Beer and Pavement

Leave Them Wanting More

Posted in Uncategorized by SM on September 16, 2011

Sleater-Kinney left us wanting more.

I was reading this excellent interview with Wild Flag’s Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony. Many themes arose throughout. There was participation versus passivity, getting back to music, how music changes for us as we get older, etc. The one point that seemed most important to me was leaving your audience wanting more.

Brownstein’s former band, Sleater-Kinney, did that. With their final album, The Woods, S-K destroyed speakers and listener expectations forever. Left in its wake was an excitement for another S-K record that would never come. Despite the crushing blow of their breakup, Sleater-Kinney left on top with fans pining for a reunion a la [enter every 90’s indie band ever].

The idea that grabbed me isn’t just the fact that Sleater-Kinney went out on top. Rather, it’s the value in leaving people wanting more that often gets lost. Sure, we always want more[1], but when that desire is left unfulfilled, the desire grows. Brownstein puts it best in the context of a band’s set:

It’s like when you go to a live show and a band only plays for 45 minutes instead of an hour and a half. You’re sort of annoyed, but at the same time, you were transfixed the whole time, and you weren’t checking your watch after an hour.

I have been a longtime believer in the shorter set list. I prefer bands to play for 45 minutes (openers for 30). It’s better to leave a gig wanting more than to be glad that it’s over. Bands don’t do this enough. Instead, they opt for playing longer sets where the quality starts to take a hit with each progressive song. That or the audience just sort of grows tired. The best sets in my lifetime have been shorter, not longer.

The same goes for albums and discography. An album that never ends starts to get old. I’ll just skip the last track so that I can hear something else[2]. Bands like Wolf Parade or At The Drive-In had short, memorable runs before calling it quits, leaving their fans longing for more. Conversely, the Flaming Lips are starting to enter that realm usually only reserved for the likes of the Rolling Stones or [enter any musician/band from your parent’s generation]. Another band that has played too long is Interpol who should have stopped after the first record. A lot can be said for calling it quits just when your fan base wants more.

Will we see CBS in Middle-MO?

This happens in the beer world as well. Of course, breweries don’t go out of business once they’ve reached the pinnacle of success. Instead, they limit our access to prized beers. This has occurred recently with the hype surrounding Stone’s Anniversary Escondidian Black IPA, but there are lots of other examples. Special releases like Stone’s anniversary ales and collaborations generally hard to get but easy to like. Even the super-rare releases like those handed out at one-day events by the likes of Russian River, Three Floyds, Smuttynose, etc. make the beers just that much more wanted. In fact, these beers often fetch huge rewards for their owners on eBay.

The one-off or special releases that are only obtainable at the pub or online can suck some of the fun out of the experience[3]. However, the annual releases of limited release beers tend to pump the fun back into beer geekery much the same way the 45 minute set does. Founders is set to release their Harvest Ale (fresh hops FTW!), Kentucky Bourbon Stout, and hopefully/maybe their Canadian Breakfast Stout. These beers are scarce but so worth the effort, especially for beer-deprived Middle Missouri.

What these beers and bands do by leaving their fans wanting more is increase the desire to experience the unforgettable one more time. It’s win-win, really. Breweries sell more beer, create buzz for other releases. In the case of growler-only releases, they bring more folks to the pub. Bands insure that their catalog will remain vital and provide a steady stream of royalty dollars[4] long after they’ve hung up their guitars or moved on to other, less-profitable projects. Plus, if they ever do reunite, there’s usually a pretty big pay off at the other end.

So, the next time you complain about a band’s 45-minute set or the fact that your beer shop limited its customers to two bottles of that super-great, super-rare brew, be mindful of how much it just makes you want it more. It’s like that kid in high school you wanted to date so badly, but he/she was never that into you. So, you pined after that one person for four years. Hell, you still think about your high school crush to this day. We want what we can’t have, but we have to know a little about it before we want it. This is why we reminisce about our favorite bands in college and spend an entire year talking about Hopslam. We were left wanting more and we’ll continue to want until our needs are met…or we find the next thing.

1In fact, I was in the middle of taking up Mike’s idea for a post on collecting when I read the mentioned interview and decided to go in another direction. That post will be finished as well.
2And that’s saying something, because I love the album.
3Excluding those who actually attend these events and do get their mits on these tasty, tasty beers. It’s plenty of fun for them. I won’t begrudge them their enjoyment for prioritizing their beer needs. I know that feeling, but I often indulge my rock show needs more than my rare beer needs.
4Most musicians make way more money from touring or selling their songs to advertisers, but royalties for musicians not dealing with major labels can sometimes be quite valuable.

2 Responses

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  1. Mike said, on September 16, 2011 at 10:41 am

    While I appreciate the concept of going out on top, I do think we need to leave room for people who don’t know when—or don’t see the need—or can’t—to quit. Nothing’s more boring than a satisfied artist, so there’s something almost romantic about a musician plugging away at the craft, thinking that the next song, the next album, the next tour stop, will be the one that helps them figure it all out.

    That said, I’d put the Flaming Lips in the “don’t see the need to quit” category; some of their more recent excursions (the six hour song, their Dark Side of the Moon experiment) haven’t done it for me, but for my money Embryonic has been the most interesting album they’ve done.

    • builderofcoalitions said, on September 16, 2011 at 11:10 am

      You’re right. That’s what I meant in the post, but it’s confusing how I wrote and placed it in this post. It was a bit of a rush job. Maybe I’ll do some revision later.

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