Five Songs or Albums I’ve Heard Too Much in Dive Bars

Hugo Reyes
3 min readAug 11


Hot Water Music-Trusty Chords

I blame this song for not listening to Hot Water Music for the longest time. To let you know just how pervasive Trusty Chords was in Chicago, there is a DJ night named after this song. I would let out an audible groan anytime it came up. On its own, it is by no means a bad song and describes a feeling I’ve had living in Chicago. Uttering, “I hate this place, but I love these chords.” I totally get that sentiment; when the guitar kicks in, I cannot help but feel the urge to leave the room. I also have an unnecessary disdain towards Caution in general. It took all the less interesting parts of Hot Water Music and made it more pop-punk. I cannot speak to if people still play “Trusty Chords” now, but during my prime drinking years, I could not escape it.

Turnstile-Glow On

This one is a more recent edition. I like Glow On by Turnstile. I think it is a fine record. When Mystery hits, I’ll sing along occasionally. But especially last year, going to places in Logan Square, I started to reach a breaking point. It would not just be one song off the record I would hear. One restaurant I love dearly would play the entire record through. And then once they looped it and played it again. I don’t need to hear Glow On twice while eating a sandwich. My breaking point came when I went to Pizza Lobo after seeing a movie at Logan Theater. They played Glow On all the way through. It was then that I decided I never needed to hear the record again. I would actively avoid it. It has reached a point where I can’t escape it and cannot escape that context when I listen to it on my own. I’ll still see Turnstile if I get the opportunity, but I will never seek it out alone.

Fugazi-Waiting Room

I would not call this choice specific to Chicago. It feels like the staple of any playlist for a punk-leaning bar across America. It is relatively inoffensive. Once the bassline kicks in, the rest can wash over you. And that’s ultimately what you want for any playlist in a drinking setting. You need enough ambient noise but nothing that draws too much attention to itself. “Waiting Room” is the ultimate punk background music to me. But who in 2023 is seeking out this song? There is so much other stuff on 13 Songs that haven’t reached cultural ubiquity.

Alkaline Trio-Radio

I spent most of the time drinking in orgcore or fest punk circles. The type of bars I would attend would lean that way. Something like Alkaline Trio was unavoidable. I didn’t even need a bar to ruin Radio for me. It became the first “hit” for the band early on in its career. And I do enjoy it to some extent, but I never need to hear it again. I’d rather hear something on Goddamnit or From Here To Infirmary.

Operation Ivy-Sound System

I could extend this to the general universe and include Rancid. It covers a wide variety of establishments I go to. Dante’s Tavern in West Town loves to play some Operation Ivy. I’m never mad at it; It’s a good song that people know. It is the version of ska that I prefer to listen to most of the time. But the running theme for me in this article is that it makes it impossible to listen to it on my own. It leads me to discount essential bands in the punk canon. It permeates too much of my life and becomes another part of my dull existence. I would be fine if I never heard Operation Ivy again.