Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rant: Down with the Encore

If you ask me, the encore is a tired and outdated process. The band has left the stage, the lights are darkened, and yet, the audience continues to shout and clap like those wind-up toy monkeys with brass cymbals. “Encore, encore,” the French word for “again,” can frequently be heard and you already know that the band is gonna come charging back onstage and play that hit song of theirs that they not so inconspicuously omitted from the set list. When a concert is over, I am ready to leave. If it’s a weekday, I am ready to hop on the subway and go home, and if it’s a weekend, I’m ready to head to the nearest bar. Besides, if a band is good enough, I’d like to think that the audience members will be satisfied, encore or no encore.

So, you can imagine my delight while at a Bon Iver concert at Town Hall a few months ago, when Justin Vernon announced that there would not be an encore. One fan was outraged and unleashed some gobbledygook about the failing economy and wanting to get his money’s worth. Yet, Bon Iver played practically every song, not only from For Emma, Forever Ago, but also from their new EP, Blood Bank. We were even treated to a cover of Sarah Siskind’s tragically beautiful, “Lovin’s For Fools”. I felt that my money was well spent and left feeling pleased with the show.

Other artists agree with me on this matter. The Strokes generally skip out on encores and Ben Folds once poked fun at the useless ritual as well, saying something along the lines of, “I’m coming back, but you should try to act surprised.” Spare our voice boxes the screaming and shouting and take it from Elvis. Leave the building.


  1. While I agree I must have to mildly disagree. Where for most shows it would be understandable since the average band doesn't have a tremendous amount of albums to choose from, those that have been around for awhile are always good for an Encore surprise song. Case in point, Dave Matthews Band, June 23, 2006. Their set list changes every night and you never know what you're going to get. They always bring out the random winner in the encore. It was my 20th birthday and they had yet to play my favorite song. They come out for an encore and I hear nothing in the first song. Then I heard the bang of the snare drum and know what's coming. My favorite song in the world and a rarity for them to play. Ants Marching. Happy Birthday to me...Still the best concert moment of my life...THAT'S when the encore is worth it.

  2. I feel you on the encores in general, but Danielle is right about bands with bigger discographies. I saw the Black Crowes a couple months back and they played Good Friday, then covered Hey Hey What Can I do and it was sweeeeeet. Definitely the best encore I've seen. But then went to see Vampire Weekend, who, with one album, had no reason to be playing an encore. It's almost like they just needed a break to take a couple sips of their vodka tonics and a couple drags from a parliament light. I'd say about 1/4 of the place had left/was leaving when they finished.

  3. You guys both brought up valid points and I agree for the most part. When you're seeing bands with larger repertoires it's definitely a nice treat when they surprise you with an old favorite at the end of a show. I have seen some concerts with encores that were more than worth the wait. I guess what I dislike about them is the useless tradition. I'm not the most patient of people and would rather they skip the charade of leaving and reappearing and just play whatever song they'd like to end on without the dramatic interlude. This whole post originated because of a comment I saw on an artist's myspace page saying how rude it was of them not to come on and perform an encore and I think it's bizarre how we've come to expect it.

    Thanks for commenting, guys!

  4. I typically hate encores, but for certain bands with a large discography, i guess it works? Like Bruce and DMB. The encores are the best part - they always pull out an oldie obscure song.
    It just bothers me when bands play an hour set and then have a 15 minute encore that brings nothing new to the musical table.

    However my favorite encore of all time happened when i saw the Decemberists on Halloween of 2006. They played an incredible set and them came out and did a 6 song encore with 4 covers in costume! Now *that* was epic. It left me incredibly spellbound.

    and i second jenna's comment, thanks for commenting blog readers!

  5. The Long Winters are famous for saying "OK everyone pretend we're walking off the stage and you clap and yell for a few minutes... OK here comes the encore!"

    Also, The Wedding Present never play encores. Which is too bad because they could really dig out some surprising old stuff to make it great.

    It's a love/hate thing. It really does depend on the band whether or not it's worth it, I suppose.