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Bouncer Declares Jukebox Isolationism at Lounge Azucar 

Wednesday, Mar 27 2013
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Well hola, Lounge Azúcar.

The place is cute, sort of like Central Perk on Friends but with a Latin flavor. It's filled with mismatched sofas and easy chairs and tables, and there's a small bar at the back. There were only three people sitting there, but the sign at the door said "Please Wait To Be Seated," and I always do as I am told.

A friendly dude greeted me and then told me to sit anywhere (they always do that, so why the sign?), so I picked a comfy armchair that had a good view of everything.

Pearl Jam was playing, which seemed a bit out of place, but whatevs. I've been to enough bars that try so hard to be cool by playing innocuous electronica that to hear something recognizable seemed downright adorable.

I ordered food and sat back. Then a super lame song came on and jarred me out of my relaxed exhalation, with the words "let me see your peacock... your your your peacock..." It was mindless, syrupy pop that had to be sung by some sort of marketable animated character. A quick search on my phone brought up "Katy Perry" as the culprit. I was right. Goddamnit she sucks, though she intrigues me in the way that she looks like a normal person under all that makeup. I feel the same way about Jennifer Lawrence. Anyway, I tried to block it out and steep in the Latin Flavor.

The food arrived and was really good, so good that I might have to come back to Folsom and Ninth for the Oaxacan peanuts again.

I was avoiding sending an email that I didn't want to send, a Dear John letter that seemed easier to put off writing than even this column, and that's saying something. I would have to go the "It's not you, it's me" route, but of course come up with a new and fresh way to say that. For a writer, I was somehow finding this difficult. So much so that I even considered this one: "I have been questioning my sexuality and I think I need to date women." But then he would inevitable see me with my next Chippendale Dancer boyfriend and know that I lied. "I thought I was ready for a relationship after coming back from Iraq, but I'm just not" also occurred to me.

Then my internal dialogue was again interrupted by an aural assault. "She's a dirty dirty dancer, a dirty dancer, and she's never ever lonely..." I was baffled. They had just put some really tasty food in front of me amid a lovely, classy atmosphere with a Latin Flavor, so why in the hell would they be choosing such god-awful music?

Again I turned to my trusty phone and went to the Azúcar website. There, at the bottom of the page, was a hint: They use Rockbot, a phone app where consumers can choose what is played in a venue. When left unchecked, this power can obviously be greatly abused. Was that what was happening here? I was about to refer to Rockbot as domestic terrorism until I realized that it's a small start-up out of Oakland (sorry, guys).

Do you remember the first time you saw a jukebox with compact discs in it? How about the first time you saw one of those with thousands of digital albums and you just had to search an artist and song? I thought that was pretty rad. In fact I remember subjecting many a blue-collar bar to Guided By Voices. Then all that gave way to iPods, with whoever was working that night controlling what was heard via his or her collection, or Pandora, which was also an OK option provided the base-artist chosen wasn't Katy Perry. So now, it seems, we have an app where anyone off the street can decide what's played out of a choice of "7 million songs," according to the Rockbot website. Oh no, this will never do. Music at a place is another form of décor. It must be chosen with care by draconian proprietors. The democratization of background music in bars is the worst thing to happen since anti-smoking laws.

To be fair to Rockbot — that unholy nation-builder invading sovereign bars and spreading "freedom" — it claims that the venue owners can control which songs their patrons can choose from, if they want. OK. And yes, the rebel in me loves the idea of going to, say, the bar at the Ritz and pumping Future's Lil Wayne remix of "Karate Chop" ("Beat that pussy up like Emmett Till..."), but overall I feel restraint is needed. I am a jukebox isolationist.

The Lounge had filled up a ton and my guy was the only one on staff, so I didn't want to corner him with questions about why the fuck the music sounded like Radio Disney at the Folsom Street Fair. Besides, soon enough, some Latin Flavor came on the system.

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Katy St. Clair

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