Heavy Metal Meets Hospitality at Kindred in San Diego

For San Diego bar owner Kory Stetina and his business partners, bar Kindred isn’t just a cocktail bar with a heavy metal soundtrack; it’s a community-minded business born out a love for their favorite genre of music and the culture that surrounds it. “Most of us grew up in the punk, hardcore, or metal scenes, so these communities have shaped just about all the important aspects of who we are as people, and therefore who we are as a business,” Stetina says. “It’s baked into our being, so much so that it subconsciously influences everything from our aesthetic to our political outlooks, company values, spirit of experimentation, desire to challenge tradition, sense of family and community and, thus, our hospitality.”

The bar’s master playlist, a 40-plus-hour list that shuffles almost every day, leans heavily in the direction of psych metal, but in a style intended to be approachable for a range of customers, “with groove, melodic vocals, and rhythmic drone vs. something more aggressive like blast beats, breakdowns and death growls (though that’s what we’re likely listening to during prep),” Stetina says. “We update the master list annually, phasing new stuff in and old stuff out, and we add to it throughout the year as well as new records or reissues come about, or as we start to geek out in new areas. For instance, the first year or two was very droney and doomy, whereas in 2019 and 2020 we’ve sprinkled in a little more up-tempo stuff inspired by bands summoning more of a new wave of British heavy metal, early thrash or classic rock kind of vibe.”

Stetina and his team seamlessly weave the music into the spirit of the bar without having it feel imposing or alienating. “It was important to all of us that Kindred feel inclusive, and not just a church for the initiated,” Stetina adds. “The punks, the geeks, the metalheads, the vegans, the outsiders—those that recognize the music and the nods to heavy music and fantasy culture—feel connected and proud to have a small space in the world to go out to eat and drink that ‘gets’ who they are. But those people are just a small fraction of our customers, and I think the majority experience it as something new, rebellious, exciting and, most importantly, fun, welcoming and friendly.”

Thursdays at Kindred are especially fun  as the bar transforms into Permanent Vacation, when the drinks and the music capture a more escapist, dreamy mood. “The unifying theme is space travel, and the playlist aims to create a vibe of traveling through space (more driving and dreamy, Krautrock, avant-garde and sometimes synth-heavy) and arriving at odd and new destinations (rhythmic percussion, exotica, etc.). It’s meant to create a strange new world of adventure for those joining us in the escape.”

During nationwide COVID-19 bar closures, consider donating to bar relief funds when you make their cocktails and listen to their house playlists. For Kindred, you can donate to their “Kult Member Relief Fund” here, and we’ve also compiled a list of other bar playlists and donation links here.


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