In Praise of the Unearned Encore
We’ve all seen it a million times – a dingy club, maybe twenty disinterested patrons and a band of dubious talent hacking through some forgettable, derivative material. Inevitably, they finish their set and then huddle up on the side of the stage before making their triumphant, 6-foot walk back to their instruments like the conquering heroes they know they are. You can almost hear the wheels turning in their heads – “We don’t want this to end… let’s do an encore!”
The lack of self-awareness on the part of these groups can be cringe-worthy. A smattering of polite applause punctuated by over-enthusiastic whoops from the band’s significant others gets interpreted as a wild mob of ravenous fans screaming the band’s name in unison because they simply haven’t had enough of their hot rock action.
At this point, the “ironic cover version” is usually trotted out. It is inevitably terrible.
But I’ve come to praise the unearned encore, not to bury it. The more delusional the band, the better the unearned encore. The lamest modern rock band with way too much fancy gear and a Bono level of self-importance doing an encore to eight people at the Dew Drop Inn is endearing. Delusional fantasy is one of the coolest things about rock ‘n’ roll. Hell, the whole art form is pretty much based on it.
Encores from established bands in huge venues are much less entertaining. You know it’s coming and you probably know what song will be played. It’s a bizarre ritual. This is particularly annoying when an act with only a couple hits finishes their set without playing their chart-topping opus. Saving your one big hit for an encore is way too obvious and predictable for any self-respecting rock ‘n’ roll band.
That’s why I’ve come to love the unearned bar band encore. It’s wildly selfish, narcissistic, self-aggrandizing and utterly ridiculous. It tells the world that this band is going to maximize their rock ‘n’ roll fantasy no matter how idiotic it may be. To the seventeen people in the bar, it loudly proclaims: “we wrote these terrible songs! We spent hours rehearsing them! We hauled our gear down here! Endure our mediocrity!”
In its lack of self-awareness, the unearned encore is so unfathomably lame that it has circled all the way back around to cool.
So go ahead and do that encore you’ve always dreamed of, local bar band. Dust off an old cover song, take an extra-long guitar solo and bask in your glory. Hang on to that spotlight for at least five more minutes. You deserve it.
Unless you’re opening for my band. In that case, hurry up and get your crap off the stage.