Like most everything in life, picking music from a jukebox is purely political. Of course, when you smooth out your crumpled, hard-earned dollar bill and feed it to the machine, your own self-interest is primarily at heart. But you also have your constituents to worry about - the fellow bar-hoppers who watch as the light from the jukebox illuminates your perspiring face. They'll remember if you pick Savage Garden, and like in any proud, musical democracy, they'll scorn you for it.
While choosing some songs may cost you your dignity, most TouchTunes (digital jukeboxes) machines only charge a buck for two song credits. Five bucks will buy you about 13 credits. At Fox's Lounge (see below), it'll cost you zilch.
In an effort to help you find the right crowd and jukebox for you, we've checked out 13 places around town. The list, in no particular order:
The Fox's Sherron Inn: shoobie doo wop
Opened since 1946, this dimly-lit South Miami lounge looks like the set of a movie from the 1950s, complete with the familiar baritone of ol' Blue Eyes, Patsy Cline, Neil Diamond, Jo Stafford and Bobby Helms (he sings about angels). The lounge boasts an archaic, charming (and free) jukebox that plays 45 rpm vinyl records. Fitting in with the enormous blue machine, the lounge has an old, elegant vibe with red, semicircle booths and a black and white striped floor. If you want to catch the game on a modest TV, Fox's is a quieter, classier venue than your typical sports bar.
Staff says late night hours bring in the younger crowds but early in the night, locals enjoy hearty comfort food such as prime rib, lamb chops and roast duck, as well as a full service bar (the lounge doubles as a liquor bar). Happy Hour is 4-7 p.m. everyday, and 5-7 p.m. Sundays.
The Bar: a professional hangout
Tucked away in the City Beautiful -- Coral Gables -- The Bar entertains loud tunes and attractive professionals. Introduce your friends to the 62-year-old bar, and instantly you're Abbott and Costello performing "Who's on First."
Come meet us at The Bar... which bar? The Bar! You get the idea.
The well-lit, blue and wood space hosts a live band on Saturday nights. "Friday Happy Hour Extravaganza" from 5:30-7:30 p.m. means ladies drink free. On that night, the bar and restaurant is packed with hardworking folks, co-workers and friends. And while it's mostly bumping bass, the sleek TouchTunes jukebox also has a heavy amount of Rolling Stones and George Strait albums.
Seeing as this spot has the latest and greatest in jukebox technology, a simple touch of the screen and you can discover the top five most played songs, starting with No. 1.
Top five plays: "Green Light" by John Legend; Kanye West's "Love Lockdown;" Kings of Leon's "Sex on Fire" (there's a theme here); "Whatever You Like" by T.I.; and 50 Cent's "Get Up."
Keg South: yeehaw
Keg South, a hole-in-the-wall in suburban Pinecrest, holds an annual Christmas party at the request of its most loyal patrons. Truly a neighborhood bar, a roasted pig and baked beans lay out across a pool table for families and children to eat. When it's not a special occasion, the bar serves up tasty-yet-affordable wings, burgers, etc.
After examining the old-school, CD-playing jukebox, it was clear that Keg South entertains a crowd all its own. Management allows customers and friends to bring in their own burned CDs to add to the collection. Some of the homemade album covers show scantily clad country girls and proclaims the names of outlaw CD burners like "Arthel Doc Watson" and "David 'Dawg' Grisman."
Manager Sam Diedrick says the nearly 15-year-old machine usually sounds a Marshall Tucker tune, "This Old Cowboy." Diedrick has been working at the tavern long enough to know nearly every song by its number: "Twenty two, six!" he shouted for the Tucker tune (he was right). A lot of greatest hits albums by Willie Nelson, David Allen Coe, Stone Temple Pilots, Johnny Cash, "Redneck Yacht Club" by Craig Morgan... you get the idea.
Large TV screens visible from anywhere in the bar make it a popular hangout for sports fans, buzzed and sporting colors for their alma mater.
Mac's Club Deuce (aka, the Deuce): the world is yours, mang
Welcome to The Deuce and back to 1980s Miami Beach, with tacky neon lights forming the shape of busty women and a dingy checkered floor.
