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Ask a Bartender: What's Your Friday Night Playlist?

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Kelsye Downs of LAVO in NYC

Music is key to any great bar experience—and the soundtrack is one of the most important decisions a bar operator can make. We asked a few our favorite bartenders around the country: What's on your Friday night playlist? Here's what they had to say.

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"Moby, a strong mix of Kid Cudi, the 'Drive' soundtrack, Baby Huey, and Elvis." — Jeremy Strawn (Bo's)

"I would love to start the evening with some Lou Reed or Nick Cave, maybe some Stones, mellow but solid for the early part of the evening. When the crowd is at its peak and it's just talk and shake and dance and duck and turn, then I want some LCD Soundsystem or some good mid-90s hip-hop to keep the party going. End of the night needs something mellow and recognizable, with a hint of denouement; slip a little country on in here if you like." —Mike Ryan (Sable)

"'Tightrope,' 'Doowutchyalike,' 'It Takes Two,' some Swedish House Mafia, maybe some Madeon a little later, LaRoux, 'I Got A Man,' Prince from the 80's; a little of everything as long as it's upbeat." — Elizabeth Powell (Liberty Bar)

"Mambo Italiano, On The Street Where You Live, and what seems to be an Italian cover of Stop in the Name of Love by a group who sounds very little like the Supremes." — Dan Andruss (312 Chicago)

"My go-to jukebox's jam is Toto's Africa—people don't realize how much they love that song until they find themselves fist-pumping and singing 'I Bless the Rains...' Probably follow that up with some upbeat classic rock—Zeppelin, The Stones, The Who—there's a reason that music is still relevant." — Dan Rook (South Water Kitchen)

Buying Through Small Beer Clubs

Dan Bronson of The Strand Smokehouse in NYC

"Friday night is time for 80's Dark Wave, power-pop, and lots of Jamaican music. Tons of Morissey, Clash, Black Uhuru, and Lemonheads. That is ,until we get bored, then who knows. Impromptu a capella doo-wop hits?" —Dan Bronson, The Strand Smokehouse

"Sam Cooke, Black Keys, Major Lazer, rockabilly, and ska." — Justin Fairweather (Evelyn Drinkery)

"I usually shove off with Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Mulatu Astatke—fairly easygoing to start things out... then move into Rhye, Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band, Jaime Lidell, stuff like that—a bit more upbeat when the night starts to get busier.  Always a healthy mix of old and new, though.  I get just as excited when I hear Xavier Cougat's 'Siboney' as I do when Wise Blood's 'Darlin' You're Sweet' comes on." — Dan Carlson (Saul at the Brooklyn Museum)

"I tend to leave it up to Spotify Radio for the evening's soundtrack. JD McPherson radio does the trick for a rockabilly vibe. M83 radio is a good choice for more modern electronic stuff." — Garrett Sweet (Perennial Virant)

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Zachary Svoboda of Ela in Philly

"I try to incorporate a lot of electronic and world sounds. Things that both connect people with today's popular sounds and things that also bring us back to being members of this place called Earth." — Zachary Svoboda (Ela)

"My Friday night playlist is a mix of R&B, jazz, hip hop, pop and classic rock. I try and get something for everyone in there. Music creates the ambiance for the evening and it is important that there is a groove but it doesn't distract you from your conversation. I create my own playlists. An example would start with The Kinks "She's Not There," Carol Woods "All of Me" from the Sweet and Lowdown Soundtrack (Woody Allen chooses the best Jazz for his soundtracks), Fiona Apple "The Way Things Are," Gotan Project "Queremos Paz"..." — Richard Smith (Azu)

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Daniel Farr of The Eveleigh in Los Angeles

"It changes a lot but usually a lot of classic rock, Zeppelin, Beatles, The Cure—but as of late, Pretty Lights and Skrillex." — Daniel Farr (The Eveleigh)

"I make playlists that consist of 60's acid rock, 90's alt rock, 90's mod, 1920's gypsy jazz and kitschy classic Italian." — Nikki Sunseri (Dominick's/ Little Dom's)

