Back in the early days of COVID during the spring and early summer of 2020, you may remember that there weren’t any sports actively going on (as if any of us could forget that nightmare). As a website primarily focused on, ya know, Notre Dame Fighting Irish sports...that obviously meant we had quotas to hit and content to product without much new subject matter to fuel our work.
Thus, it was a pretty weird but also an oddly fun time when the One Foot Down staff — along with writers at any and all other sports sites — were scratching and clawing for topics to write about, getting really creative and putting out some really different stuff. I got to author stories about the best Backer bangers and ND basketball’s rivalry with referees, and even got to write a “preview” of a game that’d already occurred over a decade prior.
Along with those...interesting...articles that made it to publication, there are a number of other rough drafts and half-formed ideas that have since been abandoned in Chorus, the content management system we use here at SB Nation. Those drafts that haven’t been touched in 3+ years include a what’s-what of topical and weird ideas for stories I had at the time:
- “Fighting Irish Exotic: Who Would Be Notre Dame’s Tiger King?”
- An article I began researching in response to a friend-submitted question of “What was your favorite part of the game vs Michigan that took place on November 23, 1887?”
- “Building the Ultimate Notre Dame Athlete Heist Crew” (a Money Heist-themed piece)
- “So Gross They Rocked: Why the Mustard-Gold Notre Dame Hoops Uniforms Were The Absolute Best”
- “Notre Dame Football: What I’ll Miss About a ‘Normal’ Season” (the handful of bullet points I’d listed included the below 6 points)
- the Backer
- “Christening” a Hamm’s at a tailgate
- Playing John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt at a tailgate (it’s a fantastic drinking game — please DM me for details)
- Severely underpaying for a ticket at the last minute outside the stadium (not sure this is possible now with digital tix)
- High-fiving and hugging strangers in the stadium
- Making friends/enemies with opposing team fans
- “TBD Topic Pat Will Publish Sometime” (this article only had “fff” in the editor, meaning I never even came up with a single coherent thought to potentially expound on)
Fast-forward to this current time — the middle of the summer in the year 2023 of our Lord and Savior (Sam Hartman) — and I am looking for something fun and different to break up the doldrums of the off-season writing slog. I need to be inspired, and it needs to be weird and fun and ridiculous and maybe even a bit inappropriate. So, I began flipping back through those old drafts of mine in Chorus, and WOO BOY did I suddenly land on something I had forgotten about completely but now definitely feel needs to be finished:
“An Ode to Michiana’s Hottest Nightclub, Club Fever”
Is that the music of something weird and fun and ridiculous and maybe even a bit inappropriate I hear playing triumphantly?!?!?
Suddenly, everything made sense. Because I’m sure you all remember college, and how from week to week, most nights out with your friends went somewhat the same way, with certain nights spent at certain bars and typically going roughly the same, most of the time. To me, that’s been kind of the same as Notre Dame football for the last ~6 seasons. Sure, there have been some really bright spots, but it’s still been largely the same story each season — the Irish are very good, but they aren’t on the same level as the best of the best.
If you think of 2017-2023 like a week in college, then you can think of 2017-2022 as those nights of the week that just kind of always went the same way — fun, but predictably not epic. Let’s call them, for illustrative purposes, Friday through Wednesday.
But, 2023, as the 7th season since the rock-bottom year of 2016? Well, it clearly represents a Thursday night, which we all know is reserved for one life-changing, unpredictable, stupid, fun-as-hell, gross, pointless, memorable experience: FEVE.
It’s been 10 years since I last stepped foot in Club Fever, which was once lovingly referred to as “Michiana’s hottest nightclub” by the people courageous enough to rank the seemingly endless amount of hot nightclubs in Michiana. It’s also been over 5 years since Club Fever shut its doors for the final time, closing in the spring of 2018 while it was pending sale to someone who could never do it justice with whatever they’ve decided to do with it since.
Founded in 2005 by the great Dee Davis, “Feve” was a 3-floor, massive warehouse of a “club” with each of its floors totaling nearly 17,000 square feet in area. The space had always been something to behold, dating all the way back to its original launch as a JC Penney store in 1937. It attracted 26,000 people on an opening day that even included James and Cash Penney themselves at the grand opening.
The store remained there into the 1970s, when malls began to be built in South Bend and the department store no longer had a successful time existing downtown. Vogue Beauty College moved in next, and then after that it became a nightclub called Doc Weeds, which reportedly didn’t last very long. After Doc Weeds shuttered, the building was converted into “Meanwhile at the Disco,” a club that was open for several years before it became a country music dance hall called “Heartland.” Heartland lasted until ~2005, when Davis purchased the building at age 42 because he wanted to be a landlord (every boy’s dream).
Along with his purchase, Davis and some of his family members put in some work to deliver the wonderful décor and architecture we all came to know and love for the ~13 years of Club Fever’s operation. He laid 17,000 tiles down on the dance floor in order to cover Heartland’s massive Texas flag, and built all 6 bars by hand where future
18 21-23-year-olds would soon be ordering “Fuck Buckets” and “Adios Motherfuckers” and other sugary drinks that caused massive hangovers and had incredible names.
Other key architectural and design features included the 3rd floor windows that were originally from the Hancock Building in Chicago for some reason, and the fence built from farm gates originally designed to hold back 3,000-lb bulls, which ended up successfully maintaining the raucous outside line of kids anxiously waiting to show their real and/or fake IDs to the bouncers.
Oh, and who could forget the dance box in the middle of the dance floor of Feve, which was built from welded-together pieces of farm equipment bought at the same time as when Davis bought the gates he used for that line-fence outside? Davis is quoted in the above linked article as saying about the farm equipment dance box: “All these years, girls have been dancing in a cattle feeder.”