As for the jukebox, TouchTunes claims yet another unpretentious bar. Soul singer D'Angelo's mellow voice carried "Devil's Pie," and intimate friends held quiet conversations around a curvy, pink bar. "You can actually express how you're feeling at any given time," said Orlando resident Joe Esposito of the usefulness of jukeboxes. Whenever he visits from Central Florida he makes a stop at The Deuce.
It's easy to embrace the bar's authenticity and easier to embrace the buy one, get one free happy hour, which is every day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Top five plays: "Rockstar" by Nickelback (why?); Buck Cherry's romantic song "Crazy B----;" "Hang me up to Dry" by Cold War Kids; Bob Marley's "No woman, No Cry;" "Bongo Bong" by Manu Chao (interesting stoner song).
Ted's Hideaway: shhhhhh
Many of the affable patrons in this colorful South Beach tavern are locals who work in the hospitality business themselves. They love their South Beach hideaway because it's their secret spot for decent drink prices, a pool game or watching the big game.
When the large bar is not entertaining the local crowds of all ages, co-owner Bob Wilcox readies his staff for the onslaught of travelers bunking up at a nearby hostel. Even the dive's own off-the-clock employees perch at the bar to enjoy drinks with their good friends or coworkers. It seems they use the TouchTunes jukebox more than their own customers.
Top five plays: "All Summer Long" by Kid Rock (yes, he's still around, ruining Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" forever); Peaches' "F--- the Pain Away;" Lil Wayne's "Mrs. Officer;" Kings of Leon's "Taper Jean Girl;" and "Wonderwall" by Oasis.
Los Tres Amigos: auténtico
It looks like Cinco De Mayo every day in Los Tres Amigos. Blink and you'll miss the small restaurant on NW 20th Street, but once you journey inside, photographs of sombrero-clad mariachis and vibrant colors of Mexican décor will leave a lasting impression and likely put you in a celebratory mood.
No TouchTunes here. Instead, the restaurant has an old-school, clunky jukebox that plays almost entirely Mexican tunes. Owner Ariel Sanchez, a stout man with a goatee, says the box plays a lot of Vincente Fernández, Selena, Marc Anthony and Elvis Presley.
But if you're not into that kind of music, you should at least try out the deliciously affordable food and drinks. Burritos are $6.99, and beer is $3 a pop. Sanchez hails from Puebla, Mexico, where he learned to make his favorite concoction and restaurant special, mole poblano. The sauce is prepared with five different kinds of red peppers, bread, Mexican chocolate and other ingredients.
Just behind the jukebox is a gift store that sells traditional trinkets, treats, clothes and footwear.
Octopus' Garden: honky tonk
If you're one of the many revelers strolling down Hollywood Boulevard looking for a friendly place to down a mixed drink, Octopus' Garden should be one of your stops. There's no sign, so you'll have to look for the octopus on the outside of the bar. Speedy bartenders pour shots at two separate bars lined with candles. The crowd is pleasant and mostly middle-age.
This dive provides live music on Fridays and Saturdays, and a glowing TouchTunes machine provides funk when the modest stage is empty. The most popular songs in this dive seem more likely picks for a North Florida bar. If you ever listen to your inner cowboy, maybe you'll stop by for some whiskey.
Top five plays: "Follow Me" by Uncle Kracker (seriously); "Never Been to Spain" by Three Dog Night (makes up for Uncle Kracker); "Before he Cheats" Carrie Underwood (angry woman); "When the Sun goes Down," Kenny Chesney with - yes - more Uncle Kracker; and to top it all off, "Rockstar" by Nickelback (that guy with the goatee is so hardcore). Honorable mention: No. 6 on the list: "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" by Trace Adkins.
Now Art Café: highbrow inebriation
The late James Morelock was an artist and the original owner of this downtown Hollywood bar. Elegant, gold-plated mirrors and Morelock's haunting paintings line the walls. Martinis are the most popular drink in this trendy bar with cool-blue lights and comfortable leopard skin and purple couches. Eighties music was bumping upon entry.
