Playlists for every summer occasion -
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Playlists for every summer occasion
By Kevin Coffey

Spring is here, summer is on its way and no one wants to get caught hosting a party without music or making another drive listening to talk radio.

You're probably not going to hire a band for your pool party or a DJ to spin at this weekend's cookout, but if you have an iPod and a few minutes to prepare a playlist, your guests will be dancing or toe-tapping (depending on the party) at the best get-together on the block.


You're lounging by the water, so the best tunes are easy-going songs or light-hearted jams.

» “Toes” by Zac Brown Band — Who doesn't want to have toes in the water and a cold beer in hand? Life is good, indeed.

» “Wipe Out” by the Fat Boys — “Who can forget the timeless Beach Boys/Fat Boys ‘Wipeout' cover?” asked Bryan Pryor of Omaha. It's a great hip-hop take on a classic surf song.

» “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry — It's a classic, and we can't get enough of this song.

» “Just What I Needed” by The Cars — Pair it with a Busch Light, says Omahan Greg Edds, and you may just have the perfect summer song.

» “Playing With the Boys” by Kenny Loggins — Because who can forget the beach volleyball scene from “Top Gun?”

» “Summer Babe” by Pavement — Jared Cvetas of Omaha suggested this indie-rock classic as a great summer song. We agree.

» “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett — “This reminds me of going to Florida with my parents in the '70s. Those were great times,” Stephen Malkmus of Pavement (see above) told NME about this song. He added, “He's pretty cheesy.”

» “Digging For Something” by Superchunk — A tune about a party out at the lake should fit perfectly at the beach/lake/pool.

Pool by Micah Mertes on Grooveshark


Somewhere between the relaxing day at the pool and the dance party vibe is the cookout. Kids are running around like kids and the adults are enjoying adult beverages.

» “Second Chance” by Peter, Bjorn and John — Nominated by Kyle Christensen of Omaha, this tune from the band's album “Gimme Some” fits the party mood perfectly.

» “BBQ” by 2 Skinnee J's — From chip dip and propane to green peas and corn on the cob, this song's got it all.

» “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers — Mash-up artist Girl Talk included this track on his essential backyard barbecue playlist. “Over half of these songs you would like to party to, and the other half are songs you relax to. That's the essence of summertime — you can be sitting around drinking beer outside or you can be up celebrating,” he told

» “Waddlin' Around” by The King Khan & BBQ Show — OK, it doesn't have much to do with a BBQ (other than the singer's name), but this garage rock song is a great party track.

» “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith — Does anything feel more like summer than this song? We didn't think so.

» “Summer in the City” by the Lovin' Spoonful — Tim Sprouls, a huge Husker fan living in Minnesota, called the band “very underrated” and said the tune is a fantastic song for the summer months.

» “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash — Kind of an obvious choice, but always a good one under the hot summer sun.

» “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago — Billboard loved this summer song because of its “brassy horns blowing like a cool breeze off Lake Michigan.” We do, too.

BBQ by Micah Mertes on Grooveshark


Get up off the couch, my friend. We didn't crank up the volume so you could sit there. Hot jams required, dancing shoes preferred.

» “Summertime,” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince — Before he was a movie star, Will Smith was a rapper and he brought this jam about summer fun. Thanks to Nick Gustafson and John Schulte (both of Omaha) for the suggestion.

» “Super Bass” by Nicki Minaj — One of the best songs last year, this should get the crowd tapping their feet. At a minimum.

» “First of the Year - Equinox” by Skrillex — The bass drop on this dubstep song will make you move

» “California Gurls” by Katy Perry — Cheesy? Yes. Does it remind us of summertime? Definitely.

» “Take a Walk” by Passion Pit — Esquire called it the song of this summer even though it doesn't feature Rihanna cq in the chorus. We'll take it.

» “Blow” by Ke$ha — Say what you will about the singer, but this track is a great dance song.

» “Bad” by Michael Jackson — It's not a dance party without the King of Pop.

Dance by Micah Mertes on Grooveshark


For a dinner party, you'll want something interesting, but not too interesting. Guests should be focused on the food and conversation, not the music. Still, the tunes should provide good vibes.

» “The Mix Up” by the Beastie Boys — The Beastie Boys weren't just rappers. They can play music, too. Put on this entire instrumental album for background music that's way more interesting than the smooth jazz channel on your satellite TV.

» “Re: Stacks” by Bon Iver — Almost anything by Bon Iver works as background music, but we like this quiet tune.

» “Potato Hole” by Booker T. — This is an entire album by Booker T., the man leading the MGs who played on almost every Stax Records song. It's instrumental and it's gorgeous.

» “Thirteen” by Big Star — Called one of rock's most beautiful songs, “Thirteen” is about the innocence of adolescence.

» “Can't You See” by the Marshall Tucker Band — We're pretty sure this is on some “mandatory to play during the summer months” soundtrack because we hear it every time we're out.

Dinner by Micah Mertes on Grooveshark


Something's gotta get you through miles of long and lonesome highway, and that audiobook you thought was a good idea is barely keeping you awake. Try these tunes instead.

» “Car Crash” by Telekinesis — Maybe not the best title for a road-trip song, but its driving drum beat will get you through some slow times on the road.

» “Cruising California” by The Offspring — Jared Cook of Omaha told us about this one, which is all about driving around in your Impala and bumping the bass. And partying, naturally.

» “Surrender” by Cheap Trick — “I remember being on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland, drunk as all hell, sitting on a lifeguard chair at 3 a.m. and singing that song at the top of my lungs,” Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters told NME. “And realizing that it actually felt good to sing and release like that.”

» “School's Out” by Alice Cooper — Nothing like a road trip to kick off summer break. Billboard named this one of its top summer songs because Cooper took the idea of summer break and “turned it into an emancipation proclamation for ditching class permanently.”

» “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley — Bonus points to you if you actually spot a Cadillac with a Deadhead sticker on it during your drive.

» “Old White Lincoln” by The Gaslight Anthem — Joel Henriksen of Omaha recommended this band and we chose this song, about an old '55 Lincoln. Good driving song.

Car trip by Micah Mertes on Grooveshark

Contact the writer:


Contact the writer: Kevin Coffey    |   402-444-1557    |  

Kevin covers music, whether it's pop, indie or punk, through artist interviews, reviews and trend stories. He also occasionally covers other entertainment, including video games and comic books.

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