Just so moo-ving to hear that, you guys.
He named the club, of course, after the Little Willie John song “Fever,” and over its 13 years Club Fever promoted 196 concerts (including Snoop Dogg, Three Days Grace, Chevelle, Bret Michaels multiple times, Aaron Carter, Ted Nugent, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Seether, Puddle of Mudd multiple times, Skid Row, Hinder, and Breaking Benjamin, among others). Feve outlasted the 6 or 7 other nightclubs that had been around in downtown South Bend since the late ‘90s, a true testament to how beloved and successful it was as an integral institution in town.
Davis finally put the club on the market in 2014 for $1.79M, and as he waited for the right buyer, Feve continued to thrive, notably pulling in ~1300 people every Thursday night in 2015.
Finally, in 2018, Feve was set to shut down due to dwindling attendance while a sale was pending, and yet in one last hurrah, on the final Feve night ever, there were 1,120 attendees to see off the downtown South Bend staple. After that evening, Davis held a big sale of various furniture items and other things from the club called “Bizarre Bar Bazaar,” which has me asking all sorts of questions I don’t want the answers to in regards to what a couch or chair or stool from Feve might look/smell like, and how much I would’ve had to pay for one.
Needless to say, it was a rich and storied run for Feve — countless of us have spent hard-to-track amounts of time there on a Thursday evening in order to drink way too much, see everyone we know, dance like an idiot, try to make out with someone, try not to throw up, etc. Hell, some folks have apparently even gotten engaged there (kicking myself for not doing so myself).
It’s simply a magical, gross, loud, dark place with tons of opportunity for a weird, wacky night, and I think we can all use a bit more of that vibe right now.
Thus, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this summer I happened upon my “history of Feve” article draft from 3 years ago. Obviously part of the clear fate there is just that I needed to finish what I’d started in writing a quick history/homage to a wonderful thread of the collective South Bend/Notre Dame/St. Mary’s/Holy Cross tapestry, but also because Club Fever is a perfect inspiration and rallying cry for this upcoming 2023 football season.
You see, having a pretty-good season is fun and all, but having an exciting, wacky, weird, and entertaining season is even better. Just consider the retrospective I wrote during that weird COVID dead time about the 2014 ND football season, which ended up being pretty rough in terms of final record, but not before it was absolutely awesome in various ways. Similarly, I think Irish fans are due for a wildly memorable season — hopefully this time it will mean fewer losses and just more craziness, but things just seem set up for a super interesting year, considering the fairly consistent stretch we’ve otherwise enjoyed following the disaster that was 2016.
Three of the twelve games on the 2023 schedule come against teams expected to be top 10-15 opponents, and two of the twelve will be played against teams who’ve won national championships in the College Football Playoff era. 2 out of 12 is, of course, 16.67%, which isn’t too far off from the % of the week that is considered a Feve night, 14.3% (i.e. Thursday, unless you were brave enough to go to Feve on a normal/”townie” night any other day of the week).
A lot of the Irish squad pretty nicely represent pieces of the typical Feve experience as well. Joe Alt and Blake Fisher manning the tackle spots clearly makes them like a couple of seasoned Feve bouncers protecting Sam Hartman, who obviously represents the objective truth that there’s no better time for Feve than when you’re in your victory lap/final year of “eligibility” so to speak.
I know this especially because my buddy Prison Mike and I went to Feve on a Thursday of a game weekend the first fall after we’d graduated, and realized what a terrible mistake it was to come as alumni. Feve isn’t about going there forever as a mainstay in your adult life — it’s about taking advantage of the current opportunity and capitalizing on the “now,” which is exactly what the Irish are about to do with the best QB they’ve had since at least Jimmy Clausen, if not earlier.
Benjamin Morrison represents a non-senior who just turned 21 discovering what it means to soak up all that Feve has to offer, so that in his final year he can lead his friends in maximizing their experiences there.
Audric Estime no doubt embodies the spirit of someone getting up on the Feve stage or into that cattle feeder dance box/platform and just going nuts, inspiring the masses below.
And God knows there are several Irish players to whom I’d love to assign the nicknames “Fuck Bucket” and “Adios Motherfucker” with some top candidates including Jordan Botelho and Tobias Merriweather and Billy Schrauth and Jaylen Sneed, if one or many of them can step up and be a sweet but powerful player for ND this year.
The moral of the story here is that it’s time for Irish fans to embrace the insane and unpredictable and let the magic of Feve take them for one final ride here on the 5th anniversary of its passing — let’s all gather in that metaphorical Feve basement with literally everyone we know and just have the time of our lives watching Marcus Freeman’s 2nd team surprise us in a number of ways and maybe even put together a Playoff run amidst all the chaos.
I still vividly remember a December 2012 Feve night, right after the Irish had officially been given a bid to the BCS National Championship game. Dee Davis’s establishment offered free cover for anyone wearing Irish gear, they passed out free champagne for a toast near the end of the night, and some of us were fortunate enough to have learned during the pregame that we’d won the student ticket lottery and would have a relatively affordable seat to watch that fun as hell team compete for a national championship (choosing to not remember how that went, of course). It was simply a wonderful, happy, off-the-wall evening with all my favorite people in one of the greatest places on earth.
Why can’t we adopt that same energy for massive home games against Ohio State and USC?? Why can’t we all bring the noise in the same way we might on a Club Feve dance platform or when trying to get the bartender’s attention for 20 minutes straight? Let’s bump into strangers, spill some drinks, struggle to walk straight, and have ourselves a season, you guys.
So, heading into the 2023 season, I invite you all to join me in dedicating this year to our beloved fallen nightclub friend, Club Fever. This one’s for you, Dee Davis!!! LET’S GO GET IT.