A DJ spins on the weekends, but it's up to local drinkers to exercise their musical freedom on a TouchTunes every other night of the week. Near a TV showing a football game, a large screen displays photographs of women in lingerie or common folk, snippets of random conversations and news feed. The device is called BarCast - an interactive message board that accepts text messages, uploaded photos and video to broadcast for bar customers' viewing pleasure. According to its website, BarCast can only be found in bars across Boston, Chicago and South Florida.
Top five plays: Lil Wayne, "Lollipop" (perfect dancing-on-the-bar music); "Live Your Life" by T.I.; "Ironic" by Alanis Morssette (Canada is finally represented); "More than a Feeling," by Boston; and "I want you to want me" by Cheap Trick (redundancy meets bad hair).
Shuckers Bar and Grill: paradise... at the Best Western
Hidden behind North Bay Villages' Best Western hotel, Shuckers offers a handsome waterfront view, booze and economical meals like mahi-mahi fingers and Buffalo wings. Its patrons call it a hidden treasure and many of them are locals who aren't staying at the hotel and who ride their boats or jet skis to the palm tree-lined spot. "During season, you see people waiting in line to dock," employee Allison Donatto said.
Hanging next to a light-up Heineken sign across from two pool tables, a smaller TouchTunes machine controls the tunes.
Top five plays: "No Woman No Cry" by Bob Marley; "Mary Jane" by Rick James; Green Day, "When I come around" (those were the days); "Stuck in the Middle with You" by Stealers Wheel; and Kanye West's "Stronger."
Churchill's: feeling hip, or British?
British owner David B. Daniels is a likeable, white-bearded bloke who's quite fond of Winston Churchill, hence the pub's name. The spacious bar boasts two pool tables, a full-size stage where punk bands perform frequent concerts and Jazz bands take center stage Monday nights. Bartender Chris Funk (real name, he swears) mixes a mean sazerac with bourbon and absinthe: one of the oldest cocktails around.
There are also TVs showing the game - this is the place to go for that 10 a.m. Sunday soccer match. Overall, Churchill's emanates a unique, friendly feel and its TouchTunes box reveals a refreshingly alternative list of most popular tunes.
Top five plays: "Got to Give it up" by Marvin Gaye; "Paper Planes" by M.I.A.; "No One Knows" by Queens of the Stone Age; "El Telefono" by Wisin & Yandel; and "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen (the mother of all epic bar songs).
Polar Bar: simple and small
A calm oasis along bustling Lincoln Road, the Polar Bar is a sliver of a dive with cool-blue walls and accommodating bartenders and waitresses. The bar and restaurant is an ideal joint to stop in for drinks before a night out on the beach. You could also catch a game or see who or what might pop up on BarCast. Outside, tables and blue umbrellas allow patrons to watch passersby, or just enjoy the balmy South Beach weather.
Top five plays: T.I. "Live Your Life" (seeing a lot of this tune); Maroon 5, "Wake Up Call" (cheating woman song); "At Last" by Beyonce; "Bring Me to Life" by Evanescence; and "Love Lockdown" by Kanye West.
Finnegan's 2: sporty and spacious
Also on Lincoln Road, this large pub reeks of beer and hot wings. TV screens are at every angle and the staff stays busy serving the seemingly endless array of sports fans lined up at the bar. Unfortunately, hacking into its large TouchTunes jukebox proved impossible with a football commentary blasting. Though management said it's almost a guarantee you'll hear ACDC's "Back in Black" and other well-known rock jams.
Barracuda Raw Bar and Grill: just chill
This laid-back dive in the heart of Coconut Grove exudes an island flavor you might find in some of the bars along the Keys. The only stress you might experience is finding a metered parking spot near Fuller Street.
On a quiet Sunday night, the murmur of football game commentary is interrupted by the clacking of a pool game, or the victorious shouts from the corner beer pong tables. Sharks and fishing buoys line the walls. The bar gets a little louder on Friday nights, but it never sacrifices its easy going, T-shirt and shorts attitude.
Top five plays: T.I. (again) with "Live Your Life," featuring Rihanna; "Sex on Fire" by Kings of Leon (again); Lil Wayne's "Mrs. Officer;" "Hells Bells" by ACDC; and Weezer's "Say it Ain't So."
Where do you pay to play? Leave a review!
The jukebox at Los Tres Amigos. Photo: Kyle Teal.