DFW Music News

Waging War on the Digital Jukebox

(Photo illustration by Krissi Reeves)
With behemoth machines like Big Buck Hunter and Golden Tee monopolizing our bar fun-time, can you blame a gal for lamenting the days of pinball machines and joysticks? And…and!… the most recent abolition of a classic vending machine by its hi-tech counterpart is, by far, the most heartbreaking: the gradual replacement of the compact disc-filled jukebox for the digital-download-demon-box-from-hell.

Damn the digital jukebox.

Damn the digital jukebox with all its 200 gigs of song space and fancy screen graphics. Damn its alluring selling points like: “Hey bar owner, how ‘bout a jukebox that costs you less money, makes you more money, requires little to no maintenance and offers extreme variety to your beloved patrons?” With gauged TABC licensing fees and perilous re-zoning propositions in Dallas county, how can you blame the Sam Malones of our town from cutting whatever costs necessary in efforts to save their beloved establishments from corporate homogenization or worse? You can’t. But I still stand adamantly (and respectfully) in protest.

Please know, I’m not mad at you, NewElmSterdamDoubleSlipVine. I’m not, promise.

It’s just that the digital jukebox is without character. It’s like a botched iTunes Music Store in which you pay for the download, but you don’t get to store the song to your personal music library. And, well, on almost all digital boxes, you get two plays for a buck instead of the traditional CD juke three. That is, of course, if the song has already been loaded onto its hard drive. Otherwise, for a new download, you get one, yes, one song for one dollar. Lame.

So forget the elusive b-sides and forgotten tracks of classic juke favorites like Journey. It’s “Don’t Stop Believing” or pay double. And be prepared to spit your Grey Goose across the bar in disbelief when the douchebag-downloaded-Kenny-Chesney-billboard-chart-topper blares through the amplifier. It happens. Or Mandy Moore. Or Fergie. You just never know. The digital jukebox is full of musical landmines. And they seem too be exploding EVERYWHERE.

Honestly, I just don’t think that you can trust common folk to set the mood of a bar. You can’t risk some drunk guy with a 20-spot to dictate the next three hours of music while you hunt for wild bucks in the virtual forest with your friends. So, in reverence to those Dallas establishments holding dearly to CD jukeboxes, I’ve made a little ass-kissing list of notable machines:

Ship's Lounge 1613 Greenville Ave. (Details.)

I love this dive bar. It’s by far the best place to doo-wop with a geriatric named Clive, if that’s what tickles your fancy-pants. They have Coors original in a can, koozies on hand, a padded bar top and a jukebox selection that hasn’t been updated since the release of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Packed thick with Motown classics, sock-hop hits and a little bit of jazz quintessence, this fine machine sets the perfect backdrop for the smoky, retro bar. Juke Surprise: Rod Stewart.

The Cavern (Upstairs) 1914 Lower Greenville. (Details.)

The Cavern’s jukebox is free from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every weeknight. Score! The $2 domestics and wells served up by a cute British girl are just the bonus to the indie rock albums dominating the juke. The Shins. The Strokes. The Hives. The White Stripes. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. And many more bands ending in plural “s.” They didn’t forget the college hip hop faves like Q-Tip, Digable Planets or De La Soul. And the classic rock hits of the Stones and Beatles make for a good night of sing-along. Juke Gem: Big Black's Songs About Fucking. What’s Missing? 2 Live Crew.

Cosmo’s 1212 Skillman St. (Details.)

How many times has this Eastside joint won “Best Jukebox?” Like 40. That’s because the Farrah Fawcett-approved selection ranges from Outkast’s critic favorite Aquemini to the Best of Bob Dylan with favorite '80s artists like Cyndi, Michael, Prince, the Boss, the Crue, the Cure and Journey sprinkled in between. It’s solid, for real. Tasty Nougat Center: Tenacious D by Tenacious D.

The Elbow Room 3010 Gaston Ave. (Details.)

This is the jukebox of killer soundtracks and anthems of my youth. Romeo and Juliet. Singles. Rushmore. Pulp Fiction. Pixies. Radiohead. Pearl Jam. Beck. Stones. Cars. And not one, but two of the breast-iest album covers of all time. Perhaps the club should insert Mother’s Milk, just to really emphasize its love of lady-parts. The Huh-Wha? Album: Best of Bond, James Bond (Hits from all your favorite Bond flicks.)

Honorable mentions to true-school juke joints: Barley House, Lakewood Landing and Lee Harvey’s. Rock on with your cool machines!

And for those who have sadly gone digital, beer me, please. -- Krissi Reeves

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Chelsea Mueller
Contact: Chelsea Mueller