The Juke’s Up: Why your drinking anthem never plays when you want it to; or, why digital jukeboxes are the devil

Digital jukeboxes, I’m convinced, are the biggest scam perpetrated on the beer-drinking public since single-ply toilet paper. Here’s how they get you: You’re sitting there, innocently sipping a brew and conversing with your companion, when suddenly you recognize the opening strains of a song…


Outside at Beer
Beer, the bar


Digital jukeboxes, I’m convinced, are the biggest scam perpetrated on the beer-drinking public since single-ply toilet paper. Here’s how they get you: You’re sitting there, innocently sipping a brew and conversing with your companion, when suddenly you recognize the opening strains of a song. You haven’t listened to this tune in years, but you recall that it is, in fact, one of the best songs ever. The lyrics spring to your lips as readily as the digits of your own Social Security number, and you prepare to lead a sing-along, the likes of which Bar X has never heard.

Then, as swiftly as it hooked you, the music dies. Another song comes on—something unbearable—and the bartender shrugs. “I guess you’ll just have to feed the jukebox and request that song again,” he says, going so far as to hand you a crisp dollar bill.

In goes the dollar; you locate The Most Incredible Song of All Time via touch screen. And, what fun, you get to pick a bonus track! Back to your stool for another round, because there’s no way you’re leaving this bar until your song plays again. Even if it takes three more beers. Even if you have to do a shot. Even though it’s been forever and at least 20 other songs have played, which is weird because there are only a few people in the bar, and you didn’t see anyone else feeding endless dollars into the machine. Huh. Finally, broke and overserved, you make your way home to listen to TMISoAT on your iPod.

Last night that song was the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give It Away” (“What I got you got to give it to your mom-ma / What I got you got to give it to your pop-pa”), and the bar was Beer (3415 N. Clark St.; 773-975-6677), in Wrigleyville. The Creative Director and I ended up there after we stayed too late at one party (the result of a captivating belly dance performance) to make it to another party, at Bar DeVille (apologies to Elise and Kristin). We stopped at Beer because we always talk about the fact that there’s a bar named Beer when we drive past.

I asked Beer’s manager and bartender, Ryan, about the name as we ordered our Bud Lights (the beer selection, it must be noted, is not notable). “It’s, like, the one name you’re not going to forget, no matter how drunk you get,” he explained. “You can ask yourself in the morning: ‘What was I drinking last night? Beer. Where was I? Beer.”

Beer on a Wednesday night was not packed. There were the two of us, and then there was another group that included a girl with a fascinating nose piercing who informed me of the following:

Pierced Girl: “You’re not supposed to pronounce the ‘T’ in ‘often.’”
The Chaser: “What? Why not?”

Ryan, the bartender at Beer
Ryan, the bartender

Pierced Girl: “It’s just not done.”
The Chaser (turning to The Creative Director): “Babe. Is this true? It’s wrong to say the ‘T’ in ‘often?’”

The Creative Director: “I do think that’s the case. It’s supposed to be pronounced like ‘OFF-in.’”
The Chaser: “I guess everyone just thinks I’m a hick now or something.”
Bartender Ryan: “I wouldn’t go that far.”
Pierced Girl: “Well, we’re leaving. Bye. See, I’m not too drunk because I didn’t knock over that stool.”

With no one else left to talk to, TCD and I grilled the bartender about all of his personal details and dug up the following:

  1. He recently moved downtown from St. Charles.
  2. He lives above a Lake View restaurant whose name I can’t remember and wouldn’t write here, anyway, since The Chaser is not a stalking service.
  3. He used to sell cars.
  4. He’s 28.
  5. He wants to go back to school for hospitality management.
  6. He has a girlfriend and calls himself a “happily committed man.” There goes my plan to nominate him for next year’s singles feature.

And here I’ll bid you an early happy weekend, readers, as I’m heading to New York tomorrow morning, which makes today my Friday. Any Big Apple bars you think I absolutely must try? Suggestions welcome.

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4 years ago
Posted by howardm

check out biergarten at the standardn hotel in the meatpacking district. i was there during the summer, but ive heard theyve winterized it. funny atmosphere, good 5pm after work people watching.

4 years ago
Posted by Amalie

Howard, we did check out Biergarten at The Standard after a stroll on the High Line. It was nice! Cozy Christmas decorations, and we sat there and had a few Bitbergers ($8 a pop, ouch) while watching fellow drinkers play ping pong.

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