I’d like you to close your eyes and picture the scenario I’m about to describe. You’re in a crowded bar. And when I say crowded, I mean wall-to-wall, it’s an epic struggle to walk from one end of the bar to another and if you expect to both have a good time AND not bump into anyone and have drinks spilled on you then you’re a fool, crowded. Now imagine it is also very hot, and you are sweating a substantial amount as you sip on a strong Long Island and take in the scenery.
The walls are covered in framed photos and jerseys of former Notre Dame athletes, as well as celebrities with some sort of connection to the school or who have visited the bar. There are neon signs and there are TVs constantly showing ESPN, and for some reason there exists a metal pole in the middle of the dance floor. Side note, do NOT lick this pole, even if a Backer veteran claims that everyone has and does do it. It’s just not a good idea.
There’s a popcorn machine alongside a couple arcade games in the corner, and menacing security employees roam the bar and survey the scene, waiting for troublemakers to reveal themselves in the throng around them. The music is loud and varies between popular current songs and songs you would honestly never expect to hear in a college bar. The floor is layered in roughly one inch of an indiscernible sludge. Your shoes will not be clean when you leave here. In the back of the bar is a room with a pool table and the men’s bathroom, featuring a toilet that has at least 3 Coors Light cans floating in it. The women’s room has a line of roughly 10 girls waiting outside of it, perpetually. Everyone is drinking and dancing and running into each other and shouting song lyrics at the tops of their lungs, and there is a strong mix of college kids, alumni dads, and everyone in between.
What I’m describing is the Linebacker Lounge, Notre Dame’s most fun bar experience, hands down. For starters, it’s the only bar in town, possibly in the world, that regularly plays both Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and Steve Goodman’s “Go Cubs Go,” brought to the masses via a tiny cubbyhole of a DJ booth where DJ Drew, the most fickle bar DJ in the business, turns out the most consistently solid bar playlist that anyone has ever had the great fortune to dance to.
And dance, the people do. At most bars, there are people on the dance floor and then there are people hanging out off to the side, clearly not even trying to dance. At the Backer, the entire bar is the dance floor. Everyone is moving, gyrating, twirling, thrusting, wiggling, shimmying, and grooving, all while shouting songs in a passionate and impressive display of recall considering how many Long Islands and 32-ounce beers they’ve consumed/dropped on the floor. And the music played by DJ Drew isn’t even always music that people would typically dance to, but the Backer-goers find a way to make it work.
Ever cut a rug to the tune of “Africa” by Toto? What about “Calling Baton Rouge” by the Oak Ridge Boys? Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”? If you’ve been to the Backer, you have danced to all of those, and you had a great time doing it. In fact, you danced the night away until closing time, just before 3 am, when the official nightly Backer closing ritual occurs. Another side note: if you leave before close, you have not actually experienced the Backer and I am ashamed of you for not sticking around for the night’s culmination and main event.
After last call, with just minutes remaining until the lights are flipped on and everyone is herded into the streets of South Bend to wander to Five Guys or find an available taxi, the Backer closing playlist begins. It starts with “Proud To Be An American” by Lee Greenwood, as everyone in the bar puts their arms around each other in various circles of friends and strangers alike, singing the song with vigor and lots of eyes-closed-while-slowly-pumping-your-fist moments. Then, after that incredible showcase of patriotism, the Notre Dame fight song is played, and everyone claps along and sings it as if the Irish just beat Michigan 37-0. Finally, Frankie Valli’s melodious voice rings throughout the establishment as the Four Seasons’ “December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” plays in full, with the Backer-goers getting in their last dance moves and happily/sweatily greeting the end of the night, satisfied and probably intoxicated. This three-song finale happens every single night, and it’s always stupendous. You’ll understand what I mean when you experience it.
So, if you want to have a great evening out and don’t care too much about the shoes you’re wearing or what you will smell like afterward, go to the Backer. Let loose, have a good time, and make sure you find someone – anyone – to sing longingly to as “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston moves your body in ways you’ve never considered moving in public. It will be worth it, and it will be a memory you cherish forever.
Oh, and one final note: The Backer is the only bar you’re going to see Hank from Breaking Bad finish off the fight song like a champ. #Backer4Lyfe
Next: Spring Into It