It's time to upgrade the encore

by Barry Taylor

July 16, 2010






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Silversun Pickups, Caribou, Jill Barber and The Besnard Lakes tell Barry Taylor their most memorable encore stories.

Brandenburg, German. Spring 1721.  An exhausted Sebastian Bach has just finished performing a secret show for the Royal Family and stands before his audience.


Bach: Ok. Thank you, Your Majesty.


Bach: Yes. Thank you.


Bach: I’m sorry Your Majesty?


Bach: More? I just played the entire collection of Brandenburg concertos.


Bach: Ummmm…

Ludwig: Do it or I’ll kill you.

And so began the tradition of the encore. Almost three centuries later, the practice lives on, but now it’s become a predictable formality. It’s time to for a change.

What’s the deal with the encore? They’ve lost all their spontaneity; like a bitter spouse in a loveless marriage, just banging it out because it’s there.

99% of concerts have a band perform, walk off stage and then come back three minutes later. Then they play a few more predetermined songs and then leave. Blah.

The encore is due for an upgrade.  For this to happen it’s gotta be determine what works and what doesn’t. First things first, let’s break down the different kinds of encores:

The Blind Encore

This is the result of a band absolutely killing it on stage. It doesn’t matter what’s played, the people just can’t go home without hearing more.

Strengths: Spontaneous, enthusiastic.
Weaknesses: Repetitive.
Encore Grade: B

Dan Snaith of Caribou: The craziest show for us was in Slovenia over five years ago in this, kind of squat place and we only had stuff off of one album to play. We had one song saved for the encore, we did that and came back off stage and people were still wanting more.

We ended up doing two more encores but we had to play a song from the set again. And then we went off and were like, ‘Ok, that’s it’ and the promoter was like, ‘No, no. Just play that song you just did for a third time.’

We ended up playing the same song three times, so that should have never happened but it was great at the same time ‘cause people were just like ‘Yeaaah!’

Fan Request Encores

Easily provides the most potential for brilliant encores. Fans yell out songs they want to hear and the band rocks out.

Strengths: Unpredictable, interactive, unique.
Weaknesses: The guy that yells out “Freebird”
Encore Grade: B+

Christopher Guanlao of Silversun Pickups: Actually, just recently we played a song we hadn’t played in three years. We came out for the encore and played the first song and in between songs someone yelled, ‘Play All the Go Inbetweens!’ I think he’d been at other shows and requested before.

And Brian (Aubert) was like, ‘You know, I don’t know if we can do it. Maybe I can just give you a little taste of it,’ and so he just started playing it and started singing and it was just the right time for me to come in.

So I came in and then Niki (Monniger) came in and we ended up finishing the whole song. We were looking at each other the whole time confused like, ‘Is this the transition? Do we change now?’ But it was nice, it worked out and it was sort of impromptu.

The Drunken Train Wreck

Similar to the Fan Request but far more sloppy. If you catch a band on a good night of partying you can get them to play almost anything. It’s an awesome but rare power for a fan to have.

Strengths: Impulsive, potential for disaster
Weaknesses: Sloppy, potential for disaster
Encore Grade: A

Jace Lasek of Besnard Lakes: Sometimes it’s just someone in the audience saying, ‘Can you do this ____?’ And we’ll just kinda go, ‘Yeah, I think we probably could.’

And if we’re really drunk we’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, that will be lots of fun.’ We’ve done Beach Boys songs before that were spontaneous. They’ve been absolute train-wrecks, but they were fun.

The N’Encore

Pronounced “Non-core” and for good reason…

Strengths: Adds pressure to a band to step up their game and impress fans during their set. Kinda funny too.
Weaknesses: No songs
Encore Grade: B-

Jill Barber: I’ve been to lousy shows where people haven’t cheered for encores and actually, that sends a more powerful message than when you do get an encore.

When you do get an encore these days it’s like, ‘Ok good I’ve done my job.’ It’s a sign of appreciation.

With this knowledge now in hand it’s time to present the 5 Essential Rules for the Encore Upgrade

1. Requests Are A Must

At least two thirds of the songs performed must be decided by the audience. If you’re a band that has a predetermined encore why bother leaving the stage in the first place? If the songs are part of your set, just stay there. Don’t patronize us, dick.

2. Anyone That Yells ‘Freebird’ During the Request Period Gets Dick-Punched

No questions asked. If you hear a jackass yell  Freebird, or Stairway to Heaven or Stairway to Freebird you punch that guy right in the nuts. Event security will be aware of this policy and not throw you out. In fact, they’ll likely thank you for making it easier for them to find the meatheads in the crowd.

3. Bands Have the Right to Veto Requests

It’s not fair for fans to expect artists to have every song in their catalogue ready to go at a moments notice. Plus, there’s always going to be one moron that will  request some obscure song that no one’s heard of or cares about.

4. Minimum of One Cover Song

Live covers are underrated. A buddy of mine recently text me from Detroit to let me know he just saw Gaslight Anthem cover the Clash’s Clampdown. That’s the kind of magic that we’re looking for in the new version of the encore. Cover songs also give cool insight into a bands musical taste.

5. No New Songs

Encores need to be reserved for unique, special moments. Having a band walk off stage and make fans plead to hear their latest single is a dick move. What’s that? You want to hear our new hit? Obviously, that’s why we’re here. That’s like going to a strip club and having a dancer ask if you want them to take their clothes off. No thank you. I’m here for the ambiance and eleven dollar beers. You just stay covered up and relax.

So there it is. The evolution of the encore has happened. Not since opposable thumbs and Honey-Nut Cheerios has humanity seen such progress. Spread the word. Happy dick punching.

Tags: Music, Featured, News, Barry Taylor, Dan Snaith, Jill Barber, Silversun Pickups






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