick break, a fan yelled, “Play something worthwhile, please.” Everyone laughed. Robinson responded with another new song. -Shain Shapiro

4. Yo La Tengo

22 October 2007: Philadelphia, PA

Yo La Tengo’s interactive and acoustic Freewheeling tour -- set up as an ongoing question-and-answer session -- was a heckler’s dream, inviting fans to shout out queries and song suggestions. One fan sarcastically requests “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind”, the roaring, 10-minute electrified jam that opened their latest long player. “It will be funny,” he insists. The band, in lieu of a vocal answer, simply kicks into the opening riff, silencing us all. -Kevin Pearson

3. Tori Amos

16 October 2007: Boston, MA

When Tori sang the lyric “virgins always get back stage” (from “Jackie’s Strength”) during a solo piano set, you could hear a pin drop in the theater. Except for the drunk woman in the front row who screamed back, “I’ll get back there!” Tori, with a look that could decimate, stopped mid-song and whispered, “You are not a fucking virgin,” into the mic. -Matt Mazur

2. The Upper Crust

26 October 2007: New York, NY

Murphy’s Law fans apparently do not like Victorian England. When Boston’s Upper Crust opened for the veteran hardcore outfit, fans were clearly offended by the joke-rock band's decision to play straight-ahead arena rock in full Victorian regalia -- replete with powdered wigs, velvet knickers, white face powder, and tongues firmly planted in their frilly lace cummerbunds. Amidst the expectedly dull barks of “You suck!” and “Faggots!”, one balding, middle-aged drunk made his way to front row center, where he extended his middle finger….and held this pose for two straight songs. Hats off to his stamina? I say... let them eat Rocque. -Ryan S. Henriquez

1. Wu-Tang Clan

26 August 2007: Chicago, IL

Wu-Tang Clan performs without ODB. A fan in front row shouts out that the clan is nothing without ODB. Three Clan members hurl themselves into front row and proceed to beat down the fan with Hennessey bottles. Next song? “Bring Da Ruckus.” Only the WU. -Chris Catania

Band Interrupted

Whether facing the challenge of a badly wired sound system or the unfortunate comments of a bandmate, the measure of a professional musician isn't in what goes wrong, but how he reacts.

5. Sebadoh

2 April 2007: Philadelphia, PA

Eric Gaffney doesn’t have a bad attitude per se, he just has attitude. Compared to Lou Barlow’s affable nature, Gaffney is a wild card whose songs are as disparate as his personality -- nonsensical, erratic, obtuse, antagonistic, and challenging. Babbling throughout, Barlow eventually cuts him off, breaking into a riotous run through “Ride the Darker Wave” just as Gaffney begins to spout another non sequitur. -Kevin Pearson

4. Neko Case

24 August 2006: Brooklyn, NY

This one may be a pre-2007 relic, but somehow it slipped last year’s list. What say we make amends? She may have the smooth voice of an old-school country chanteuse, but Neko Case has the tongue of a lost-at-sea sailor. Discussing a lyrical allusion to a stuffed unicorn doll, she finds herself in the midst of an extended story about how “Every girl ought to own a toy unicorn.” Missing the joke, her bandmates draw the details out, only to realize that she’s suggesting that simulated sex with childhood toys is, like, a totally normal thing. With glassy eyes and just a little bit of horror, her band cuts her off and ushers the suddenly sheepish singer into the next song.

-Andrew Phillips

3. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

22 June 2007: Amsterdam

The power went out halfway through a song. But, like the good Pharmacists they are, Ted Leo's band kept playing. Then it went back on. Then it went back off again. Sometimes a guitar needs tuning; sometimes the whole concert hall goes pitch-black: still, the show must go on. -Shain Shapiro

2. Apostle of Hustle

24 July 2007: New York, NY

“Canada Day” rocks. Every year, some of the world’s most talented Canucks grace Central Park’s Summerstage for a free afternoon show full of friendly Canadians lying on blankets with their kids. What’s not to love? Nothing... well, except when Apostle of Hustle’s Andrew Whiteman introduces "Fast Pony for Victor Jara" with the story of a Pony Express rider hocked up on ecstasy carrying the severed heads of George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Next song, quick! -Ryan S. Henriquez

1. The Death Set

22 June 2007: Brooklyn, NY

Playing the gutted innards of an industrial space in the midst of renovation (there were boards and concrete piled all around the stage), Baltimore spazz-punks the Death Set had more than sound problems to contend with. The room and PA are all hotwired though a single circuit breaker, and the only light in the entire room is a set of Christmas lights above the make-shift stage. When the band begins to play, the lights flicker in time with the opening yowls, then cut out entirely -- along with the PA. Left in darkness with no sound system, the band’s two singers quickly loop their backing beats and guitar through a tiny amp and begin to yell at the top of their lungs. Barely missing a beat, the pit churns on, deep in the darkness. -Andrew Phillips

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