"Friday nights I'll start off with some classics—maybe some Stones or Clapton to suit my crowd. As the night progresses, I like to go to something with a beat that keeps my energy going ,as well as my guests' spirits up—there's this random remix of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" that I love and if my crowd is younger I'll go to some Kid Cudi or Macklemore. There's really only two things I absolutely will not stand for: No Skrillex and no Lana del Rey." — Allen Burton (A.G. Kitchen)

"Hip hop instrumentals, like RJD2. I try to avoid music with lyrics because songs get stuck in my head and haunt me all evening." — Brandon Lockman (Red Star Tavern)

"It's either got to be the Misfits station on Pandora for some good old school punk rock, Murder City Devils, Pinback, Motley Crue or some Hall & Oates. Threw you a curveball on that last one, didn't I?" — Brian Means (Fifth Floor)

"Hip-Hop has been the soundtrack of my life since '86—along that journey I've released a few albums of my own. Nowadays, I credit my wife with expanding my musical-genre palate. I respect good music across the board." — Brady Wilkens (Lucy Restaurant & Bar)

"Razorblade - The Strokes. Catamaran - Allah Las. Smokestack Lightnin' - Howlin' Wolf. I'm Waiting for the Man - The Velvet Underground. Stop Stop - The Black Keys. More Than a Woman-Bee Gees." — Beau du Bois (The Corner Door)

"Lots of soul, funk and reggae played by the likes of Jackie Wilson, Al Green, Peter Tosh, Steelpulse and Syl Johnson; they are definitely staples on my playlist.  The main goal is to make sure the energy of the music matches the energy of the environment." — Nick Tarsi (Kachina Southwestern Grill)

"Hall & Oates—Rich Girl; Empire of the Sun—Walking On a Dream; Shade Sheist—Where I Wanna Be; Nu Shooz—I Can't Wait." — Chino Lee (Departure Restaurant)

"We open with Texas blues, Stevie Ray, followed by 70's rock: The Animals, The Rolling Stones. By 9pm we change it to 80's : Depeche Mode, Talking Heads, etc... By 11pm we play modern indie rock. 1am we pay tribute to The Smiths and Morrissey. 145am, we play 90's R&B; Black Street, Jodecy." — Jeret Pena (The Brooklynite SA)

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Jeremy Lake of Crossroads in Los Angeles

"We usually play the Stones on the weekends. Chef Tal and some of the other owners are pretty serious music buffs, so the music is eclectic and fun, especially for a white tablecloth restaurant." — Jeremy Lake (Crossroads)

"It has to be funky. Roger Troutman's 'Chocolate City' for sure. Some Prince and Curtis Mayfield. Rick James, 'You and I,' James Brown's 'Turn up the Heat,' Biggie Smalls 'Just Playing (Dreams),' Raekwon's 'Ice Cream,' Keith Sweat 'How Deep is Your Love.' Jay Z '99 Problems' for my San Francisco fans. And when I'm feeling classy, a little old-school jazz like Hank Mobley, Miles Davis, or Kenny Dorham, and old R & B like Ray Charles. These are some of the jams I've been rockin' lately, but it always changes." — Paul Sanguinetti (Patina Restaurant Group)

"I love jazz. Anything by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Elvis would be on my Friday night playlist." — Eddie Araugjo (The Terrace Bar)

"My playlist would be a lot of QOSTA and Radiohead.  I love a nice flow of assertive (not metal by any means) and chill music." — Roger Bailey (Filini Bar and Restaurant)

"Disclosure, Two Door Cinema Club, The Wu-Tang Clan, I might throw in a little Randy Travis, who knows? I'm kind of all over the place when it comes to music. I leave the party playlist to the beat bandit." — Jen Queen (Saltbox Dining & Drinking)

"I start to build the energy with some Sonny Clark or The Quintet with Charlie Parker, and keep the tempo.  As people start to fill the room and the energy grows, I move more into old school hip-hop like Biz Markie, GangStarr, and I love a lot of instrumentals from the Beastie Boys—the sound of an 808 is classic. I like a lot of funk and soul sounds as well—The Budos Band, The Menahan Street Band. I tend to bring the energy down with some Hollie Cook or some lighter Muddy Waters. There's always room for Talking Heads and the Clash in any situation as well.  But we're also in the Bay Area, so I always pay homage to local sounds." — Christopher Longoria (1760)

What's on your playlist? Grab a drink and tell us on Twitter or Facebook.

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