I originally was thinking about classic pairings. There are many in the wine world: Chablis and oysters, Bordeaux and lamb, and so on, but how about music and cocktails? Miles Davis for a Manhattan, Fugazi for a Last Word? Once again, if you've read any of my ramblings, at least I stop myself and consult a professional.
Bring in TJ Connelly, DJ to the stars.
TJ's resume is impressive, the man wears many hats; DJ for the Boston Red Sox, People's Karaoke, WFNX, onthebar, he's everywhere. Just follow him on twitter @senatorjohn to see what I mean. Even his twitter handle itself is fantastic, refering to the end of the movie Animal House where John Blutarski's character rides off into the sunset with the improbable future as a US Senator.
Years ago, TJ worked security at An Tua Nua and the B-Side Lounge, but his music adventure began the day he first walked into Charlie's Kitchen, as he says, "when I was 21 and a day." He tells me great stories of Tuesday late dance parties circa 2000- he still has many placements in their famous jukebox. TJ soon after had a regular night at River Gods, and people started to notice. Meanwhile he also did theater work at the Improv Asylum and honed his Fenway Park craft by playing 30 second breaks between acts. Now he's at virtually every major food and cocktail event or advising bars/restaurants by setting the tone with songs and playlists that we wish we could come up with.
"How do bars ignore sound? I just don't get it," he shakes his head. "Thought and expense go into every aspect, but somehow music can be an afterthought." I couldn't agree more, music sets the vibe in an establishment as importantly as lighting or how delicious the cocktail in front of you tastes. Sadly he laments the gone days of thoughtful jukeboxes, although there are still great ones at Highland Kitchen and Charlie's. One of TJ's old staples (mine too) was at JJ Foley's downtown, which has been replaced by an internet version.
A short list of TJ's favorite bar music around town in no particular order:
Thomas Tietjen, Trina's Starlite Lounge, All Album Tuesdays.
"A great idea, back to a day when the whole record mattered, not just a track." TJ even bartended one of these- the best ever was his version of a Ramos Gin Fizz- a Bud and shot of Fernet.
Andy Mcnees, Toro.
Early evening Latin background music reigns, later in the evening Andy takes over. "He manages to play the perfect thing, from Bowie to The Kink's 'Waterloo Sunset,' and mixes killer drinks."
Evan Harrison, Highland Kitchen, Brick and Mortar.
"This guy pays attention, get's the room. His closing song may be the best ever too- The Faces 'Ooh La La'."
Mike Emerman, Stump Trivia. "Not a bartender, but his playlist is killer, I go to his trivia nights to listen to him. I love stuff like his choice of the acoustic version of Berlin's 'Metro'.''
Kit Paschal, Eastern Standard. "He programs much of their music and I steal from him!" High praise, indeed.
John Gertsen and Will Thompson, Drink. "Again, they care: these guys get it and make it fun."
Misty Kalkofen, Brick & Mortar. They do a 'Spin the Bottle" Monday evening featuring various guest DJs, but he remembers fondly her brunch playlist at the B-Side Lounge. "The music was always familiar but slightly off mainstream, an excersice in lack of irony."
Look, listen and seek out these great bartenders and TJ, I hear their music will make your cocktail taste better.
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