It's 5 p.m. on Friday at Krug Park, and Spoon is playing on the stereo.
That's typical for the hour, said manager Alex Lund. Some days he puts on Sonic Youth for the after-work crowd. Other days, it's jazz or hip-hop.
Whatever it is, it's always solid music, stuff that appeals to the casual music snob. Even as the night progresses and the music becomes a bit more upbeat, Lund and the other Krug Park bartenders gravitate toward stuff like Girl Talk and Pretty Lights. When I was there one evening last week, the bartender was playing old DJ Shadow.
"Luckily, all of us have good taste in music," he said.
I'd visited Krug Park several times, but my visits last week were my first as The World-Herald's new nightlife reporter. I thought a column from one of my favorite Omaha bars would be an appropriate way to introduce myself — I already know the place, and I feel at home there, after all.
Pretty much every night, though, there comes an hour when the "good" music dies — at least the good music as defined by people who work in cool bars and know about such things.
That's around 10 when the jukebox kicks on.
What goes then is Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears and Dee-Lite. It's Europe's "The Final Countdown." It's Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You," which Lund said played nearly constantly between Thanksgiving and New Year's.
My friend Neal Obermeyer is a Krug Park regular. I would guess that he was responsible for a huge percentage of the "All I Want for Christmas is You" plays at Krug Park during the holidays. I have no idea how much money he has lost over the years making jukebox selections that bartenders have deemed terrible enough to turn off, but I would wager the number is much, much higher for him than for most people.
Neal deeply — and completely without irony — loves '90s pop music. He has sung the merits of the Backstreet Boys for years. I'm not the fan that Neal is, but I do have a deep affinity for Britney Spears and for pretty much all '90s dance music, so I appreciate Krug Park after 10, too.
It starts with just one jukebox selection, say a song by a boy band. One boy band track will often spur more tracks by the same boy band. An Ace of Base song leads to another Ace of Base song. A Britney Spears song might be followed up with some old Justin Timberlake.
A more involved example: Last week, Neal played the version of "Fantasy" by Mariah Carey that includes Ol' Dirty Bastard. Not long after that, someone played "Always Be My Baby" by Mariah Carey and "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" by ODB.
Neal has no idea who played these songs, but he interpreted it as "a jukebox wave back in my direction."
I am brand new to both the Omaha World-Herald and to Omaha in general. I've spent the past eight years just down the road in Lincoln, where I worked in marketing for three years, and as a writer/blogger/advice columnist for five years before that. During those eight years, I visited Omaha regularly for concerts, art openings, dinners, parties, thrift store shopping sprees, College World Series games, nighttime bike rides, road races, and once, six years ago, for a family vacation with my parents and three siblings.
I've had a great time every time I've visited, and I'm excited to actually live here, to visit more bars, dance at more clubs, eat at more restaurants, thrift at more thrift stores, and to generally get to know this city.
And although I am new, I'm already a big fan of the jukebox wave.
It's the sort of thing that could only happen in the exactly right place: A place with a TouchTunes jukebox, which happens to draw a crowd with a large knowledge of Top 40 hits of the past two decades, with enough space for everyone to dance when Neal plays "Believe" by Cher, and with bartenders benevolent enough to ignore even the 10th playing in a single evening of "All I Want for Christmas is You."
I'll be covering nightlife in this space (and elsewhere in the paper and online) each week. I'll cover big stuff, of course — bar openings, events at various nightlife spots, etc. — but I want to write about smaller stuff, too, the kind of stuff that makes a bar unique, that makes people feel at home.
So let me know about all of it. Call, email, find me on Facebook or Twitter, I want to know which karaoke bar has the biggest catalog of old country songs. I want to know who has the best bloody Marys, the most interesting DJs, the best unofficial '90s dance party after 10 p.m.
I want to know where you go and why you go there. And I want to go there, too.