Opinion: Cheap encore

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Online Poster

By Steve Kline

We’ve let this go on for too long. Fair reader, I’ve tried to ignore the growing epidemic, hoping it would go away like *insert your favorite, cute pop-culture reference here.* The time for hope has come and gone and doubled back, but it’s time to put the song “Street Fighting Man” on the jukebox (key G7) and stand up to nip this epidemic in the bud.

The epidemic I speak about, of course, is the growing presence of encore performances during rock concerts. I know, I know, bringing up this controversial topic will probably lead to several apologetic editorials and possibly a mention in The Chicago Tribune.

But I’ll proceed anyway. Here’s the main argument against encore performances: They’re cheap. Period.

Picture this. The band has been on stage for 40 minutes or so, and you’re having a good time. The drunk dude in the center of the crowd has stumbled away from you and is bothering some other poor saps, so now you can fully enjoy the show. Then, after a reasonably popular song, the band says “Goodnight” and walks off stage. The building floodlights are off and the stage lights are on. What do you do?

I’ll tell you what you do. You clap, stomp your feet, and scream. You hold up lighters and waste precious butane as if there weren’t cooks all over the world who would kill for a little fuel for cooking their raw hamburgers. And then the band members board the stage once again, ready their instruments and play the popular song they neglected to play during their set. The audience acts all surprised and excited when they damn well knew what was going on. They knew the band would use this ruse before they even got on stage, much less right before they started rusing. My God, one time I saw a band pull the encore crap when they were playing for a festival and had only a 30 minute set to fill in the first place.

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    Look, if the band wants to take a break, someone should just say, “Hey guys, sit tight while we sit down for a second.” In fact, a few years ago, I was at a concert where the lead singer, instead of doing the “end of performance … psyche!” thing, actually said, “Look, I’m really, really sorry, but I’ve never had to use the bathroom more badly in my life.” At least he was honest, and we sat tight.

    The idea of the encore is great, but when it’s obviously just audience maintenance, it falls flat.

    Here’s an analogy. Whenever you walk into Blockbuster Video and someone behind the counter yells, “Hi!” to you, does this greeting make you feel special? Hell no, it’s just something the employees have to do to stay employed. On the other hand, if you walk into locally owned That’s Rentertainment and the employee greets you, you bloody-well better feel special. They don’t have to. That’s a greeting you’ve earned through hard-earned hours of not being a d*** of a customer. If they don’t like you, they won’t put on some sort of false pretense – they’ll probably just let you know. I’d rather have someone give me a genuine grimace than a smile that might be concealing homicidal tendencies.

    We’ve got to stop these performers from fishing for applause. This will be difficult to get used to, but the next time you’re at a show, walk away when the band does. If prematurely leaving a show you paid hard-earned money for isn’t your cup of tea, at least let them know what you think of their shenanigans. Instead of chanting, “One more song! One more song!” start up, “If you want attention, just ask! If you want attention, just ask!”

    It doesn’t roll off the tongue as well, but it’s a little more honest.

    Steve Kline is a senior in LAS. His column runs alternate Mondays. He can be reached at [email protected].