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  Are encores 'just a big ego stroking' or do they satisfy fans who always 'want the one more' ...

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  For some performers, encores are about taking a smoke break or a toweling down sweaty crotch ...

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  From cheesy covers to overly honest explanations, artists try anything to avoid being clichéd ...

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— by Corey Moss, with additional reporting by Joe D'Angelo and Jon Wiederhorn

Flick. The flame ignites on your Zippo, joining the thousands burning around you, illuminating a sea of sweaty faces. Your ears are ringing and your voice is next to nothing, but you are screaming anyway. Your legs are exhausted from standing in the same spot for the last two hours, but you have no intention of moving them. The band has exhausted every song in its repertoire and for all you know is off to the after party, but it doesn't matter. There's still a chance the show isn't over. And it isn't! The band returns to the stage and plays more songs!

That's an encore.

Flick. The flame ignites on your Zippo, joining the thousands burning around you, illuminating the technicians onstage tuning guitars and adjusting microphone stands. Your voice is next to nothing, so you sip on your drink while others scream aimlessly. Your arm is exhausted from holding your lighter up and you wish the bandmembers would just hurry up with their cigarette break. You know they're coming back. They always do. Besides, they haven't played their biggest single yet. In a few minutes, the band returns and plays its big hit.

Is that an encore?

Encores, once the happy circumstance of an audience recognizing a great performance by demanding the artist return and play more, coupled with the artist actually returning and performing material above and beyond what was planned, are usually anything but that these days. What was once one of a concert's most exciting elements has transformed into just another predictable part of an industry more interested in spotlighting a hit than giving fans a treat. With encores no longer what they were meant to be, bands like the Strokes, the Hives and Staind are choosing to forgo them altogether.

"We've never done an encore," says Staind singer Aaron Lewis. "We've always done all of the songs that we're gonna do and said 'goodnight' and 'thank you.' I've always felt like an encore was always kind of more for the band. The band gets to step offstage and everybody gets louder and crazier and screams more and makes more noise and stomps on the floor and it's just a big ego stroking. And then they come out and they do one more song that they could've just done, rather than getting all the ego stroke first."

  "... sometimes it feels too rock star ..." — Good Charlotte's Benji Madden
"For the most part we are very anti the whole rock star thing," says Good Charlotte guitarist Benji Madden. "And sometimes it feels too rock star to just walk offstage and wait for everyone to chant."

Some may equate encores with egos these days, but the ritual comes from humble beginnings. The notion of an encore goes back centuries to the early days of theater, when actors would get called back during curtain calls for an extra bow, according to Paul Fischer, a professor in the Department of Recording Industry at Middle Tennessee State University. As singers and other musicians took to the stage, encores evolved into a second performance not on the scheduled program. Oftentimes, the stars sang a song for a second time, hence the term "encore," which comes from the French word for "again."

During the concert boom of the '60s and '70s, rock bands used encores as exclamation marks for special shows — nights when crowds were especially energetic. The Who rarely played an encore, so when they came back onstage (usually after the house lights were turned on), it was a momentous occasion.

However, encores became hard to resist and the more bands did them, the more they were expected. Slowly an encore became just a fancy word for finale, the place to pull out all the best pyrotechnics, choreography and, eventually, songs. Many times encores are even written into set lists. Not all artists are stoked about them, but few are brave enough to risk disappointing fans by skipping the long-lasting trend.

  "... people just want the one more." — New Found Glory's Chad Gilbert
"We feel really funny doing an encore 'cause we know we're gonna play more songs, but it's like, if we took the song we played in the encore and played it last, kids would still want another song and then we wouldn't have the kind of good song to close with," New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert explains. "So we kind of always save our most popular song and then kids always call us for more. It's tradition, I guess. Almost every show, no matter if it's a punk band or whatever, people just want the one more."

NEXT: For some performers, encores are about taking a smoke break or a toweling down a sweaty crotch ...
Photo: WireImage/MTV.com

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