Johnny America


The Mod­ern Encore


I like to be­lieve en­cores used to mean some­thing. I have a misty im­age in my head of a crowd shout­ing at an emp­ty stage, stomp­ing re­lent­less­ly, hop­ing their mass would call the band back from the liquor and drugs and women they’d be­gun con­sum­ing as soon as they walked off the deck. I en­vi­sion in­struc­tions blar­ing out of loud­speak­ers in­form­ing con­cert-go­ers they’ll be ar­rest­ed for tres­pass­ing if they don’t leave right now. Then, af­ter an hour of chant­i­ng and Re­fusal To Ad­mit It’s Over, the band comes out and kicks ass for The Fans Who Love Them So.

I won­der if my im­age of what en­cores should be ever ex­ist­ed. For the whole of my con­cert-go­ing life an en­core from the main act was a giv­en. When it’s ex­pect­ed by both band and au­di­ence, an en­core los­es mean­ing. Call it what it is: a sec­ond set.

On Fri­day, at the Up­town The­atre in Kansas City, I felt AIR, rock­ing French elec­tro duo ex­tra­or­di­naires, stamp out the last shred of pa­tience I had for the mod­ern en­core, and any hope that it might re­turn to its sin­cere ancestor.

Ex­tra lights flashed, the song was one of their hits, they said thank you and left the stage but the house lights did­n’t come up; okay, I thought, hur­ry back, and don’t make us clap too much be­fore you fin­ish your show. In a swift minute they were back on stage. They were fantastic.

[Re­peat last para­graph, they left and re­turned sec­ond time.]

Yes, a sec­ond band-in­duced encore.

I don’t mind ego or swag­ger, but leav­ing the stage and keep­ing down the lights is beg­ging the au­di­ence to call you back — it’s mas­tur­ba­tion. To see a group I have so much af­fec­tion for fall so low, to jerk off on stage, twice, was dis­ap­point­ing. Be­cause they are French and tal­ent­ed, I for­give them, but my pa­tience for the mod­ern en­core is gone, and they are to blame.

Per­form­ers: If you need a break, tell the au­di­ence you’re tak­ing a minute to grab a drink and sit down, but don’t make us half-heart­ed­ly clap to see the rest of the show. You know we know, and we know you know, so give it up and play your gui­tars. Let mean­ing re­turn to the encore.

Filed under Commentary on April 29th, 2004

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Reader Comments

Faso Latido wrote:

I think an­oth­er as­pect of audience/musician in­ter­ac­tion that has start­ed to lose its mean­ing these days is the stand­ing ova­tion. That is, in cas­es in which the au­di­ence is­n’t stand­ing al­ready. Then a stand­ing ova­tion does­n’t mean any­thing at all. But peo­ple will give the standing‑o for just about any­thing these days, which just il­lus­trates our col­lec­tive loss of abil­i­ty to dis­crim­i­nate be­tween good and crud per­for­mances, and the larg­er prob­lem of our be­ing dumb­ed down.

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