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Downtown Sounds: What State College’s Establishments’ Playlists Sound Like

If you’re a Penn State student, it’s part of your daily schedule to walk long and far. Though you may spend your commute listening to your own carefully curated playlist, it’s hard not to notice various sounds around campus– specifically downtown.

With plenty of restaurants, bars, and stores, each shop in State College has their own unique style. Similarly, each spot has its own sound. Onward State took to the streets of downtown State College to ask dozens of stores what kinds of music they play. Here are the results:

Webster’s Bookstore and Café:

This eccentric little hangout spot combines the comfort of an old bookstore with the fresh feel of a café. Webster’s is known for their records, so I wasn’t surprised by their answer when I asked about their music selection.

Webster’s has their own record player, with speakers throughout the store. Whoever is working during that specific time picks out any record they want. The student working at the time I strolled in selected a Jazz Samba record.

Irving’s:

This popular bagel spot was bumping some indie/alternative tunes as I walked in. The radio station they choose most often is Sirius XM. When I walked in, they were playing Liztomania by Phoenix.

McClanahan’s:

I asked the cashier what playlist they were playing. She said, “Uhh..one second,” and turned to her boss. He immediately responded with great excitement, “Sirius XM 90’s hits!” So if you’re looking for some old school jam, it may be time to pick up some groceries at McClanahan’s.

The Creamery:

Because the Creamery is often staffed by students, they tend to play their own music through their phones. The song playing when I walked in was Stolen Dance by Milky Chance.

Saint’s Cafe:

This chill hangout spot enjoys the Spotify playlist called, ‘Matt’s Cafe.’  This playlist features over 800 songs. The tunes vary from Florence And The Machine to Fleet Foxes.

Moyer Jewelers:

This jewelry shop often plays Pandora, gravitating towards hits from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Lori Moyer told me that they enjoy playing artists such as Billy Joel, Elton John, and Jazon Mraz. “We like to think of our playlist as light pop. Nothing too aggressive, it is a Jeweler store,” she said.

The Corner Room:

After a long wait for the manager and designated DJ, I soon learned The Corner Room enjoys ‘DMX radio.’

Pickles:

This was by far one of my favorite interactions of the day. After many quizzical and suspicious looks from store vendors, Pickle’s welcomed me in warmly. Kathy Staab, who was working behind the bar when I walked in, was extremely helpful. She walked upstairs to their stereo to remind herself of the exact playlist. She told me the bar uses a website called ‘Music Box’ which features anything from adult rock, indie rock, to country. “We have to appeal to a wide audience,” Staab said. “So we like to keep it chill and classic, but still fun.”

Rapid Transit Sports:

This sports store tends to play radio sport talk shows. “In fact, I guess we should start playing Christmas music soon, huh?” the owner laughed.

Animal Kingdom Toy Store:

As I walked into this toy store, I expected a melody of The Wiggles to grace my ears. I was happily mistaken! As it turns out, this place loves to play acoustic covers of popular songs. The owner told me her husband controls the playlist. “It’s not public though,” she explained. “It’s like our little secret.”

Rinaldo’s Barber Shop:

Big mistake. As I sauntered in about five hairdressers looked up at me, along with their half-bearded male customers. When I inquired about their music, one woman answered hastily, “I don’t know…ABBA?!”

Jersey Mike’s:

This food stop loves to play music from the 40s and 50s. They specialize in playing New Jersey-inspired music, such as the Jersey Boys and Bon Jovi. “So in other words, all songs by white guys,” the cashier told me.

Abercombie and Fitch:

I braced the pine needle scent of middle school nostalgia in the name of music. Abercrombie actually plays their own ‘Abercombie’ playlist on Spotify. I got out of there quickly, before an aggressive salesperson in distressed jeans approached me. 

Kaarma:

When I asked the owner what music he played, he responded like I asked him what 2+2 was. “Indian,” he said, bluntly.

I asked if he knew what specific playlist, and he said they often play ‘Indian Bollywood.’ “But if you have a birthday party we will play your own music,” he said.

Anyone need any 21st birthday bash plans…?

Music Mart:

This place was fun. Considering this is a music mart, I had high expectations. The guys working behind the desk were friendly and inviting. One guy named Nathan Young was busy cleaning a guitar while he rattled off some his favorite bands. “When you work at a music store, you can’t keep playing your favorite bands over and over,” he said. “You’ll start to hate them.”

His coworker, Zack Smith, explained that the music that plays while their boss is there is completely different. “Once it’s 2 p.m. and our boss goes home, anything is fair game. He likes to play family friendly Penn State stations, but we mix it up,” he said.

Smith told me yesterday he played four Pink Floyd albums in a row. As I said my goodbyes, he was in the middle of putting on the soundtrack of Dexter. What an interesting mix.

CVS Pharmacy:

The employee explained that they are only allowed to play the ‘CVS’ station, which includes advertisements. As I thanked him and said goodbye, he yelled back at me, “Please make them change it!”

Tattoo Marks Studio Two: 

The tattoo artist behind the register told me they play a wide variety of music. “Anything from elevator music to gangster rap,” he said. But the artists are careful to avoid really intense or edgy music “We don’t want to make these customers anymore scared or nervous than they already are,” he said. 

Uncle Eli’s:

“This is going to sound super hipster,” said employee Stephanie Douglass. “But I like to play a lot of underground indie bands here.”

She told me about a website called ‘Band Camp’ that features hundreds of unsigned artists from around the world. Douglass was particularly fond of a band called ‘Hiatus Coyote’ from Australia. “If you can chill but still bob your head to it,” she said. “We play it.”

2000 Degrees Pottery:

This pottery store likes to play classic rock and oldies. They gravitate towards 97.1 FM. “Anything but rap,” the owner said.

Kiwi Frozen Yogurt:

The N’Sync Spotify playlist was humming when I walked into this joint. With the gaggle of sorority girls bonding over their fro yo, this music choice seemed fitting.

Inferno:

This bar is a fan of Sirius XM. They play popular hits for the young crowd, including a playlist called ‘Venus’ and ‘Pop 2k.’

Penn Kebab:

The worker on the clock had his laptop open to Youtube to play music. He was playing White Iverson by Post Malone.

Liberty:

This bar plays their own Spotify playlist that compiles hundreds of favorites from the bartenders and hosts themselves. They enjoy anything from classic rock to pop.

Canyon Pizza:

Canyon was enjoying some 105.9, a solid radio station. Just like their pizza, their playlist is safe and reliable.

Taco Bell:

This “Mexican” favorite enjoys jamming to Sirius XM ‘Classic Rewind.’

The Student Bookstore:

The cashier ran upstairs to check which station it was, and returned frazzled because it escaped his mind. At the end of the day, it turns out they jam to mostly 90’s jams on a Direct TV station.

Family Clothesline:

I didn’t even have time to go in to this popular Penn State outfitter to hear what they were playing. They were blasting “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction so loud, I could hear it from the street.

***

I couldn’t manage to bop into every single store downtown, but these are some of the best. Was there a store I left out that you were dying to hear about? Just visit them yourself and lend them your ears.

About the Author

Carolyn Popescu

Current senior studying Advertising and Visual Arts, Carolyn has a passion for entertainment and music. She also loves photography, film, graphic design, social media, and all things in between. She's the current Sony Music Marketing Representative for State College, so be sure to reach out to her with any local music scene questions, ideas, proposals, or if you just need someone to geek out about music with.

(Contact her through [email protected] or [email protected])

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