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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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Now that Linkin Park have a new album and are playing sets weighted toward the new stuff, they're using encores in a more traditional way.

  "If they want more, then we know we are succeeding ..." — Linkin Park's Chester Bennington
"We really want to feel how the audience is reacting to the new stuff, so we leave and we see if they want more," Bennington says. "If they want more, then we know we are succeeding with our show. It kind of gives us that extra boost and lets us know what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong."

Since encores stand apart from the rest of the show, they can also be a fitting place for something completely different, like a cover or a collaboration. "We'll use it to break it up and come out to do an acoustic song or something like that," Cold's Marshall says.

Or in some cases, bands are forced to get creative after doing a hit in an encore and then getting called back for a second. Jane's Addiction and the Eels have been known to return with experimental sets well after the house lights have been turned on, while the B-52's once insisted their opening band, the Eurythmics, perform an encore for the ecstatic crowd. When the Eurythmics, touring on their first album, pointed out that they'd already played every song they knew, they were told to go out and repeat a song they'd already performed. The audience was delighted anyway.

"We'll do a Ramones or a Bon Jovi or a Poison song or something silly," Bowling for Soup's Reddick says. "Sometimes we'll do a song with one of the bands that we are playing with or we've actually even done somebody's song. Nobody's hit, but somebody's song before they come on. They really get a kick out of it."

When Good Charlotte and New Found Glory tour together this summer, the bands are planning an encore together. At a recent NFG show, the band pulled Twisted Sister's Dee Snider up for a cover of "We're Not Gonna Take It," although their most memorable encore involved a fan playing with them.

  "... this kid, Stuart, that knew our song, filled in." — New Found Glory's Chad Gilbert
"Our most popular song was on the radio and so we saved it for the encore," Gilbert recalls of a show in fall of 2001. "So we go off and it was really dark and Cyrus couldn't see the edge of the stage and fell off the stage and broke an arm and a rib. So we're about to go back on and we see Cyrus just lying on the ground like, 'Help.' And so this kid, Stuart, that knew our song, filled in. We played it really quick. It was horrible, really sloppy."

"He was so nervous he played it like four times as fast," Cyrus adds.

Pete Yorn usually encores with a cover, but he never writes it into the set list. That seems to be the way many bands avoid feeling like they're doing something clichéd.

"It should always be natural," says Good Charlotte's Madden. "I think that's one thing about our shows, we never go by a plan."

"I started out committing to encores, but that was kind of wack to me," says Musiq. "I thought, 'I'm not doing that.' I want the crowd to want me back. If they don't want me to come back, I'm not going to force-feed them."

"It took us a while to get to where we could do an encore and not feel really, really cheesy about it," Reddick says. "Just because you don't ever wanna be that band that plans one."

It's not written in their set lists, but Good Charlotte, Musiq and Bowling for Soup still do encores almost every show. That's just how it is.

So rather than try to deny that an encore is pretty much guaranteed, more and more bands are embracing the obviousness by making fun of it.

On his recent live CD, former Soul Coughing singer Mike Doughty tells the crowd, "This is the part where I stand on the side of the stage for a minute before I come back for another song." Counting Crows, Weezer, Blink-182 and Guster have done similar gags, which raises the question: Have encores become a joke?

Only time will tell if more groups go the way of the Strokes or Weezer, but for now most musicians are willing to set aside the bewilderment behind encores for the sake of entertainment.

"It's a tradition," says New Found Glory's Gilbert. "I know when I go see a band play, I always want to hear more songs ... especially when there's that one song they didn't play."


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