Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Art of the Encore Article

February 1, 2008

The Art of the Encore

By Megan Morgan

At a recent concert at The Opolis in Norman, Oklahoma, indie-popster Ben Lee voiced to the audience his plans for the “encore.” The weather was quite chilly that night, and because the backstage of The Opolis is actually outdoors, Ben lamented the fact that he and his fellow band member would be forced to go outside in the freezing air before coming back. The Australian musician said that he feels that audience members want an encore because it makes them feel like they “got their money’s worth.” Ben Lee added humorously that he did not want to cheat the concert-goers by foregoing an encore, so he merely turned his back on the audience for a minute or two while remaining onstage. When he felt that enough time had elapsed, he turned back around again and played his encore.

This concert experience, while being pretty hilarious, sparked me into thinking about the art of the encore. What do bands make of the importance of encore performances, and how do audience members feel about them? As it turns out, opinions range quite widely on the topic.

Juston Stens, drummer of the 60s-influenced rock group Dr. Dog, thinks that if multiple bands are playing a show together, encores should be performed by the final act in the lineup when necessary.

“I think encores are good for headlining bands to include in their sets,” Stens said. “It is a good way to catch your breath for a short break… If we are supporting another band and an encore is requested, we would never do it unless the headlining band was right there cheering us on as well.”

Stens also said that he believes encores should be spontaneous.

“We don’t ever plan an encore,” he said. “We create the night’s set list about ten minutes before we play based on how much time the venue will give us. When the set is done we leave the stage with no intention of an encore, but if it is requested by the audience we treat it the same way as our set list and pick two or three songs ‘on the spot.’”

However, some concert-goers believe that unplanned encores are becoming a rarity. Tarrant County College student Lauren Carter said that she feels that most encores are premeditated.

“Personally, I would prefer an unplanned encore, but I think that it has become an impossibility,” Carter said. “Even on [video game”> Guitar Hero, on one of the load screens, it mentions how lame you become when you start planning your encore set list. I’ve gotten the chance to see a few bands twice on the same tour, and I know that they play the same set for every encore. Unplanned encores just don’t happen anymore.”

Solo artist and Starlight Mints member Ryan Lindsey has another differing opinion about encores. His opinion varies depending on whether he is performing or attending a concert.

“Generally as an audience member I like to see an encore, depending on whether I’m into the band,” Lindsey said. He also added that, “as a performer, I do sometimes feel the opposite. I usually make several jokes about it, especially if there’s no chance of one. I would only take an encore if I was asked. But I have taken a few, when I knew for sure the audience didn’t want one. That usually makes for an awkward couple of minutes. But it’s fun to talk about afterwards.”

If Wake Forest freshman and concert-goer Austin Shrum was in attendance during one of these shows, this might make him angry.

“If you’re good enough where the fans are going nuts and are calling ceaselessly for just one more glimpse…then congrats, you have earned your encore,” Shrum said. “Don’t plan an encore before your performance because you think you’re badass… that’s not the way.”

Lindsey and Shrum’s opinions clash again when it comes to a performer’s attitude about taking encores.

“I don’t view it as arrogant if a band takes an encore,” Lindsey said. “Performers have been taking encores for awhile because they’re asked for it.”

Overall, it seems that the art of the encore is a delicate one, but one that a band or performer’s reputation could balance on. Whether it is scheduled or impulsive, the encore happens. Carter said that despite the fact that she thinks encores are nearly always planned, she still wants to see them.

“Even if [the encore”> has become a planned thing that you know you’re gonna get,” Carter said, “It’s still part of the whole concert experience, and always the end to a great night.”

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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