Petty Fest celebrates at Showbox to benefit Sweet Relief

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Review by Brent Stecker | Photos by Jason Tang

Petty Fest

Some people are Dylan guys. Others are more into Springsteen. Me, I’m a Tom Petty guy.

It’s the reason I practically did a backflip when I heard Petty Fest was coming to the Showbox, and it did not disappoint.

Led by The Cabin Down Below Band, a group of ace hands that nailed nearly every nuance of Petty’s songs, Petty Fest Seattle featured countless musicians with names you’d recognize — including Jakob Dylan, The Dead Weather’s Alison Mosshart, and a pair of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members. The show, which sent all proceeds to Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, also included a handful of local favorites helping pay homage to the man and his Heartbreakers over a 28-song set.

It was a recipe for a whole bunch of moments that I won’t soon forget. Here are some of the best of the night:

“Learning To Fly” with Peter Quirk of The Cave Singers
This was the fourth song of the night and really seemed to perk the crowd up after a sleepy first few tunes. It was obvious Quirk was having a blast getting to sing some Petty — that could be said for a lot of people on this night — but the thing that stuck out to me was how much his voice sounded both like himself and like Petty. It had never occurred to me that Quirk could have been heavily influenced by Petty, but by god it sure seems like he is. Also kudos to Quirk for his sly wink to the crowd at the end of the song, presumably because he knew he nailed it.

“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” with John Van Deusen of The Lonely Forest
Van Deusen brought youthful enthusiasm to his take of probably Petty’s grooviest song, and as a result it was the first of the show to really get the crowd going. Then again, of course the audience members are gonna shout at the top of their lungs during “OH MY MY, OH HELL YES”, so it’s not like that was surprising. I mean, is there a better second verse in a song than this one? I surmise there is not.

Jakob Dylan (of The Wallflowers)

Jakob Dylan (of The Wallflowers)

“Stop Dragging My Heart Around” with Matt Sorum and Ace Harper
Sorum was the first Hall of Famer to grace the stage, but rather than sit at the kit like he did for Guns N’ Roses back in the day, he grabbed a guitar to play the Tom to his wife Harper’s Stevie. They definitely had the chemistry of two people who are romantically involved, and Sorum’s surprisingly good voice was only topped by his lady’s moxie and moves. The highlight was the story Sorum told beforehand, though, in which he explained that before his October wedding, Harper had “dumped (his) ass,” and he came crawling back to her (<–Petty reference, you guys). So, as he tells it, when he told her he wanted her back and to marry her, her response was “STOP DRAGGING MY HEART AROUND!”

“Rebels” with Jakob Dylan
Remember that time Bob Dylan’s son sang Tom Petty songs? TOTAL MINDF***!

“Yer So Bad” with Adam Busch and Danny Masterson of the TV show Men At Work
I can’t speak to how good the duo is on is TV (although I’ve seen plenty of Masterson’s work as Hyde on That ’70s Show), but they sure didn’t come off like just some dudes messing around. Busch, who handled vocals, showed some serious stage presence and was vocally on-point for one of Petty’s funnier (albeit bittersweet) songs. For his part, Masterson played acoustic guitar and seemed to be plenty proficient.

“Don’t Do Me Like That” with Butch Walker and Glenn Kotche of Wilco
First off, I love Wilco, so seeing Kotche playing some drums on something vastly different from his main job was a joy. I’m not super familiar with Walker, but he was definitely one of the bigger show-stealers because he could really rock out his voice on Petty’s vocals, which is no easy task because the man is pretty infamous for his laid-back singing style. Anyways, these dudes rocked the bridge unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I liked that.

Butch Walker

Butch Walker

 

“Don’t Come Around Here No More” with Noah Gundersen, Ruby Amanfu and Glenn Kotche (drums)
We all know Gundersen is an unrivaled talent, but he’s also smart and didn’t get caught trying to vamp too much on the melody. This was Kotche’s song, though, as he really stretched out his legs at the kit for the big outro jam.

“Honey Bee” with Ruby Amanfu
You may not know Amanfu’s name, but you’ve heard her — she sang on Jack White’s solo record Blunderbuss and toured with him extensively. And anybody who was at the Showbox will never forget this performance of my personal favorite Petty song, because good lord can she sing AND move. It was a religious experience, and if there were any middle school boys in attendance, they are now through puberty. I do have to dock a few points for the Cabin Down Below Band rhythm guitarist playing the main riff on a treble-heavy Fender Strat — dude, that riff needs heft. Give it the heavy! Also, poor Nikki Lane had to immediately follow this with the similarly bluesy “Saving Grace,” and talented and cute as she may be, there just was no chance to match Amanfu’s raw sexuality.

