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Notre Dame Football Friday Fire: Designing the Ultimate Tailgate Playlist

Fire that isn’t on the grill

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Toledo at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So you’re headed to Columbus on September 3 to watch the Notre Dame Fighting Irish open the season in hostile territory, and you’re asking yourself: how can I establish dominance over my own corner of Buckeye territory?

Whether it’s apparel, decor, or other tailgating gear, you no doubt are already planning how to bring a little slice of home with you on the road. I’m here to tell you about a critical component you may be neglecting: fire tracks.

Music is an oft-overlooked component of the tailgate environment, where you typically have all kinds of noise going around and mediocre effort can go unnoticed, and thus be excused. But especially in an away setting, a well-crafted playlist can elevate your tailgate from pleasant outdoor socializing to truly blissful, 2-hours-going-by-in-what-feels-like-30-minutes pregame darty. It will help you create an environment that welcomes all, while annoying opponents’ fans just enough to be memorable. While there’s no accounting for taste and your playlist will look different from mine, the following guidelines will help you keep things slappin’ throughout the day.

USC v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Foundation: Standard Outdoor Party Fare

We’ll get to the gameday specialties and novelty songs in a second, but one thing that’s important to note about those is that it doesn’t take the long for them to get boring if they are played unbroken for long periods of time. They should be interspersed into a mix that is mostly made up of just plain good music.

This is the part of your playlist with the most room for variation and creativity, as darty-music preferences vary drastically from one person to another. Everything from pop and hip-hop to classic rock and country qualifies, with the best darty playlists typically mixing all of these together (my own personal preference for this type of occasion). Even so, the weighting of each of those components is up to you. You can always throw in niche pieces you are passionate about as well if you’re looking to vary it up even further. As long as you have a solid foundation of fun, upbeat music with broad appeal, you can go a lot of different directions on the margins. Once you’ve got that, it’s time to add in some ND flavors.

Irish Tunes

There are two sub-categories worthy of attention here. The first is genuine/genuine-ish (whether The Pogues count is contested) Irish songs that are upbeat and fun enough to make fit in on gameday. An incomplete list is below if you aren’t familiar with the genre - for the well-worn classics, I have offered my preferred rendition:

  • “Star of the County Down” - The High Kings
  • “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” - The Pogues
  • “The Wild Rover” - Luke Kelly
  • “The Body of an American” - The Pogues
  • “Horse Outside” - The Rubberbandits
  • “Whiskey in the Jar” - The Dubliners
  • “The Rocky Road to Dublin” - the Chieftains feat. The Rolling Stones
  • “Finnegan’s Wake” - The High Kings
  • “Sally McLennane” - The Pogues
  • “Johnny McEldoo” - The Clancy Brothers

The other sub-category here is Irish-inflected songs by American bands, which are numerous and a little more versatile in terms of sound, if less authentic. The beloved “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” fits into this category, and I don’t have to tell you that “Sweet Caroline” does as well. A few other tracks that deserve a spot on your gameday list:

  • “Whiskey in the Jar”* - Metallica**
  • “Come on Eileen” - Dexys Midnight Runners
  • “The Boys are Back” - Dropkick Murphys
  • “American Land” - Bruce Springsteen
  • “The Barnyards of Delgaty” - Gaelic Storm
  • “Drunken Lullabies” - Flogging Molly
  • “Irish Celebration” - Macklemore

There are also a couple great Celtic instrumentals out there that you can throw in for some flavor: “The Blood of Cu Chulainn” is a well known example, and the O’Neil Brothers’ rendition of “Here Come the Irish” is also a fun one to throw in.

The key with these songs is to sprinkle them into your playlist so they occur enough for everyone who comes by to hear one or two, but they aren’t taking over, per my earlier advice about wanting to keep things from becoming one-note. It’s like salt: you want plenty in there to give the vibe a good flavor, but not so much it overwhelms it.

*I know this song is also on the list above. Trust me when I say the two versions are sufficiently different that no one will notice.

**This is also a much better Metallica song than Enter Sandman, so I submit that Notre Dame should start playing it before games to further troll the Virginia Tech Hokies.

ND Spirit Songs

Toward the end of your tailgate you will want to transition to some classics from the Band of the Fighting Irish: the Victory March, Celtic Chant, Damsha Bua, etc. You will probably want to avoid the alma mater as it is not exactly a banger, but pretty much anything else goes. Cathy Richardson’s “Here Come the Irish” - the titular line of which you have heard if you have ever been there for kickoff at a Notre Dame home game - should be on there as well.

If you’re a sick bastard with a twisted sense of humor, you might take this opportunity to throw on Freekbass’ “We Are ND” on a loop and see what happens. I can’t stop you, but I will remind you that the United States is still a signatory to the Geneva Convention and there are some lines you just shouldn’t cross.

If you have any favorite tailgate tunes, leave them down below in the comments. Tailgate season can’t come soon enough.