On a crisp winter night in Berkeley, off the streets of Eighth and Gilman, bodies radiate warmth inside a concert venue, booming with the sweet sounds of indie pop and rock. The Bay Area band Small Crush came home to headline a sold-out show at Gilman Street on Feb. 25.
With openers Gumby’s Junk, Career Woman and LoserLees kicking off the night, 924 Gilman was never at a halt of constant entertainment. The historic venue has housed many famous names in entertainment, including Bad Religion and Green Day.
Within four walls heavily stickered and painted from floor to ceiling, the members of Small Crush — lead singer Logan Hammon, guitarist Jackson Felton, drummer Allen Moreno and bassist Joey “Reto” Chavez — took the stage.
“What’s up Berkeley?” Logan asked in her distinctly angelic voice as the first notes of their song “Scary” began. She was met with screams and cheers.
She looked luminous under the lights of the stage, in a denim overall dress, tattoos poking out from under short, black cap sleeves. Hair in braids, her overall aesthetic is matched by the lyrics of their songs, which she writes, and the cover art for their albums, which she creates.
The band launched into their set with tracks like “B-Song,” “Snake Eyes,” “You Suck,” “Mail Truck” and “All I Need,” among others. Their sound is dreamily indie, so delightfully playful, listeners fall into a trance comparable to floating on a cloud.
Jackson likened their sound to a few others. “The overall vibe for the project is kind of just like female-driven indie-rock or female-led indie-rock,” he commented. “Like Frankie Cosmos or Snail Mail or Beach Bunny.”
The members of Small Crush began in a pop-punk band they dare not name but left to create something of their own. Throughout high school, the original band members — Logan, Jackson and the previous bass player, Thomas “Tommy” DeBourbon — took gigs as they came, meeting Allen through mutual friends and Joey through Allen.
“Joey’s a legend,” Allen said in an interview for the New University.
Although they’d been playing together for a long time, the Gilman street show was Joey’s official Small Crush debut.
When Allen first auditioned for the band, he was intimidated, having gone to high school with Logan.
“I remember thinking in high school [Logan] was so cool, but I didn’t want to talk to her because she was, like, too cool,” he recalled. “I was honored to be there, and I remember… we hit it off so well. I think there’s just really good chemistry and everything felt right.”
The band derives its sound from its do-it-yourself vibe, as Allen puts it. The members produce, promote and manage everything themselves, which keeps them down-to-earth and relatable. Many of their songs circle around themes of growing up and grappling with the harsh realities of life, often featuring lovesick or even self-deprecating lyrics.
“We’re not trying to hide nothing,” Allen said. “I know I’ve had people tell me before, like ‘Oh, so what does Small Crush mean? Like what are the lyrics really about?’ And I’m just like, ‘Dude, like, I don’t think it’s that serious…’ I think that we’re just doing it because, as Joey would say, ‘It’s just shit to make your ears feel good.’”
Small Crush’s return to the Bay was long-awaited. They’d sold out Gilman on many occasions prior, but they hadn’t been back in three years. Having been on the road touring for the past year, the band members reveled in the communal support of their hometown.
“Coming back was so refreshing because everyone knows the lyrics this time, like, you’re playing for your actual fans,” Allen said.
At the Gilman Street show, merch booths for each of the bands took up the left side of the room. One of the vendors, an artist who goes by Dova, was selling one-of-one air-brushed pieces for Small Crush. As a friend of Joey’s, the partnership happened organically.
“I just noticed how cool the DIY and underground community is… and I just found my niche through making clothes and airbrushing,” they said.
Encouraged by music and art in the Bay Area, Dova wanted to become a part of it.
“It felt good to know that the scene still existed… after all these years people still are there supporting us and screaming the lyrics,” Jackson added.
On stage, Logan remarked, “After being around the country, you realize there’s really no place like home,” vehemently expressing her gratitude to the crowd for the first of many times that night.
Gilman Street gave the band a warmer welcome than they’d had in quite some time. Often playing sparser, more mellow shows in the Orange County and Los Angeles area, the Bay was ready to mosh to even their slowest tunes, climbing on one another’s shoulders and screaming their love for the band.
“Best night ever!” one fan shouted at the top of their lungs.
Buzzing with intensity and affection, the crowd never wavered in support, creating a magical night of bliss that couldn’t be matched outside of the Bay.
With their obvious enthusiasm, Jackson noted that his favorite song to perform is “Tummy Rumblin.”
“We kind of step it up live, and we do a more rocky version of it.” He wore socks — no shoes — on stage that night.
Joey ambled into the FaceTime call, exhausted from the night before, and he was introduced properly by his bandmates.“How’s the dynamic?” Allen asked rhetorically. “We’re all best friends.”
They explain that Logan is the only one who doesn’t live with them, but she has her own dedicated cabinet of food for the times she does come over.
Almost finished with their second album, Small Crush has much in store for their fans, hoping for a headline tour after its release.
“It’s kind of like our first album, but a little more alternative,” Jackson explained. “Our first album was very bare bones, straight-up indie rock, [but] this album is stepping it up a level, you know? It’s got a little more oomph to it.”
On behalf of Logan, Jackson said, “Music and magic forever.”
When the lights came back on at the end of the show, the crowd was not yet done with Small Crush. After some chanting and cheering, the members returned to the stage, grabbing their instruments.
“Okay, should we play two songs or three songs?” Logan asked, as if the crowd would not ask for infinitely more given the chance.
They performed a new song, followed by their most streamed song on Spotify “Chicken Noodle.” At just one minute in length, the song has amassed over 2 million streams.
“This is our for real, for real last song,” Logan announced, transitioning into “Transparency.”
The lyrics of this somewhat somber tune ask the essential Small Crush question they try to expose through their music. “If life’s full of feelings then why not feel them all? / If life’s full of beauty then why not see it all?”
Lillian Dunn is an Arts & Entertainment Staff Writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.