I went to a fantastic show at a local venue last night, but as the band played its last song and the crowd cheered, I began thinking about the fact that I already knew they were coming back for an encore. This brought me to a question: When did the encore become mandatory at a rock show?
I remember going to shows when I was younger and when the group did their last song, it really was their last song. The audience would go crazy after, chant, yell, applaud – still the band wouldn’t come back out. The crowd really had to earn their encore, if they got one at all.
Today its almost become more of a second (or third, depending on the group) mini set. They go off stage long enough to have a beer or smoke and then come back out just as people are really getting tired of clapping and play 3 more songs. Now don’t get me wrong here, I love that I’m getting more for my money – knowing that I get a bonus set for my ticket price helps to justify all the service charges that get tacked on. There are also some bands that really pull out all the stops for their encore. For example Dave Matthews Band is always guaranteed a fantastic encore with a really long jam showcasing each band member (my personal favorite is the Watchtower cover). One of the coolest encores I have experienced was at an intimate Polyphonic Spree show – the last song ended and instead of clapping, the audience did a mix of applause and continuing the last chorus from the song. After the band exited the stage, the crowd still continued singing together until they came back out in their “choir robes” and walked through the audience singing and playing their instruments. It definitely left an impression and felt really special, different from the rest of the show.
I also respect the bands that repeated don’t do encores – Phish for example at Bonnaroo was playing two nights for several hours each night – no encore. The second night they did a longer set break but then came back and finished off their show with “Tweezer Reprise” (after having started the show with Tweezer) – it was the perfect musical sandwich, providing closure to the show.
To wrap this up, I’ll leave you with the definition of encore : encore (n) – a demand, as by applause, for a repetition of a song, act, etc., or for a performance of a number or piece additional to those on a program, or for a reappearance by the performers, as at the end of a concert, recital, etc. Do you need the encore at a show or should it be a special treat?