Soma cafe, Bloomington; photo from Seriouseats.com
I find it interesting/ amusing that if you were placed blindfolded in one of the main downtown cafes of Bloomington, you could likely tell which one it was by hearing 20 seconds of the soundtrack.
The Scholars Inn Bakehouse (on the square): something very mainstream. I’m here right now, and it’s been total classic hits of the corniest/ most old-school variety. Sam Cooke’s “She was Only 16,” something by Linda Ronstadt, a Steely Dan song, “Shake Your Booty,” Creedence, etc. Absolutely zero gestures towards contemporary hipness of any kind. It’s as if they’re aiming for visiting parents or even grandparents of IU students. I have to admit I’m finding the bland medley somewhat soothing and non-distracting as I read, however. (Right now, I kid you not, Seals and Crofts’ “Diamond Girl”!)
Soma. In the back room, attempted deathly, library-like silence that can become very uncomfortable if someone actually has the temerity to have a conversation. (I have to admit that I once participated in a conversation about Derrida (!) here as 15 people tried to work; it was kind of excruciating.) In the front room, something very- to ridiculously hip/hipster. Old Sonic Youth, say. Usually great stuff, although once in a while it feels to me as if they’re trying too hard, and/or the music just gets too grating and distracting, and I wish for just a touch of Bakehouse-style corniness/ background tuneage. A friend once characterized Soma’s vibe as: “are you punk rock enough for our soy latte?”
Starbucks. You know what they play there. Interestingly, this is likely to be much “hipper” than what you’ll be hearing in the (local, non-corporate) Bakehouse. Something NPR-approved, the Shins or Neko Case or some such, perhaps. (I generally like it.) In case you needed to be reminded of the degree to which corporate America has adopted the signifiers of hip.
The Pourhouse. This is perhaps the most interesting case. The Pourhouse soundtrack seems to me to tend to cluster in a Venn Diagram overlap where “hipster/ indie/ alternative” overlaps with Christian rock. Or, let’s say, indie-alt music that would be potentially palatable to someone who likes Christian rock. Sufjean Stevens would be an obvious example. I find the Pourhouse overall a very pleasant place to work, and it used to be my go-to cafe, but lately I’ve cut back so thoroughly on post-breakfast caffeine that I get through the afternoons on peppermint tea, which they do not stock.
I realize I’m forgetting Rachael’s Cafe. I haven’t been there for a while and I can’t recall offhand what they’re usually playing.
I tease out of love, cafes of Bloomington. Rock on!