At 40, The Crepe Place is still cranking out delicious vittles …and rock stars
The Crepe Place is the indie rock equivalent of the machine that put stars on Sneetches’ bellies in the famous Dr. Seuss tale. Musicians walk into the Soquel Avenue restaurant in Santa Cruz as unknowns, and they leave as rising stars.
“It seems like everybody who has come up through the indie rock circuit in the past five years has come through here, with the exception of just a couple,” notes Adam Bergeron, who runs the restaurant with his longtime buddy Eric Gifford. The proprietor adds that he just got satellite radio in his car. Nodding in Gifford’s direction, he explains, “There’s this one station that he’s been telling me about for years that he calls ‘Crepe Place Radio’: bands that are really big right now that just played to a few people in here when they first started.”
“Local Natives is gigantic in the indie music world, and Local Natives played here on, like, three different Monday nights to crickets,” Gifford chimes in. “And if you look at the Outside Lands Festival, there’s five or six different acts that have played The Crepe Place.”
Some bands have even risen to fame in the interim between the booking of a Crepe Place gig and the time of the actual show. One example is the Lumineers, which honored its commitment to play the restaurant after blowing up, appearing on Late Night with David Letterman and playing the Hollywood Bowl. Another is Portugal the Man, which gigged at The Crepe Place a week before playing the aforementioned Outside Lands Festival. “Their parents flew down from Alaska,” Bergeron recalls. “It was one of those crazy, heat wave, 100-degree days. The front room gets really hot on those days anyway, and you put 100 kids in there, dancing around, and it gets so hot! Their poor parents were so miserable. We gave them seats and pointed fans at them, but it had to be 120 degrees in there … and humid.”
The Crepe Place has been regularly featuring live music since 2007, when Bergeron, Gifford and their friend Vincent Holguin took over proprietorship of the venue from Gary Keeley, who co-founded the venue with his wife Marlene in 1973. Bergeron, who owned the San Francisco nightclub 12 Galaxies at the time that Keeley handed him the keys, used his preexisting connections to book a slew of cred-building acts at the restaurant, including Vetiver, Chuck Prophet, Kelley Stoltz and Sean Hayes.
Musical entertainers initially performed on a stage in the venue’s outdoor garden, but the proprietors moved the music indoors in 2008 due to some hassles from a disgruntled neighbor. Concerts inside the building are up-close and personal—or, as Bergeron describes them, “somewhere between a house party and a show.” Some of the notable acts that have livened up the front room are Frank Black, Camper Van Beethoven, Pete Bernhard of The Devil Makes Three and Rhett Miller of the Old 97’s.
The Crepe Place’s history as a magic portal to musical stardom bodes well not only for the restaurant’s weekly performers, the funk trio 7 Come 11 and solo musician Rhan Wilson, but also for the local bands Harry & the Hit Men and Dan P and the Bricks, which will appear at the restaurant on Saturday, July 13 to celebrate the Santa Cruz institution’s 40th anniversary. And if a certain little birdie spoke true, the venue might even get a surprise visit from an established star the following week. But don’t ask us to name any names … Norah Jones, for instance.
The Crepe Place’s 40th anniversary party, featuring Harry & the Hit Men and Dan P and the Bricks, begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 13 at 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. No cover. For more information, call 429-6994.