The “Freebird” Irony Scale

You are attending a concert and yell “Freebird.” How ironic are you being?

Level 0
The band you are seeing is Lynyrd Skynyrd or a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute act. You actually want the band to play “Freebird” and would be delighted if they did. You are employing no irony and you have nothing to worry about.

Level 1
The band you are seeing is not Lynyrd Skynyrd. You yell “Freebird” at concerts like this because you believe it is funny to do so, although you cannot articulate why. You do not actually like “Freebird” all that much. If the band in question began playing it, you would feel surprised and a little insulted. You are employing one (1) level of irony and you are kind of annoying.

Level 2
The band you are seeing is not Lynyrd Skynyrd. You are aware that yelling “Freebird” at concerts is something only drunks from the suburbs do, and so by doing it yourself, you are transforming a cliché into a droll comment on the stale dynamic between performer and audience. If the band you were watching actually played “Freebird,” you would declare it the most awesome moment of your life. You are employing two (2) levels of irony and are probably wearing grandpa shorts, a porkpie hat and button-style earrings.

Level 3
The band you are seeing is not Lynyrd Skynyrd. You are aware that only slobbering drunks and tired hipster ironists think yelling “Freebird” at concerts is funny. When the first cries of “Freebird!” go up in the hall, you join in as a gesture of unbridled contempt, not caring that the bellowing masses around you have no idea how mercilessly you are mocking them. If the band actually played “Freebird,” you would snort in disgust. You are employing three (3) levels of irony and need to get laid with the desperate urgency of a desert wanderer searching for that life-saving drink of water.

Level 4
The band you are seeing is not Lynyrd Skynyrd. Years of cultural trend-surfing have left you such a hopeless contrarian that you feel secure in your own skin only when your behavior elicits groans and pained eye-rolling from those around you. You yell “Freebird” because only a douchebag would do it, and the last thing you want is to be mistaken for someone who cares whether someone else thinks he’s a douchebag. If the band you were seeing began playing “Freebird,” you would continue yelling. You are employing four (4) levels of irony and secretly wonder if you would have been happier growing up on a farm.

Level 5
The band you are seeing may or may not be Lynyrd Skynyrd. You yell “Freebird” because yelling “Freebird” is a cultural gesture that everyone knows and expects, a ritual that unites American concertgoers and affirms their commonality and shared purpose. Whether one does it ironically or not is beside the point, as both sides take pleasure from the act in their own way, and such opportunities to share a sense of community with people in these fractured times are too precious to pass up. If the band actually played “Freebird,” you would be delighted. You are employing five (5) levels of irony and are reasonably well adjusted. But still a little annoying.

Thanks to Flickr user Watt_Dabney for the featured image.

  • JonCummings

    Please rate this: Last week my daughter sang during a music-school recital, and soon after she sang a 13-year-old boy came onstage and played “Free Bird” on electric guitar (with accompaniment from an older student on acoustic guitar). Surrounded by stuffy moms and dads and siblings at a reform temple on a Sunday morning, I waited til the end of the song and, while the applause was dying out, yelled “Free Bird!”

  • JonCummings

    My daughter was mortified, by the way. Of course, she had no clue about the context…

  • Dan Wiencek

    Hmm. Yelling after the performance immediately adds a layer of irony, as does the incongruous setting. However, your tone was presumably supportive and not mocking or satiric, which mitigates the overall irony. I’d rate this somewhere between Level 1 and Level 2.

    Perhaps I should start an advice column?

  • James

    And puncturing all levels of irony, the best ever response to the ‘Freebird’ heckle…?

  • Kelly_alain

    Where did this all start in the first place? Was it some long-forgotten movie reference or something along the line of that douche who yelled “Judas” at Dylan instead of something more appropriate such as “please enunciate.”

  • Beau

    What if you’re seeing Blue Man Group, where they expect it and are fully prepared to play it?

  • egebamyasi

    I once yelled Freebird at a Meat Puppets concert. I was drunk. I was being a smart ass. They played a small part of it. I was happy. I love Lynyrd Skynyrd.

  • DwDunphy

    What if I shouted “Beefheart!” partially because I didn’t want to be the jerk that shouted “Free Bird!,” partially because I thought I was being clever (mistakenly), but mostly because I wanted to hear “I’m Gonna Booglerize You, Baby”?

  • whatsongisityouwannahear?

    I think the true irony here is: I don’t think the writer even knows where yelling “Freebird” originated.

  • whatsongisityouwannahear?

    This should be considered the best response ever…

  • kw

    The Skynyrd live album, “One More from the Road’ had
    several seconds of individuals in the crowd yelling “Freebird” before Ronnie
    Van Zandt asks, “What song is it you want to here? The entire crowd
    responds in unison, “FREEBIRD!” The band then goes out and delivers if
    not one of the greatest songs in rock history- the greatest encore song in
    rock history. 

    Radio stations used promote and play “the live version’ of Freebird every
    night at a certain time. (Similar to the “Mandatory Metallica” blocks
    some play today). These would air and start with the crowd members yelling for
    Freebird. Today most only know the cliché, and know nothing of the original
    bands legendary live performances. (Ask the Stones if it was a good idea have
    Skynyrd open for them at Knebworth 76 and/or if they would do it again).

     Likely, before the
    yelling of Freebird became a cliché at concerts it started as a way for someone
    in crowd to express their desire for whatever band they were seeing to come
    back on stage and “kick some rock ass” as Skynyrd did live, and in in
    all those airings of “the live version of Freebird”
    Sadly, that is no longer the meaning, as your “levels” aptly point
    out. Even worse the majority today do not know what it means to have your ass
    kicked by a damn fine rock n roll band