As the local band Feed Me Jack set up, fans, friends and peers alike watched them tune their instruments, plug in their amps and clash the occasional drum. By the time they began playing, people were still squeezing in the door of the The Crepe Place, a local fixture of more than forty years that evolved into a Santa Cruz music and nightlife host seven years ago.

“There’s actually a really good scene in town,” said Crepe Place owner Adam Bergeron. “But what’s really good is the community at large supports the music. People come, and they come and they dance, and they’re not afraid to be into it.”

And dance they did. On Jan. 15, the Crepe Place, located down Soquel Avenue, hosted Feed Me Jack — a band of five UCSC students — and about 100 tightly packed patrons.

“Performing at the Crepe Place is awesome because it’s just like playing a house show. We’re eye level with the audience and the energy just bounces around in this warm and cozy environment,” said Feed Me Jack guitarist and vocalist Robert Ross. “Personally, it’s my favorite place in town to see live music.”

Photo by Katie Small.
Photo by Katie Small.

The Crepe Place was not always so musical. As the story goes, Bergeron worked at the restaurant for nine years during the ‘90s, then opened Twelve Galaxies, a hard rock and metal venue in San Francisco. After receiving an offer from the Keeley family, Crepe Place owners since 1973, Bergeron agreed to buy the restaurant. He left Twelve Galaxies and brought the local melding point everything he learned.

“It was already a long-beloved restaurant in Santa Cruz,” Bergeron said. “But then we expanded the bar — we made it twice the size — and the music thing was something I did anyway, so it became equal parts all those things.”

Despite Bergeron’s love and roots in metal and hard rock, he said the genre that best encapsulates the room is Americana — think Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen or Wilco.

“It makes the most sense here, and there are a lot of people in the town doing that,” Bergereon said. “There are a lot of people in general doing that, and there are a lot of people in that genre to whom this room is really appealing.”

Feed Me Jack are something else. Although that exact something is hard to place, genres like funk, blues and jazz are all parts of the equation. The band’s most distinguished feature is their technical prowess. They are wildly intricate, dancing between time signatures and genres and dancing in general. They are also masters of dynamics: explosive one moment, stopping on a dime, then segueing into something gentle, composed and pretty.

“I thought it was fantastic,” attendee Jason Davis said. “I was there for Feed Me Jack and they never disappoint. They give every venue they play an incredible energy and get you caught up in the music.”

Portugal. The Man, Frank Black from the Pixies, Sean Hayes, The Lumineers, Deertick, Justin Townes Earle, Chuck Prophet and local legends Camper Van Beethoven have also graced the venue.

Photo by Katie Small.
Photo by Katie Small.

The room’s peculiarities are part of what appeal such incendiary acts — there is no stage and the room is shaped awkwardly with a big pillar in the middle.

“Ostensibly, it’s all wrong,” Bergeron said. “But somehow, it’s really great: it sounds good, there’s a connection between audience member and band and there’s the color and feeling of the wood and all the little tchotchkes.”

The social junction is not quite like any other venue, bar or restaurant in the local area.

“It isn’t uncommon to be having a baby shower in the back garden, while there’s a heavy metal show in the front room at the same time,” Bergeron said. “Those things can coexist. It seems really bizarre — and in some ways it is — but it can all happen here.”