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Welp, it happened again last night. You probably know what I’m talking about. Every musician at some point in their career will encounter that one very special patron, bless his heart, who’s had wayyy too much to drink — and look — he’s headed your way. How do you handle it if they get really disruptive? Here are five things to consider:

Stay Calm and Professional

It’s easy to get riled when someone is rudely disrupting and creating a scene when you’re just trying to do your job. But that’s when it’s essential to remember that reacting aggressively or defensively can escalate the situation. It’s better to be the adult. Take a deep breath, transcend, and continue playing your song. Sometimes to calmly smile and politely ignore is all it takes. But certainly not always.  

Try a Little Humor

Another possible way to defuse the situation is with a little humor. If you’re comfortable with a little improv, consider riffing a light-hearted joke about the situation. For instance, if someone lights a lighter and shouts “Freebird” because clearly they are not in a good place lol you might say, “I appreciate the enthusiasm man! One of these days I’ll have to learn that 20-minute guitar solo! On this acoustic!” Or, if you know it, maybe you just go ahead and play it. I guess my point is to keep it light and not to insult or belittle the person who is clearly in for a horrible tomorrow morning.

Get Friendly with the Bouncers

If you’re performing at a venue that’s notorious for such events, you might get friendly with the security staff beforehand. They can provide guidance on how to handle such situations and may even have plans in place. If someone becomes overly disruptive, a gentle tap from the big guys can often resolve the issue without further incident. 

Redirect the Attention

If someone is vocally disruptive or even heckling, you can always redirect the attention by ignoring the noise and engaging the audience in small talk or inviting them to sing along, taking the spotlight off the disruption. 

Take a Break

If all else fails and the disruption continues, it might be best to take a short break. I always have an iPad for break music that I can fire off immediately. This gives the staff an opportunity to address the situation. It also allows you to regroup and refocus. Announce a short break, and hopefully cooler heads prevail after a little time out 🙂 


Dealing with obnoxious drunks during a gig can be challenging. Remember to stay calm, use humor when appropriate, have a security plan, redirect attention, and know when to take a break.


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