Questioning Encores

[Maniacal cheering] Alright, this is going to be our last paragraph of sentences here, thanks for reading BMA so far. We’re going to finish up with a classic, you should know this one [Motions to writing team]. OK, thanks for reading, and if you want to grab some merch head towards the back after the show, and yeah I’ll be there selling stuff. Just over there, near the bar.

[Paragraph finishes, non-existent crowd starts chanting for an encore]. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. [Turns around, looks at the remaining writers]. Yeah, I think we have a few more pages for you WOOOOOO! First up, Cody Atkinson with Questioning Encores, let’s keep the noise going!

OK, what’s the deal with encores?

You guys all know encores – a band pretends to finish up, they (either actually or metaphorically) go off stage and punters cheer until they come back on and play a couple more TUNEZ. The chant for the encore is nearly a ritualistic way to finish a gig, regardless of whether the encore is actually performed or not. Bands seem to love it because it is the raw expression of gratitude for what they pour their energy into, and fans love it because they feel like they are GETTING FREE MUSIC WHICH IS THE BEST THING.

That sounds weird … Where do they originally come from?

It’s a bit contested, but there’s a thought that it might trace back to ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. I can practically imagine Socrates busting out a mad monologue before a local Athenian yelled out for him to philosopher another one.

In a slightly, but not a whole lot more modern sense, encores date back to an operatic tradition where if a particular aria (song, not the music charts) was applauded enough they’d run it back right again, straight away.


Yep, instead of waiting until the end of the show, they’d just go again like the rest of the show didn’t matter and the only important thing in the world was playing that same damn song again, right away.

Then in the late-16th Century a freaking Austrian Emperor banned encores, due to too many people wanting to hear encores during Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Emperor Joseph II went all ‘mayor from the town in Footloose’ on the Austrian Empire, and there was nothing they could do. From that point on, encores became notorious, especially in the cutthroat world of opera and classical music.

You gotta have a couple of more memorable encores that you can mention?

Perhaps the most intriguing one, blending in the tradition of the encore and the modern adaptation, occurred when Kanye West and Jay Z’s Watch The Throne side project played in Paris back in 2012. During the tour, Watch The Throne had made a point to close the set with arguably the duo’s signature track ‘N****s in Paris’, in increasing quantities. For their final Paris show, they upped the ante by playing it a dozen times straight, over the course of about an hour. This harks somewhat back to the Austrian days of the encore, with a particular track getting played back over and over again. With one twist.

What’s that?

Well, according to ENCORE TRUTHERS the WTT encores aren’t really encores, because no one had requested them. There was no clear cheering for more of the same particular song, or any. They just decided to keep it playing, again and again and again. In fact, Kanye introduced the bit by saying: “Y’all have to remember this moment for the rest of your life. This will be the most times this song has been performed and the most times anybody ever performed a song at a concert, and y’all here tonight to be a part of it, Paris.”

I mean the truthers might have a point?

At best, it’s an evolved version of the encore, at worst it’s a blatant attempt to chase pointless records from someone who has form (Jay-Z held a record for most live shows in different cities in a 24-hour period). To encore aficionados, of which we are now some, this doesn’t really pass muster.

So what’s the minimum requirement then?

The band has to at least stop, and either go off stage or at least turn around. There has to be some break in the music. There also has to be a call for more songs, or some form of lengthy continuous applause. Otherwise it is just a continuous or second set. These aren’t hard and fast rules, if it feels in your heart like an encore then it probably is hey. Stop being so judgemental.

OK, give me a memorable real encore then.

Well I wasn’t there, but apparently for Robert Smith’s 54th birthday in 2013, The Cure dished up a long-ish 25-song set in Mexico City. Not bad. But they weren’t done. I guess they had a few more left in them, because they decided to come back for a three-song encore. And another three-song encore. Then a seven-song encore. And finally, one last eight-song, final call encore. One 25 song set, and 25 songs worth of encores. Smith & co. seemed to have an idea about this in advance, as they saved some of their best (‘Lovecats’, ‘10:15 Saturday Night’ and ‘Killing An Arab’) for last.

How about the one that you remember the most?

I remember seeing a Lou Barlow gig on a Sunday night in Brisbane, and he played so long that I missed the last train to my mate’s place where I was crashing. All the Sebadoh classics, and a couple of solo ones chucked in for good measure. It would have been about a $70-$100 taxi fare, so we just walked around the dead city, looking for any signs of life. It was Brisbane; there were few. But walking around a partially abandoned city isn’t something you get to do every day – and coupled with a set by someone as talented as Barlow it stands alone.

But are encores really worth it?

To be honest: maybe not. An encore is just an illusory end of a show; a fake ending to end them all. It is both performative on behalf of performer and crowd, a ritual set out ahead of time. Generally, a band/venue/sound curfew will decide if an encore can or will happen ahead of time, as demonstrated by Messers West and Z above. The key determiner is whether the crowd will care enough to chant for more, which often is a given for bigger, more expensive shows.

So encores, hey?

Well, you are basically getting free pages here. And don’t point out this is a free mag, THESE ARE BONUS PAGES FROM HERE ON OUT. Everyone is a winner people. Enjoy the freebies. BONUS PAGES FROM HERE ON OUT. Everyone is a winner people. Enjoy the freebies.


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