2695 Mission St. (@ 23rd) [Map]
Total spent: $7
Known to me for a long time simply as "BAR" because of the giant red sign above the door, Mission Bar on Mission at 23rd is just far enough from the 16th Street nexus that it is never crowded on week nights and is usually navigable on the weekends, even with a crowd. Since the throngs stay away, there is plenty of opportunity to control the music, but bring a jacket if you plan to spend time there because the jukebox is positioned right behind the door at the front of the bar.
BAR's jukebox and I started off on a bad note when a friend of mine played the Me First and the Gimme Gimmes cover of "Sloop John B" off of their second album, Blow in the Wind. The covers band and their fans may think that the pop punk renditions of oldies are cute and kitschy, but they are really not, and there is no room in a jukebox for this kind of half-rate novelty crap. There is, however, room for the original classics, and fortunately BAR has several albums' worth of those. Unfortunately, a couple of them are shoddily listed, showing only song titles without the artist names. Yes, I do need to see "The Searchers" next to "Love Potion No. 9." How else will my drunk friends and I settle bets over who sings what? The track lists are the jukebox equivalent of MP3 metadata and I insist that they be accurate and complete. Critical failure, BAR.
My friend plots his aural torture.
Not that it's necessarily a bad thing, but much like the type of clientele—barflies, hipsters, neighborhood residents—BAR’s jukebox lacks consistency in selection. It ranges from Howlin’ Wolf to the Urban Cowboy soundtrack, but consists mostly of greatest hits and best of albums, and that is what makes it unremarkable. Prince's Hits, Joan Jett's Greatest Hits, even Whitesnake’s Greatest Hits, which gave me the opportunity to play an old favorite and long-time guilty pleasure, “Here I Go Again On My Own.” Clearly, there is something for everyone—including old standbys like Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique and Guns & Roses’ Appetite for Destruction (which I have been known to play start-to-finish on jukeboxes after the 10th beer)—but not a lot of it.
One notable gem within this otherwise mediocre collection is a Ruth Brown track on one of the properly annotated oldies compilations. Unfortunately, the R&B queen is all-too-rarely found on bar jukeboxes mainly because most of the world has no idea who she is. [I wanted to post a track for download but unfortunately Ruth Brown's albums are owned by the RIAA.] Ween’s album White Pepper is in there too, which struck me as unusual given the juke’s propensity toward oldies, blues, and punk. There are also a couple of “Mission Bar Mixes” in the juke that provide popular singles whose albums of origin are not in the jukebox. George Michael’s “Faith,” for instance, can be found on one of the custom mixes but that is the only instance of the gay Australian with the great ass.
In short, this is not the kind of jukebox that would devour the ones in your wallet. Those George Washingtons are much better used to tip the disaffected bar staff, although on a slow night the quiet might drive you to feed some Georges to the magic music machine. Finding a couple rounds of songs is not difficult, but there’s nothing that will blow your mind.