A few weeks ago I had a show in a nice, upscale restaurant (kinda makes you wonder why they had me booked in there, huh?). It was a great crowd and everyone was enjoying a great night of food and music. Halfway through my set, someone walked in that immediately caught the attention of everyone in the room. Tight jeans, a cropped jacket, no shirt underneath, long hair… Every head turned and I have to admit, I was a little concerned. I found it hard to concentrate. There was definitely a distraction factor and I stumbled over words and dropped a few chords. It was a bit embarrassing. After he sat down at the bar and began ordering doubles whiskeys, I began to get more nervous. That’s right, I said he. The distraction wasn’t what you were thinking (you dirty minded little freaks). He was wearing an outfit, which was obviously designed for a woman’s figure, with a hair style that Farah Fawcet would have worn proudly.
Alarm bells went off in my head. He confirmed my wariness when he began shouting out before, during and after every song, while chatting up every woman within flirting distance. I love an enthusiastic fan as much as the next performer, but this guy was a whole different level. He pulled out a harmonica and tried to play along (surprisingly in the wrong key every time). He tried to talk to me while I was singing, then he tried to sing along. I was trying not to let his behavior effect the show, but it was hard not to.
The final straw for the restaurant manager however, was when he tried to kiss the hostess for the second time. The management of the restaurant called the police to have a word. When they arrived, he was quick to tell them he didn’t want to go outside with them. Surprisingly, they didn’t take no for an answer. It was later discovered by the police that he was packing heat. I’m really glad I didn’t make him mad, (BTW, big thanks and much love to the brave men and women that serve and protect us all. It’s a dangerous job that I would not want to do) but this brings up a question: “When a fan gets a little too close for comfort, what’s a musician supposed to do?”
There are three ways you can approach this:
1. Ignore: Most fans are just excited about what you creating on stage. They want to be as involved as they can be in that good time. If they thought for a second that they were being a buzz kill, they’d be mortified. Some other fans, thanks to the magic of alcohol, don’t realize what they are doing. Sometimes, their friends will rein them in. Other times, they’ll run out of steam. By not giving them any attention and rolling with your show, you don’t give them an opening and a lot of people will lose interest and move on.
2. Acknowledge: Let the fan know how much you appreciate their enthusiasm. Give them a shout out. Let the crowd enjoy the moment. Let the fan enjoy the moment. That might be the best, most memorable part of their night.
The upside: keeps the good times rolling as long as things don’t get out of control.
The downside: Things can get out of control. Occasionally, they see this as a cue from you to get even more involved in your show with unpredictable (and sometimes disastrous) results.
3. Involve: Embrace the craziness. Get them fully involved. Get them shouting and singing along. Bring them up on stage and let them dance around and sing. It’s a great time for them and you as well. If the crowd is on your side, you know it’s gonna be a great night!
Now, if none of that works, you’ll need to regain control of the situation. Some performers will stop the show. Others will directly confront the offender. Sometimes the staff or other fans will step in to help. However, you have to remain in control of the situation and the show. I’ve written previously that when musicians try to take over someone else’s show, the best thing to do is try to talk to them off stage away from an open mic (BTW musicians, unless you are invited, don’t go up on stage and try take over).
Over time, you’ll find the best way to deal with it that you’re most comfortable with.