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The Artificial Encore

November 11, 2022

Allow me to paint a familiar picture for you:

The end of the concert you’re at looms across the horizon. The band/artist/whatever onstage has played a myriad of fun tunes for the past hour or so and is starting to wind down. One of the members waltzes up to the microphone and snarkily claims, “we’ve got one more for you guys!” The group proceeds to play their last song, takes a bow, and waddles off stage. The catch is: you know that wasn’t their last song, the band knows that wasn’t their last song, and the rest of the audience knows that wasn’t their last song. The audience cheers, begs, and screams for the band to do one or two more tunes. Lo and behold, the band waddles back onstage two minutes later to finish their set. 

If you’ve seen any amount of concerts in your life, chances are that you are familiar with the deceitful art of “The Encore.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an encore as “a demand for repetition or reappearance made by an audience.” As the definition reveals, traditionally, orchestral groups and such would spontaneously stitch an extra piece onto their set if the audience demanded it through prolonged applause. These days though, its really just a ritual for musical artists to plan the encore on their setlists. If you look at most major touring bands’ setlists, you’ll notice that the last four or five songs are usually separated from the rest of the set by a line or a space. 

The weird thing is that almost everyone does it. Most of the touring bands I’ve seen in have worked an encore into their setlist. They’re all guilty. From Sterolab, to Pavement, to Cate Le Bon. Nobody can help but indulge in the artificial encore.  

I’m really not the biggest fan of this ritual to be honest. Doesn’t it just feel oddly artificial for encores to be a planned part of the night’s set? Especially considering the fact that most artists save some of their biggest hits and well known songs for the encore, the planned encore is already a part of the set. Why don’t we just cut to the chase? I understand if the group wants to take a little break to get water and use the bathroom or whatever, but I’d rather they just say they have to take a break than engaging in this weird game of pretend. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to encores themselves. If a band finishes up their last song and they’re met with an overwhelming amount applause, I think it’s cool if they spontaneously decide to throw out an extra tune or two. It’s a nice surprising treat. When it’s spontaneous, it definitely feels less phony and you can tell that the band actually wants to play for a bit longer. The concert naturally flows better and the group performs based off the input of the audience. 

Artificial encores, on the other hand, feel disjointed and sever the flow of the concert. Regardless of the performance, when the band leaves the stage, the audience is left in awkward position where they know the group is coming back so they have to just make a bunch of noise until the group comes back. The band was going to come back regardless of how much noise the audience makes; the extra songs are built onto their set-list (which again are usually their biggest songs). Pavement’s not gonna leave without playing “Range Life”; Sterolab’s not gonna leave without playing “French Disko”; etc. Why don’t we just cut out the middle man?

Anyways, despite all this, I don’t mind built in encores THAT much. They’re just an odd tradition at this point. I just would personally not do all that.

Anyways, listen to We Jam Econo every Wednesday at 10 AM 🙂

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