Doug Orleans (dougo) wrote,
Doug Orleans
dougo

Are encores dead?

I've been going to rock club concerts for 25+ years, and they practically always follow the same script: the headlining band plays for 60-90 minutes, they go offstage, the crowd claps for a few minutes, then the band comes back and plays a few more songs for an encore. (The Feelies typically play at least 4 encores!) I always imagined that this was a rare occurrence in the 1960s, where the norm was that the end of the set was the end of the performance, and only an extraordinarily insistent crowd would call the band out again for an encore, and the band would be thankful but they'd have to scramble to figure out another song to play because they hadn't planned to keep playing. But by the time I started going to shows, this had ossified into a mandatory ritual at nearly every show, hardly ever questioned or even thought about. Occasionally the club will turn on the house music right after the band leaves the stage, signaling that there will be no encore, presumably due to curfew requirements or whatever. Once in a blue moon the band themselves will apologize and say they hadn't rehearsed any more songs (e.g. if they have new members who don't know the band's whole back catalogue), or the band will simply announce ahead of time that they agree that the ritual is silly so they'll just play their encore songs as part of the main set and we can all just leave when it's over.

Last night at the Windhand concert at ONCE Somerville, though, something happened that I don't think I've ever experienced before: the crowd, which was not sell-out sized but respectably sizable (maybe 100-200 people), applauded enthusiastically after each song, but after the last song, they clapped for less than a minute and then just... stopped. And so after a minute of relative silence, the house music came on, the band didn't do an encore, and everyone went home. It was weird! Sometimes I don't bother clapping, because everyone else is clapping enough for the ritual to play out properly. This time, was everyone a free rider expecting other people to clap? Or were they genuinely not into the idea of hearing another song or two? (For the record, I thought it was a great show and would have been happy with another hour of it.) I felt bad for the band... Were they expecting to play an encore like they always do? And then it turned out the crowd just wasn't that into them? Or is this just something that happens regularly now, and it's no longer actually an automatic expectation? I'd be relieved, if so, because it's always felt silly and artificial. But I'd just hope that bands start playing longer sets to compensate.
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