Thursday, March 3, 2011


Have I ever mentioned that I hate when bands play encores?

Well, I do.

I was in bands for a long time and I always made sure we were putting everything we had into our set. We broke up our two best songs, played one of them first and one of them last. And since pretty much every worthwhile show I've ever played has been while in a hardcore band, we always had to factor in when the crowd needed a break from mosh-dancing. We didn't want to wear them out too much right up front because we didn't want to end flat.

Our ideal set list looked something like this:

Best New Song - The one that we're most proud of.
Older, Familiar Song - One that everyone recognizes to keep the energy going.
Newer Song
Newer Song - Stuff we'd written recently but no one had heard yet. Give the crowd a break.
Older Song That Everyone Loves We Don't Play Very Often - Gets everyone back on board.
Cover Song - Gets them even more excited.
Best Song We Have - Hopefully, shit gets nuts.

That's it. Seven songs. We were in and out of there in 20-25 minutes. Shows that we headlined were a little different, maybe another new one and a couple more old songs. I never liked playing longer than half an hour, though. My philosophy with live shows was that I always wanted to leave them wanting more rather than overstay our welcome. We wanted to hit that high note and say goodnight.

This is where not liking the encore comes in—and usually this only happened when we were the last band of the night.

After we'd played all those, we didn't really have anything else. We'd put every single one of our best, most energetic songs into our actual set. We never saved anything for an encore, because being in a local band, it's kind of a dick move to think you're going to get asked to play an encore. We'd always oblige and play, but I always felt that it was a let down because we ended up playing either a brand new song with unfinished lyrics or an older song we hadn't played for a long time and barely remembered. It just never felt right.

That's kind of the way I felt when I saw the Heartless Bastards the other night.

They played an awesome set, probably close to an hour long, and they played everything I wanted to hear and showcased a bunch of new stuff they'd written recently, too. They killed the entire night.

Except for the end.

I'm not sure what the song was called or if it was new or not, but they played this awesome, blues-y track that ended with this driving, heavy part that, while not typical of their style, fit perfectly with what they were doing. It was great. They just let it ride for a few minutes and had the whole crowd tearing it up—even caught a few people trying to crowd surf which was quickly shut down by security.

The song came to an awesome end with everyone nodding their heads and tapping their feet, the crowd went crazy and the band said thank you.

Then the singer switched to an acoustic guitar and they played their last song. It was a huge disappointment. After the song they'd just played, the crowd was eating out of their hand. Had that been my band, we would have been gone on that high note and called it good. But they stuck around for that one more slow track and all the air went out of the building. People started gathering their coats and heading for the door. The song ended, the band said goodnight and disappeared behind the curtain.

I stuck around while the hundred or so people congregating in front of the stage half-assedly cheered for more and sure enough a few minutes later, two of them came back out. They played a quiet acoustic number followed by one more average-at-best song with the whole band and were done for the night.

I didn't feel cheated because they'd played an awesome set that I'm glad I saw but at the same time I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. As a person that used to put so much thought into the ebb and flow of a live set, I wanted them to put a little more thought into things. Maybe this is the way they wanted it and maybe I'm over thinking this way too much, but that's what I do.

And as I walked to my car, I kept thinking about that one song that brought the house down. That's all I was thinking about during their last three songs, too.

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