When Jamie Boudreau opened Canon in Seattle in 2011, the initial vision for the music was a stream of indie pop songs to complement the bar’s easy-going neighborhood vibes, but once things were up and running “it quickly became apparent that the music style did not fit the room,” Boudreau says. “We’re a restaurant that focuses on American whiskey, so I wanted the music to reflect a true ‘American’ sound.”
Boudreau rejiggered the approach, focusing on garage rock like the Black Keys and eventually broadening the genres to include energetic blues like RL Burnside, hip-hop for late night (Big Pun, older Beastie Boys) and other bands that are Boudreau’s personal favorites, like the Pixies. It’s a raucous mix that blends obscure gems with mainstream favorites. “A lot of the time it’s background music, but you can always count on someone getting excited about a song or artist that they haven’t heard in a while or that they thought was a ‘secret,’ ” he says.
Considering the razor sharp attention Boudreau pays to to the thousands of bottles lining his backbar, it’s no surprise that he’s also particular about the music he plays. Making sure the bar’s nightly soundtrack hits the right marks is an ever-evolving task, he says, adding that he tried to do it himself until recently, when the owner of a local record store came on board to help curate the playlists. Now, the bar alternates between Pandora lists and other curated lists. “In my mind one needs around 300 hours of music on a playlist to rely solely on that playlist, otherwise you’ll end up with a staff that’s dreading work due to the same songs playing every day, like department stores during Christmas,” Boudreau says. “This means we need 5,500 songs, which is why we alternate between stations and playlists. This number was derived by figuring out how many songs we would need to be able to go a whole month without hearing the same song twice.”
Here, Boudreau shares a glimpse of what a typical night at Canon sounds like. Play it on shuffle and pair with a dram of your favorite whiskey.
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