So much of a good night out depends on a good soundtrack.
If there's good music you're sure to have a good time but if the music lacks, you'll be looking to your friends to step it up and provide another level of entertainment.
In the last 10 years, we've seen the death of old school jukeboxes and the rise of iPods, satellite radio and Touchtune systems capable of bringing you any song in just seconds. We've switched from AM/FM radio play to Sirius/XM radio and in turn, given ourselves millions of options in the blink of a second. In short, we've increased our choices but also blended and broadened the genres.
No longer is a bar known for the album jackets on the jukebox or a singular genre of play. Generally, any bar can switch their sound any night of the week; opting for overall crowd pleasers rather than small niche markets of hidden, underground indie gems.
Has the switch in music sources watered down bars' individual style and demand for unique sounds?
You can find it all. Live music or bands, DJ's, jukeboxes with customers at the helm or behind the bar systems where the bartender of choice picks their choice of artists can be found at dozens of locales any night of the week.
There are a few bars sporting one genre every night of the week (The Foundation, Club Timbuktu, etc.) but generally, most bars mix it up; pulling in live music or DJ's Thursday through Saturday and employing an in-house system in the early part of the week.
By no means is the trend of live music weekends and in house music on the weekdays a new phenomenon. It's been reality for decades and thrives on the routine of the five-day work week.
What has changed is the growing plethora of music available to DJ's and in-house systems. As music everywhere transitions from vinyl to disc to digital, necessary investment and physical storage space decreases leaving DJ's and bartenders alike with infinite possibilities at their finger tips.
Even the DJ who previously scoured record store bins for choice cuts of vinyl is able to access one or two hit singles of the latest Top 40 record without purchasing album in its entirety. Ultimately, in our visits to bars and clubs we've stumbled upon an argument of quantity versus quality.
No question, I'm an advocate for quality; Burnhearts, Roots and Red Room are among some of my favorites. I struggle to think of places, save Kniesler's White House and a few bowling alleys, which have salvaged their old-style jukeboxes. Regardless of the limited selection and possibility of constant repetition, vintage jukeboxes imprinted a bar with a soundtrack. It's something I can easily say I sadly miss.
These days, you can find examples running the system spectrum all over town.
But, with all these changes, you're left searching for "your" autobiographical bar; a place where you know you'll hear good music.
So, regardless of the system employed, where do you know the music is always pretty good?
The Nomad or Hi Hat leave selection up to the bartender yet the Garage runs DJ's several nights a week.
The Irish Pub, Vitucci's and Hooligan's turn to digital jukeboxes; an allure giving customers basically any desired song for a slight up charge with an option to "play it now."
Soho 7 and Moct fill the DJ booth nearly every night of the week to provide drinkers with a higher level of sound and selection.
Milwaukee Street's Kenadees, Three and Vanity Ultra Lounge theme their bar ambiance with nightly music specials; attracting different crowds every night of the week.
So, what's your take? Where do you go and what do you do? Plug the Touchtunes? Request songs from the bartender? Search out live music? Use the Talkback feature to weigh in.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Maureen Post grew up in Wauwatosa. A lover of international and urban culture, Maureen received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
After living on the east side of Madison for several years, Maureen returned to Milwaukee in 2006.
After a brief stint of travel, Maureen joined OnMilwaukee.com as the city’s oldest intern and has been hooked ever since. Combining her three key infatuations, Milwaukee’s great music, incredible food and inspiring art (and yes, in that order), Maureen’s job just about fits her perfectly.
Residing in Bay View, Maureen vehemently believes the city can become fresh and new with a simple move across town.