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So you've crafted your menu and decorations for the big barbecue – but what about the music? You could just throw on your iPod, but, as Dario Petruzzi knows well, you shouldn't underestimate the power of the perfect playlist.

Better known as brains4brkfst, the Toronto DJ is a resident music maker at restaurants such as Ursa, La Carnita and Parts & Labour, where diners are known to enjoy the convivial atmosphere as much as their meals.

The Globe and Mail asked Petruzzi for some simple playlist advice that any host can use to burnish his or her backyard barbecue. Here are his top dos and don'ts


Know Your Audience

Consider the guest list. Is this barbecue for your old college friends, or are you entertaining the family? Be thoughtful and customize accordingly. Choose songs that are recognizable enough for your guests to enjoy but are still surprising. If you know Aunt Betty loves Marvin Gaye, surprise her by throwing him in; you'll make her afternoon and ensure yourself an extra scoop of her famous potato salad.

Be Mindful Of Time

Is this a daytime party or a sunset slow jam? Your playlist should reflect – and enhance – the barbecue's vibe. You should also estimate the length of your shindig, then create one long playlist or a few short ones that traverse genres. You don't want to have to play the same songs twice.

Employ The Hamburger Method

An impactful playlist has flow and layers. Begin with the top bun, songs that will set the mood like Rick James's Mary Jane or Will Smith's Summertime. Next, the toppings: These are songs that create cohesion – Hall & Oates is great for this. You can get creative here and throw one or two curveballs, like an onion ring or a fried egg (read: Chuck Berry or Grandmaster Flash). Then there is the meat, the star of the show: This section of the playlist should be a handful of back-to-back crowd-pleasers that leave people wanting the recipe. Finally, the bottom bun consists of songs that bring the barbecue to a slow, satisfying conclusion.


Underestimate The Music

Sure, a barbecue is about spending time with family and friends, but it's still just as important to set the tone. The right playlist should make your guests feel welcome and comfortable and, in some cases, even be a conversation starter. The volume is also important; it needs to balance being present without being overbearing.

Stick To One Genre

Like your guests, the playlist should be an eclectic mix of music's most-loved genres, from 1960s surf rock and blues to soul and disco. But be careful, because mixing eras is tricky business.

If you decide to jump from Kool and the Gang to Guns N' Roses, do so carefully and gradually. Nothing sets cohesion on a collision course with chaos faster than sudden and violent genre-jumping.

Leave It To The Last Minute

Good things take time, so don't start your playlist on the morning of the barbecue. Sprinkle some songs in on Monday, add a dash on Wednesday, season with a few on Friday, and by Sunday you'll be ready to grill.

brains4brkfst's 15 SONGS FOR YOUR BARBECUE

In no particular order, here are 15 songs that will help you put your best foot forward when creating your own backyard playlist. They are a mix of classic up-tempo, down-tempo, and mid-tempo staples that can either bridge gaps between your favourite songs, or stand out as your party's home-run hitters.

Summertime – Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff

This song is a summer time staple. No cursing, no over inflating egos, just an easy-listening hip-hop song about barbecues, basketball and unwinding.

Forget Me Nots – Patrice Rushen

Sampled in 1997’s title song from the film Men In Black, this Patrice Rushen hit is an upbeat telling of a girl’s plea not to be forgotten. It’s catchy, it’s heart-felt, and it’ll warm your insides as you pass the ketchup.

Get Up Off Your Love – Evelyn “Champagne” King

A high-tempo, groove-filled melody about taking a chance on love. How much more summer”can one get?

Mary Jane – Rick James

The barbecue is off and running, everyone is eating and enjoying themselves – you’ve done it! It’s time to fill your plate, grab a beverage, sit back, relax and let this Rick James classic melt your worries away.

I Can’t Go For That – Hall & Oates

Put this song on and look around. People will either be singing along, nodding their heads or waiting for the amazing saxophone solo to do their best air-sax impression.

The Message – Grandmaster Flash

This 1982 hip-hop classic not only possesses one of the most recognizable beats in music history, but is more importantly one of the first “conscious rap” songs. Your barbecue just became educational.

Fun, Fun, Fun – The Beach Boys

The title speaks volumes: hamburger stands, racing Thunderbirds and parental discipline. This surf-rock classic is just a really good time.

Nadine – Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry is a barbecue-must. Any Chuck Berry will do, but do yourself a favour and get elbows-deep into one of his anthologies, because you’ll be sure to pull out a few new favourites of your own.

Summertime Blues – Eddie Cochran

Here’s a song about a young man being fed up with working during the summer time. Interestingly enough, it’s hard to feel sorry for him when the melody is so catchy that you can’t help but tap your feet and strum the riffs.

Groovin’ – Aretha Franklin

Aretha can do it all, from turning the dance floor into a moving frenzy, to touching the very essence of your being through a tear-ridden love song. Groovin’, off of her 1968 album Lady Soul, is the perfect song to accompany a slow-moving Sunday afternoon spent amongst good food and great company.

What’d I Say, Parts 1 & 2 – Ray Charles

Picture your barbecue at night: some hanging lights, some comfort food and this jittery gem from Ray Charles. Add a few mint juleps and you’ll be transported to a summer’s night in Georgia.

Having A Party – Sam Cooke

Some songs don’t really need an explanation. The lyrics say it all: “We’re having a party/ dancing to the music/ played by the dj/ the cokes are in the ice box/ the popcorn’s on the table/ me and my baby, we’re out here on the floor.”

(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay – Otis Redding

This is yet another song that’ll help you calm down. Put a few more ice cubes into your drink, find your favourite chair, rest those bones, sink your feet into the grass and imagine watching the tide rolling away.

Centerfield – John Fogerty

Just a feel-good, old-fashioned, North American rock ‘n’ roll song about playing baseball in the summer. Put this song on your playlist, coach, it’s ready to play.

Doo Waa Ditty – Zapp & Roger

Your list needs a little cool factor. It needs a little street cred. It needs some funk. Cue this treasure from Zapp & Roger and watch as people start putting a little more swagger in their step.
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