Quips and summaries from experiencing and appreciating music in a city that is as foreign and familiar as they come - New York. So here is to music anywhere and everywhere. Starting from concert one on week one after the move in 2009.

Friday, April 17, 2009

How restaurants set the mood for you

Do restaurants really put a lot of work into crafting the perfect dining experience via the mood they set with the music they play or is it a haphazard afterthought - a battle between the bartender and the manager on duty?
I have done some research and here is what I have found out: chain restaurants typically employ the use of XM Radio or a company that programs music and provides a new playlist every month or so (there are several and I refuse to plug them but secretly I think it could be a cool opportunity and am looking into it). This is the same thing that stores in the mall employ and companies use this for hold music. It is typically music from the big record labels, current Top 40, heavy radio station rotation, and/or the classics (cue "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison - which is a song he infamously refuses to play live anymore).
For everyone else it seems to be at the discretion of the owner, chef, manager, or bartender so help us all. Sometimes this can be a good thing - one of the mainstay bartenders I know in D.C. played the Black Keys and White Stripes for an entire night and so we all got drunk in heaven. Sometimes this can be horrible - I recently went to a great French bistro in the West Village for a cosmopolitan brunch and instead got bombarded with techno music blasting above the chatter of the crowd; no one eats eggs to Lady Gaga, trust me.
My favorite story about music and restaurants is taken from a show I randomly caught on the Sundance Channel called Iconoclasts. It is a mini-series where two famous people that happen to be friends interview each other. This episode had Mario Batali and Michael Stipe interviewing each other while they scoot around New York collecting ingredients for a meal Mario was cooking. Michael Stipe said something to Mario that he just beamed at and I loved it too. Michael said something like: "I remember reading a review about Babbo and the guy said it would be a Michelin three star restaurant if it would stop blasting PJ Harvey. You have a love for music Mario and I love how you made a restaurant exactly to your liking and that included music." That scene made me want to head to Babbo immediately.
So for all you fledgling restaurateurs and owner/chefs - take note of what you play in your restaurant; build up your ipod and give the people something to listen to that is going to enhance the handmade gnocchi or bone marrow appetizer on your delicately crafted menu.
For all of you patrons - keep trying to hear over the crowd and take note of what you are listening to; boo the restaurants that play what the radio stations are already pushing down your throat and praise the place that plays LCD Soundsystem and Radiohead back-to-back or even better - live original music!

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