Archive/Really (Un)Cool Opinions: On Encores
By Max Power
Originally published on the old KLC Tumblr Blog: October 18, 2016
Local band asks crowd if they want to hear “one more,” as if they had a choice.
A few weeks back, a locally beloved band that had broken up were playing a one-off reunion show. While all was good and jolly in Stumptown, things shifted when one of the other opening acts took stage. I’m not naming any names, in part because that’s unreasonably cruel for some local band, but also because I’m some coward with a pen name. The band featured one guy fingerpicking a guitar while the other sang and played harmonica and they were fine, sort of like a less funny Flight of the Conchords, until another person took stage to read an essay. It was a long-winded affair of self-congratulation about getting people to register to vote in Ohio. After seven or so minutes he came to a pause and thanked everybody for listening to him, but once he heard a half roomful of obligatory claps, he came back to the mic and asked if we’d like to hear more. This time the claps were few and sparse, each one seemingly echoing off the other, yet it was enough for the dude to go ahead and read for another five minutes. While this experience was cringy and discomforting, in the moment I felt bad for the guy, who even seemed a bit nervous. That is, only till I got to thinking about what an encore is.
Encores are bullshit. Even the ones that the performer actively pretends are spontaneous are actually, pure bullshit. This specific one is not alone in its humble-braginess—all of encores at their core are like this. Think about it—someone walks off stage, fully aware that they have more material planned to give, only to come back upon hearing thunderous applause. The performer might justify it to themselves thinking they are making the audience feel special. That [Insert your city name] is the rockin-est town in the world! That they were just so taken by the energy of the crowd that they had to play a few more just to keep going. However, I saw their setlist. I saw the little line the band drew after what was supposed to be the “last song” and what was going to be their encore. At its best it is someone contriving some sense of spontaneity on a long monotonous tour, at worst it’s somebody who just needed the validation of people clapping (who are probably clapping whether they gave a shit or not) to run back on stage to do more of whatever.
The encore is not for the audience, it’s to stroke the artist’s ego. And someone might say, “But Max, all art is self-indulgent, why try and hide it?” Well, hypothetical reader, how about this, the artist IS trying to hide it just by pulling this bullshit charade. They are straight up lying to us by saying, “Thank you [Insert that same city you listed above], you’ve been great!” Then coming out for more. How about instead of saving the hits for after the band says the show’s over, they just straight up tell us, “We’ve got a few more songs,” then play them. How about we have a show actually end on the time it is supposed to end? And this should go without saying, if you’re the opening band don’t go on late or go over your allotted time. I’ve found many of my favorite bands by seeing them open up for bigger artists, but at no time did I ever think, “Jeez, I really wish that set was fifteen minutes longer.” Maybe it’s my tiny millennial attention span, or maybe your band has a few duds worth of songs (probably both), but please just play your thirty minutes and let the music speak for itself. I don’t care if you’re freaking Joy Division with an Ian Curtis hologram, please have a little more faith in the audience. We know we’re not special, the band obviously knows we’re not special. So how’s about we end this madness so we can go home, and the band can go backstage and drink their damn LaCroix.
This post is part of The KLC blog Archive. The previous & now defunct KLC blog, formally known as The Umbrella, can be found here.