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Onward State’s Quest For The Perfect Bar Playlist

I hold this truth to be self-evident, that the best nights involve a steady buzz and a perfect soundtrack. The problem with this truth is that it’s elusive, subjective, and it usually has to be forced.

I found myself in a familiar place two weekends ago: at a party, screaming “Kanye West” in the general direction of the aux cord. ‘There has to be a better way,’ I thought, ‘is the perfect drinking playlist hidden somewhere in downtown State College?’ The question possessed me for a week.

My death-grip on aux cords everywhere has left me with roughly three friends — fellow staff writers Kaitlyn Dividock, Alex Robinson, and Patrick Koerbler. For the sake of journalism we spent the last weekend in pursuit of an answer to a difficult question: which Penn State bar has the best drinking playlist?

We tried (read: failed) to stick to a few simple rules:

  1. Maintain a steady buzz at each bar.
  2. Stay at a bar for at least five songs.
  3. Try to leave personal bar preferences out of it. 

Without further adieu, here are our chronologically-ordered calculations:

Chrome- 9:30 p.m.

“Same Old Love”- Selena Gomez
“Take Me”- Rufus
“Drop the World”- Lil Wayne
“Roses”- The Chainsmokers
an EDM remix of “Little Talks”
“New Americana”- Halsey
“Timber”- Pitbull ft. Ke$ha

Chrome has an excellent pre-game playlist. The music was loud enough to hear, but soft enough that everyone could speak in complete sentences. The playlist was a solid blend of old and new. Though when it comes down to it, I’m always too sober for “Timber.”

Phyrst- 10:09 p.m.

“Shipping Up To Boston”- The Dropkick Murphys
“The Impression that I Get”- The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
“It’s My Life”- Bon Jovi
“Jack and Diane”- John Cougar Mellencamp
“The Joker”- The Steve Miller Band
“Jump”- Van Halen
“Lean On Me”- Bill Withers (possibly the only problem with Phyrst’s playlist is this was played too early)

After these first seven songs, we had to make a decision: voyage on to the next bar for the sake of journalism or stay and enjoy this impeccable playlist. As soon as a live guitarist started the ominous chords to “Follow Me” by Uncle Kracker, we knew we weren’t going anywhere.

The Phyrst, Continued: Time Unknown

“Follow Me”- Uncle Kracker
“Brown Eyed Girl”- Van Morrison
“Use Somebody”- Kings of Leon
“Jumper”- Third Eye Blind
“Semi-Charmed Life”- Third Eye Blind
“Under The Bridge”- Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Scar Tissue”- Red Hot Chili Peppers
“All Star”- Smash Mouth

“It didn’t make sense not to live for fun, your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb,” is the creed of a generation. This competition was over — the Phyrst pulled the trump card. We continued on our quest to the next bar.

The Darkhorse Tavern- 12:26 a.m.

“I’m Real”- Ja Rule ft. Ashanti

This first song got our hopes up, before it was cut-off halfway. A live band started firing off (unrecognizably old) oldies. Alas, the Darkhorse giveth and the Darkhorse taketh away. Heartbroken but invested in ethical journalism and our dwindling beverages, we stuck it out. After the live band finished their set, a more promising playlist prevailed.

“Dilemma”- Kelly Rowland
“Ms. New Booty”- Bubba Sparxxx

Unfortunately, the booty anthem of the early 2000s just wasn’t enough to make up for the lull. The live band featured great musicians, but the worst song on a drinking playlist is a song you don’t know. 

The Shandygaff – 1:32 a.m.

Since we couldn’t be everywhere we had an outside source tell us a five-song Shandygaff playlist. Here’s what she reported:

“Want To Want Me”- Jason Derulo
“Sorry”- Justin Bieber
“Shake It Off”- Taylor Swift
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”- Marvin Gaye (the Gaff’s trademark closing time jam)

It looks like a solid — if predictable — playlist. Based on ample prior experience at the Gaff, I’m confident in asserting that its playlist is quintessentially hit-or-miss. Sometimes you need a night full of Aaron Carter; most times you really don’t.

The Den 10 p.m.-

Full Disclosure: we didn’t go the Den. We can assure you that for better or for worse, there was an up-and-coming EDM DJ there, complete with lots of strobe lights.

Primanti Bros. – 3:45 p.m. (Sunday)

After waking up the next morning with a collective case of the Sunday scaries, we continued our experiement at Primanti’s.

“Greek Tragedy”- The Wombats
“Out of My League”- Fitz and the Tantrums
“Time to Dance”- Panic! at the Disco
“Animal”- Neon Trees
“Little Talks”- Of Monsters and Men
“Called Out of the Dark”- Snow Patrol
“Goodnight Goodnight”- Hot Hot Heat
“Mess is Mine”- Vance Joy

We lovingly dubbed this playlist “songs you heard at the mall once that you loved.” It was the day of the Lord and football, so we weren’t expecting music miracles. Despite our reservations, we were pleased. Primanti’s playlist was a fine complement to a moderately-lit Sunday afternoon.


As much as we wanted to continue our painstaking research, we ran out of time and money. For the record, we all agreed that Liberty has the holy grail playlist for grabbing a beer with your Penn State dad. We’ve also been known to hate-attend Pickles’ country night.

Drawing on our extensive data and past excursions, we hereby declare the Phyrst the winner of Onward State’s first-ever Best Bar Playlist Award.

If we missed your favorite, let us know in the comments. We’ll take almost any excuse to re-test our hypothesis.

About the Author

Sara Civian

Sara Civian is one of Onward State's three ridiculously good looking managing editors, a hockey writer at heart, and an Oxford comma Stan. She's a senior majoring in journalism, minoring in history, and living at Bill Pickle's Tap Room. Her favorite pastimes are telling people she's from Boston, watching the Bruins, and meticulously dissecting the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album. She's seen Third Eye Blind live 14 times. If you really hate yourself, you can follow her at @SaraCivian or email her at [email protected]


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