Ruby Amanfu

Ruby Amanfu

 

“Refugee” with Ayron Jones, Ace Harper, and Matt Sorum
Alright, I’ve been a little out of the loop and this was the first time I’ve seen Jones in person. Just… count me in. What this guy is doing is amazing and I love it. He had simply the best performance of the night, and “Refugee” was absolutely the right choice for him to play because the way those verse lyrics are set up just seemed to play right into his vocal style. That and holy shit what a guitar solo he played at the end of the song (which, yes, included some crowd surfing). I couldn’t help but think of Prince’s solo (you know, THAT SOLO) during the R&R HOF performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, because seriously it was that caliber of guitar playing.

Ayron Jones (of Ayron Jones and the Way)

Ayron Jones (of Ayron Jones and the Way)

 

“The Waiting” with Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards
This is a perfect song, Wennerstrom has the perfect voice to sing it, and she didn’t try to add anything to the song it didn’t need. Perfect. Just perfect.

“I Need To Know” with Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes
This is gonna sound weird, but Hammond played guitar and sang so furiously I got kind of a Devo vibe from this one. Just calling it like I see it.

Albert Hammond Jr. (of The Strokes)

Albert Hammond Jr. (of The Strokes)

 

“Running Down A Dream” with Butch Walker, Alison Mosshart of The Dead Weather/The Kills, and Matt Sorum (drums)
Walker played a 12-string Telecaster for the occasion, which is an obvious YES in my book, plus he broke a string and yet still nailed a searing solo during the furious instrumental outro. That dude is a born performer, you guys.

“You Wreck Me” with Ann Wilson of Heart and Matt Sorum
The surprise of the night was the queen of Seattle showing up near the end to belt a couple tunes, and, I mean, c’mon, she’s the greatest. By the way, I always get a kick out of how effortlessly she can change the gender of the narrator when she covers male-penned songs — this time she flipped the script to be “You’ll be the boy in corduroy pants/I’ll be the girl at the high school dance.” Simple yet effective.

“Free Fallin’” with Ann Wilson, Alison Mosshart, Ruby Amanfu, and Glenn Kotche (drums)
Everybody. In. The. House. Sang. Every. Word. Glorious.

Ann Wilson, Alison Mosshart, Ruby Amanfu

Ann Wilson, Alison Mosshart, Ruby Amanfu

 

“Handle With Care” (The Traveling Wilburys) with Butch Walker, Cory Chisel, and almost everybody else
Walker and Nashville singer Chisel traded the vocals on the legendary Wilburys hit, and in true finale style the stage was packed with nearly everybody who performed on the night. My favorite was seeing birthday boy Hammond somewhere in the back near the drums, not playing a note, just flashing a wide grin and taking it all in. There were a lot of people flashing grins like that after the show.

Petty Fest

Petty Fest

 

Setlist
“Cabin Down Below” with The Cabin Down Below Band
“You Don’t Know How It Feels” with Eric Pulido of Midlake
“You Got Lucky” with Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards
“Learning to Fly” with Peter Quirk of The Cave Singers
“It’s Good to Be King” with Cory Chisel
“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” with John Van Deusen of The Lonely Forest
“Time to Move On” with Adriel Denae and Ruby Amanfu
“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Matt Sorum and Ace Harper
“Rebels” with Jakob Dylan
“Wildflowers” with Matt Bishop of Hey Marseilles
“Yer So Bad” with Adam Busch and Danny Masterson of the TV show Men At Work
“Don’t Do Me Like That” with Butch Walker and Glenn Kotche of Wilco (drums)
“Don’t Come Around Here No More” with Noah Gundersen, Ruby Amanfu, and Glenn Kotche (drums)
“Swingin’” with Walking Papers
“Honey Bee” with Ruby Amanfu
“Saving Grace” with Nikki Lane
“Refugee” with Ayron Jones, Matt Sorum, and Ace Harper
“American Girl” with Jake Snider of Minus the Bear
“Breakdown” with Alison Mosshart of The Dead Weather/The Kills
“Listen to Her Heart” with Brendan Benson and Cory Chisel
“The Waiting” with Erika Wennerstrom
“I Need to Know” with Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes
“Even the Losers” with Butch Walker
“Running Down A Dream” with Butch Walker, Alison Mosshart, and Matt Sorum (drums)
“Won’t Back Down” with Jakob Dylan and Matt Sorum (drums)
“You Wreck Me” with Ann Wilson of Heart and Matt Sorum (drums)
“Free Fallin’” with Ann Wilson, Alison Mosshart, Ruby Amanfu, and Glenn Kotche (drums)
“Handle with Care” (The Traveling Wilburys) with Butch Walker, Cory Chisel, and almost everybody else

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Jason Tang

About Jason Tang

Jason Tang is a veteran music photographer who chronicles the Seattle music scene. He is currently the interim editor and publisher of Guerrilla Candy.