I had the pleasure of attending Petty Fest (sponsored by Jameson, king of alcohols) on Wednesday, which, if you don’t know, is a ridiculous and awesome thing; a whole host of bands and musicians come together to cover Tom Petty songs, and it’s kind of incredible. (Another incredible thing is that 100% of Petty Fest 2012 ticket sale proceeds go toward the charity Sweet Relief Musicians Fund to help struggling musicians, and I’m all about that.)
I arrived late to Webster Hall because I was cramming eight thousand gallons of toasted hazelnut guacamole into my face at Rosa Mexicano down the road. In retrospect, I regret this on a number of levels; first, I’m sure I gained a ton of avocado-weight, and second, as soon as I arrived I was told, “You just missed Cyndi Lauper.” (Those are the worst five words that anyone could ever utter, by the way.) She was a surprise guest, and definitely someone I’d have put down the tortilla chips to see live. “GODDDDDDDDDD dammit,” I said to no one in particular, and then made my way upstairs. Apparently I should’ve been looking a little harder as I passed the backstage area during my ascent, because Andrew WK (one of the participating performers) was allegedly in a mildly off-putting zen state, and had been sitting staring into space, unmoving, for about an hour. Personally that’s something I’d have liked to see, but alas.
The place was packed to the gills, but I was able to navigate my way over to a good vantage point by the balcony and stayed there for the rest of the night. From said vantage point, I had a great view of the Cabin Down Below Band, who backed the many different combinations of singers and musicians present that evening. For instance, Fred Armisen played drums, John McEnroe (!!!) played guitar, and Father John Misty (whose NYC shows were COMPLETELY sold out the whole week) tore it up on vocals. Other musical guests I was obsessed with included Karen Elson, Alia Shawkat, Har Mar Superstar, Albert Hammond Jr. (AND Fab Moretti), Delta Spirit and Caveman, to name a few.
If you have a favorite Tom Petty song, I can pretty much guarantee they played it Wednesday night; as someone who’s been through an I-am-only-going-to-listen-to-Tom-Petty-forever phase or two, I was overjoyed to hear classics like “Learning To Fly,” “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin'” and “American Girl.” You’re probably going, “WELL OBVIOUSLY, THOSE ARE SO PREDICTABLE, MEGAN.” Yes, but they are predictable for a reason, and that reason is THEY ARE SO GOOD. And, judging by the crowd’s response, I was not alone in my Petty euphoria; the entire balcony was shaking from all the foot stomping insanity.
Now, all this being said, before attending Petty Fest I wasn’t fully convinced that it would be worth it; I’m certainly a Tom Petty fan, but usually that’s confined to singing bad renditions of “Refugee” in the privacy of my own home. Having gone to it, though, I can tell you that it was 110% WORTH IT. Part celebration and part amazing concert, it was really just the best, most fun experience; the entire thing sort of felt like the end of a really good SNL episode. In that sense, then, this edition of the Best Fest series REALLY lived up to its name, and I will jump at the chance to do it all over again next time. YOU SHOULD TOO. And now for some photos that I didn’t take but am allowed to use thanks to Getty Images and Jameson!