Before Trick Dog‘s doors opened in San Francisco’s Mission district in 2013, Josh Harris knew the bar should have an upbeat, energetic vibe that would appeal to a wide range of personalities. To help bring this vision to reality, he made a playlist packed with crowd-pleasing hits that span genres and decades. “I knew we had to have music that wouldn’t alienate anybody—music that my mom likes and my nephew could like and everybody in-between would like,” says the co-founder of BV Hospitality.
Harris says he’s generally not a huge fan of what plays on airwaves today, instead gravitating towards music that came before he was born. And while he realizes that the sum of a bar’s soundtrack is larger than the personal preferences of its owner, the first playlist he created for Trick Dog does feature classics from Al Green, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin to tracks from Rebirth Brass Band, Howlin’ Wolf, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. Bowie shares billing with The Clash and The Police, alongside other one-off hits from the Beach Boys and Snoop Dogg. “Trick Dog is pretty fast-paced. It’s a high-volume but small cocktail bar, so without going full-on party mode, the music needs to facilitate that positive, faster energy that makes the bar special,” he says.
Harris keeps the bar staff in mind, too. “No matter how much you like a song, if you hear it every day it will become repetitive,” he says. Instead of having one set list that plays on repeat every day, he started making a collection of 11-hour lists that would work well any night of the week. The tracks progress from 3 p.m. when the bar opens until closing time at 2 a.m., and the staff is also encouraged to contribute personalized playlists. “You have to balance this idea about what you want the experience for your guests to be—and how that communicates your personality and what makes your place what it is—with the well-being of your team,” he says.
The playlist below is the first one Harris created for Trick Dog, and it happens to be his favorite. It’s also the one that that perfectly captures his vision for the bar’s overall energy, he says. Listen to it from start to finish (no shuffle!) to experience it the way they do at the bar.
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