Take the Mic: Awkward Musical Moments

If you’ve been to a few jams or open mics you have experienced this: the person – usually unwittingly and often well primed with the establishment’s beverages – who sabotages the song. The person in question sings louder than the song leader, often changing the tempo, the lyrics, sometimes out of tune. Although it is usually non-malicious enthusiasm or the effects of too much “liquid courage” that leads to this behaviour it doesn’t change the fact that it is distracting and – frankly – rude.

How to manage this situation? The performer can gamely try to wrestle the song back into their own control by singing louder. A real pro somehow works a good natured comment into their banter like a stand up comic turning the joke around on a heckler. It takes a bold open stager to stop and ask to do the song without the added accompaniment, but this can put a real damper on the ambiance of the room and risk the label of “diva” being applied to the beleaguered performer.

Have you used or witnessed any elegant (or not-so-elegant) solutions to this situation? Please share your stories!


  1. Terry Golletz

    Although it is hard to rescue the moment, as host of a weekly acoustic jam session in Elora, I have on occasion had to talk to individuals in private after the fact about their unruly behavior.

  2. Jay Moore

    I like to play Stan Rogers “Mary Ellen Carter” in a slower, quieter arrangement with some fingerpicking patterns I worked out especially. I tried it once in a group setting and everybody just grabbed it and ran with it – sped it up, loud hammering on the guitars and singing like it was any old sea shanty. It was way out my hands. Everybody got to sing it “the way Stan did it” but the great story got lost in the din. I’ve never tried it again in a group session – only solo.

  3. Cara LeaMusic

    I like to throw out jokes to the heckler like, ” Yeah Biddy, I remember my first beer…” It usually gets a laugh or two. Keeps it light and quiets the person down slightly…

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