Mix Tapes: Behind the Soundtrack at New Orleans’ Cure

The allure of a bar is never based solely on its drinks. Here, in Mix Tapes, Kenny Herzog sheds light on some of the best bar playlists and the philosophies behind them. This round: a glimpse of the eclectic atmospherics at Cure.

There’s no shortage of places to hear Southern rap, vintage jazz and all strains of soul and R&B throughout New Orleans. But depending on who’s slinging drinks at Cure, one of the city’s most innovative cocktail bars, you may find yourself nodding to a variety of very different sounds—like hip-hop bangers played shortly after German krautrock.

As general manager Turk Dietrich explains, Cure is the kind of place where the music fits the moment, and that can mean many different things in a city so racially and culturally diverse. Here, Dietrich deconstructs the art of walking that fine line, and offers up a sample, streamable playlist to take home.

The Location:  Cure

What You’re Likely to Hear: That all depends on when you choose to visit the bar. Not only are there specific playlists for specific shifts, even the windows between happy hour and evening are customized to complement the time of day. From opening to closing, one might find themselves listening to Stax soul classics (Isaac Hayes), post-1990s R&B (D’Angelo) or idiosyncratic electronic (Autechre).

Who Controls the Music: Dietrich says he was once “pretty hardcore about setting the tone for the bar” but has since “loosened the reins.” While he still oversees what comes through Cure’s speakers on Fridays and Saturdays, weeknight staff tends to call the shots.

How They Choose What Gets Played: Cure’s philosophy isn’t much different than how someone equipped with a pair of tables might approach the situation. Dietrich explains that, “Sometimes it’s necessary to enhance or dictate the mood via the music, and other times you have to play what makes the most sense for the moment.” But, he clarifies, “I would never call our style actual DJ-ing, but, staying attuned to the audience like a DJ does works wonders.”

Three Songs that Best Represent Their Sound: Dietrich points to the trinity of Rhythm & Sounds’ spacey dub track “King In My Empire”, which he says is optimal for when “there is still some sunlight coming through the windows”; The Names’ “Night Shift”; and Laid Back’s cult club classic “White Horse”, which typifies what bartender Ryan Gannon describes as Dietrich’s penchant for “robot sex music.”

The Key to Their Playlist Philosophy: Per Dietrich, the key is serving the clientele, rather than the staffs’ preferred tastes. (He’ll even “adjust the playlist on the fly” if a big group responds to a particular stretch of songs.) But, be advised: They rarely take requests. 

Perfect song to start the night: Shep and The Limelites, “Daddy’s Home”

Perfect song to end the night: Pole, “Taxi”

Cure’s spirit artist: Japan, “Gentlemen Take Polaroids”

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Kenny Herzog is a former editor for brands including CMJ and HEEB, and a present-day pop-culture writer currently contributing to Rolling Stone, Esquire, Vulture, Made Man and many more.