Friday, March 28, 2008

Are Fans Entitled to an Encore?

By Nicole Pope

At the conclusion of Monday's Beach House show in Omaha, sultry songstress Victoria Legrand told the crowd, "This will be our last song." Yeah yeah, I thought, as I always do. You'll be back.

The band left the stage, and after some feeble clapping from the audience, the lights came on. I wasn't mad -- I mean, she did say it was their last song -- but I couldn't help feeling I might have heard a few more gorgeous gems if our crowd had somehow done something differently.

Such is the natural result of the encore setup. Let's consider what was intended to be the point of an encore. The band plays a riveting show. The crowd is into it. The band is into it. They end their set, go back stage, but then gosh darn it, they just aren't ready to pack up and leave. The crowd wants more, and perhaps more importantly, they want to play more (or at the very least show appreciation for an attentive and energetic crowd).

If you're like me and attend a lot of shows, you know that you can expect to see an encore at 95% of shows. So where does that leave the other five percent who, for whatever reason, decide to forego the farcical "I'm leaving the stage until next time, but not really"?

I admit, there are times I've left a show feeling short-changed. Usually it's because of what seems like a shorter-than-normal set (a feeling that's exacerbated if I've seen the band multiple times). Usually, though, I only feel truly disappointed when a band leaves the stage and the audience starts to clap, the lights stay dimmed, and we're just clapping and clapping for minutes until -- nothing. (An otherwise lovely Joanna Newsom show comes to mind.) Does a band have to play an encore? No. But should they play an encore if they've allowed the audience to partake and partake and partake in their side of the facade, until their palms are sore and their throats hoarse? Yes.

So there should be rules for encores, perhaps. Such as, if a band has no intention of playing an encore, the lights/house music should turn on immediately. (Though how do you account for a band wanting to play an encore, yet receiving little encouragement from a crowd and thus changing their mind -- I've been in those scenarios before, too.) Maybe more bands should only say "This is our last song" when they mean it -- though, again, wouldn't that be taking away the original point of an encore?

Should we just get away with encores all together, and thus all the lukewarm encore performances from bands who feel like they "have to play one"? How can we bring back the excitement of not knowing if you're going to get an encore and then getting one, without the backlash some bands receive from occasionally not playing one?

What do they do backstage for that minute while we stand out there desperately cheering, anyhow?

Interestingly, there is a web site called Second Encore that addresses many of the concerns I've discussed here. This is a site dedicated entirely to "saving the encore." Here is their mission:

"Second Encore is a campaign set-up by a group of friends that love live music and are no longer happy with the single obligatory encore most bands do. We are trying to gain support from like minded fans to show bands that we want more from an encore, not just the always predictable walk off walk back on 2 minutes later routine."

The site then goes on to list ways you can tell if an encore is "a pre-planned mediocre addition to the set," including, "When the band leave their best songs out of the main gig only to play the hits in the encore," or "When you get that feeling if you clap or not they are coming out anyway." Second Encore implores like-minded individuals to join their campaign by banding together and doing things like saving the majority of your applause for the end of the first encore, so that the band will absolutely have to return for another.

Wow. You tell 'em, guys. While I understand the frustration, I can't help but think, you guys are fans, right?

Aren't these feelings of entitlement the precise reason we're in this encore debacle in the first place?

No comments: