South Bend is a pretty unique town, but, apropos of the luminous discourse that there are probably better places to live, in its best components, it’s suburban. Elsewhere, its sociology ranges staggeringly from the well-heeled, east coast Notre Dame students to the palpably struggling ghetto living of blacks, Mexicans, and IU football fans.
Here’s a little sequential rundown of the different sorts of neighborhoods you see in this town, with an appropriate song to accompany each one. It starts at Notre Dame’s campus, and gradually works its way south to the end of town down there, after which there is no adjacent suburb. And yes, the ghetto is really adjacent to Notre Dame’s campus, it’s not an exaggeration at all, there was even a shooting recently outside one of the campus bars.
Notre Dame —
Head Automatica – “Laughing at You”
Notre Dame students can be very snobby, and with this, I think, is a certain self-consciousness, the two are correlative. That is, rather than trying to do something great on the artistic level, they’re occupied with “not sucking,” or afraid of “sucking.”
And in general is South Bend, it’s almost like seen as weakness, or weirdness, to express yourself artistically, like they’ll condescendingly make the comment that a local band is “rocking out,” like it’s a juvenile thing to do. And track 02 on Head Automatica’s Popaganda from 2006 is simply about a band that gets made fun of.
Notre Dame Ave. east to Twyckenham Dr./Campeau St. south to Madison St. —
Andy Stott – “Lost and Found”
This even fits right down to the album’s title — Luxury Problems — and how you know you’re doing something right in life if someone’s glaring at you. And that’s what walking through the ghetto is — they’re people just like you or me or whoever, they just don’t have a lot, and so, understandably, are angry, and into taking what other people have. The house music of Andy Stott is dark, but rhythmic — it’s got the soul components of hip-hop, but is ambient enough to think over, keeping you on your toes.
Eddy St. east to 26th St./Madison St. south to Lincoln Way East (which runs east and west along the St. Joseph River) —
Flying Lotus – “Computer Face // Pure Being”
Today, our society is subsumed in technology, so we need music that reflects this. On any given summer day, no matter how nice it is outside, you’ll find the local libraries in this part of town littered with youngsters, faces buried in a game on a computer screen. This song is a furious platoon of sounds and melodies, literally like the dredging up of a cardboard soul into an identity.
Fellows Ave. east to Ironwood Dr./Lincoln Way East south to Donmoyer Ave.
Radiohead – “Paranoid Android”
There’s definitely an anger in this part of town, it’s relatively low income, but even more geographically divorced from Notre Dame than the rest of it. There’s a pretty high turnover rate of businesses down here, but one bulwark is obviously the 7/11, where one time I saw a guy just standing in there eating a bag of chips, and glaring at whomever walked in, which happened to be me I guess (“When I am king / You will be first against the wall”).
South of Donmoyer Ave.
Califone – “Burned by the Christians”
Nobody yells in South Bend south of Donmoyer Ave, so the mellow, sublime folk-pop of Califone works fine. It’s like living in a sane little town, like Rochester, Indiana or something. Maybe the countryside has soothing effects on people, the look of the big sky over pastoral plains, and the fair is actually held a little south of town so that’s some more positive association. People are generally glad to see you down here, and they’ll politely ask you what you do, what you think about this or that, what your thoughts are in general, and it’s the more the merrier. But what’s even more charming, they’re TRYING, they do adhere to an ideal of work ethic, and of a tasteful way of doing all this. Yet, there’s a certain satisfaction about them. Also, this is the direction you go to get to the great concert venue that used to be called Deer Creek.