Once upon a time there was an earnest, indie rock band who—through the forces of fate—was slated to open up for legendary Stone Temple Pilots front man Scott Weiland at a popular music venue. Though the band didn’t exactly think their music would translate to STP fans, they knew the exposure would be great and maybe, just maybe, they could win a few more fans.
Their first song received a smattering of handclaps. The second, stony silence. As the singer of the band stepped up to the mic to introduce the third song, a large, grizzled grunge devotee in the front row began belting the lyrics to “Dead and Bloated” in protest. “I AM smelling like a rose that somebody gave me on my birthday deathbed,” he shouted. The audience roared in approval.
Talk about a tough crowd. A negative response to your music may make you want to crawl into your own birthday deathbed, but don’t let it. Consider it a rite of passage. And though it’s true that you can’t be everything to everyone, there are certain things you can do to alleviate the tension when you’re facing a crowd of anti-fans like:
• Talk to them. A little friendly banter goes a long way. Break the tension by acknowledging the disconnect: “I know most of you Black Eyed Peas fans probably don’t listen to much acoustic folk, but here’s something you may be able to dance to …”
• Play a cover song. This is the most surefire way to get an unruly audience on your side, so it’s best to keep a couple of crowd-pleasers in your back pocket in case of emergency. Pick something that everyone knows, but give it your own unique spin. If you’re the folk band opening for Black Eyed Peas, don’t antagonize the crowd by playing a cover of “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Pick something relatable to their tastes that you can make your own. Who knows, maybe “Boom Boom Pow” sounds good acapella.
• Soldier on. Even if they’re shouting terrible things about your mother, don’t let the negativity get into your head and affect your performance. Let it be inspiration for you to play harder and with more passion. Even if they don’t like your music, they’ll have to respect your tenacity.