Abbe May cops 'aggressive' heckle during Peter Garrett gig
WA singer-songwriter Abbe May has described a recent on-stage heckling as "aggressive" and "out of place".
She had just posed topless for a campaign for breast cancer awareness.
In an opinion piece for The Music, she recalled how Peter Garrett & The Alter Egos were between songs at a recent gig with May when "some seemingly body-less, male voice” shouted from the back of the room: “Show us ya tits!”
But let’s back up a bit.
It wasn’t so long ago that May participated in the I Touch Myself campaign, which is a direct nod to Australian rock legend and frontwoman of The Divinyls, Chrissy Amphlett, who wanted her song to become an anthem for women’s health.
In 2013, Amphlett died after a long battle with breast cancer.
The campaign particularly got traction a year later after a handful of Australian female singers released a video singing the song, topless, reminding women to ‘touch themselves’ to know the look and feel of their breasts.
May decided she too wanted in on this campaign. She described the shoot as “a private shoot with just myself, [photographer Tony Mott], a fluffy cat who is the namesake of Missy Higgins and about 1400 people from Berlei.”
The experience had been a positive one for May.
“I [returned] to my hotel and [thought] ‘I enjoyed that'. And why shouldn’t I? Breasts are awesome.”
Fast-forward to the performance with Peter Garrett.
She said the sexist heckle was a spray that felt “aggressive, weird and out of place” and that it hung in the air momentarily before they launched into the next song.
Far from the enjoyable experience of the shoot.
While it was not addressed by May or Garrett, she did notice that the momentary silence that followed the heckling suggested that the rest of the audience did not approve of the drunken man’s request.
However it stayed with May.
When she heard it, she said she kept her head down.
“I found it unnerving,” she wrote.
May, an artist who previously commanded the gritty blues-rock stage before heading more into pop territory, briefly touched on how that same stage is a vulnerable place before her tone changes.
“I bet the show-us-ya-tits-man would say in his own defence that he was just making a joke. I suspect that somewhere not too far below his surface he knows that the effect of his heckling was unsettling and absurd in the setting. It was disrespectful.
Before she summed up the rest of the tour, she wrapped up the heckling incident with this zinger:
“Show us ya tits? How 'bout we show you how to play Great White Shark or Dead Heart?
“What a dingbat.”