It plays the songs that make the bar sing

Jukeboxes that can add to your evening

August 18, 2005|By Mason Marcus and Sam Sessa | Mason Marcus and Sam Sessa,SUN STAFF

It's one of those awful summer nights, where every sticky hot bar is playing a bland blend of pop chart wonder-hits, and the live shows are so dull even the band members are falling asleep.

Peeling a few singles from your wallet, you settle down at the jukebox and start flipping through record after record. Then you find it. Bruce Springsteen starts on the speakers, and every pigeon at the bar sings along -- it's cinematic.

The jukebox's tune list is just as important as your choice -- both can make or muddle the moment. Here's a list of some of the best spots in the city to pick and play your own songs.

Whether your dollar buys AC/DC, Sinatra or the Cure, there is nothing like that dinosaur of sound systems, the jukebox -- or its cousin, the digital jukebox. So take our jukebox tour: Play Patsy Cline in Federal Hill or Elton John in Canton. Elvis is always a hit, but in the wrong bar it could be muddier waters.

Frazier's On The Avenue, 919 W. 36th St. 410-662-4914

Plays: 3 for $1, 7 for $2, 18 for $5

Hampden in a jukebox: You've got your mix of hipster favorites (White Stripes, Talking Heads), your kind of trashy-but-I-like-it-anyway music (AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Metallica), '90s alternative rock (Ween, Jane's Addiction, Nirvana) and movie soundtracks (Dukes of Hazzard and Repo Man -- possibly the coolest CD in the collection).

Highlights: Johnny Cash: At Fulton Prison, Violent Femmes: Add it Up, David Byrne: Feelings

Volume: medium

Dizzy Issie's, 300 W. 30th St. 410-235-0171

Plays: 3 for $1, 7 for $2, 18 for $5

Not the best jukebox in the world. Lots of Now That's What I Call Music compilations, but it is the sort of place where no matter what is on the jukebox, there is going to be someone in the bar singing along.

Highlights: Very Best of Prince, Grand Funk Railroad: Collection, Madonna: The Immaculate Collection, OutKast: The Love Below, Big Tymers: Hood Rich

Volume: loud

P.J's, 3333 N. Charles St. 410-243-8844

Plays: 3 for $1, 7 for $2, 18 for $5

Basically a college bar, so it has a college jukebox for the most part. It sort of looks like it got caught in the '90s: Blues Traveler, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Barenaked Ladies, etc. This can be either really good or really bad, depending on how sober you are.

Highlights: Brian Setzer Orchestra: The Dirty Boogie, Presidents of the United States of America: Self Titled, Ace of Base: The Sign

Volume: loud by the jukebox, but medium-low in the rest of the bar

Club Charles, 1724 N. Charles St. 410-727-8815

Plays: 2 for $1, 5 for $2 and 15 for $5

Lives up to its reputation as one of -- if not the -- best jukeboxes in the city. Newer groups (Bloc Party) sit next to standards (Frank Zappa, the Kinks) and the more-obscure-but-still-awesome (Magnetic Fields).

Highlights: Paul's Mixxx is Better Than Penny's, Penny's Mixxx is Better Than Paul's, The Who Sell Out

Volume: medium

Mum's, 1132 S. Hanover St. 410-547-7415

Plays: 2 for $1, 7 for $2 and 18 for $5

Mostly '90s alternative rock and alternative country with a few hip-hop heavy-hitters and soul gems sprinkled throughout.

Highlights: Patsy Cline: 12 Greatest Hits, Whiskeytown: Stranger's Almanac, Portis- head: Dummy

Volume: medium

Gin Mill, 2300 Boston St. 410-327-6455

Plays: 2 for $1

Not too pop-heavy, this jukebox has a solid mix of the '70s-'90s (everything from Elton John to Joe Jackson), but scores major points with its movie soundtrack collection.

Highlights: Elvis Costello: Very Best of, Pulp Fiction soundtrack, Blues Brothers soundtrack, Reservoir Dogs soundtrack

Volume: medium

Flip's, 1900 Aliceanna St. 443-872-4001

Plays: 2 for $1, 5 for $2 and 13 for $5

Almost all rock, from Southern rock to country rock to blues rock, with a smattering of hip-hop. It is a digital touchscreen jukebox, which means it has tons of artists but only one or two songs by each. It is like an iPod, but 20 times the size, so don't bother looking for obscure album tracks -- they're not there.

Highlights: Paul Oakenfold, Muddy Waters, the Cardigans and Supertramp

Volume: medium

For more club events, see Page 29.

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