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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.