Monday October 2nd was a shitty day. As the body count was racking up from pyscho-guy shooting up Vegas for no apparent reason, word broke that Tom Petty had passed away unexpectedly. I had been out running some errands when I heard the news so I cancelled whatever I had been planning on doing and ended up sipping a beer with Dan Cochran at his Four String Taproom. We just sorta sat there listening to Tom Petty.
Anyway, since I play the Four String Taproom every Thursday, I figured it made sense to a do a set of Tom Petty songs. Soon word got out and people started lining up to join me. Nobody was asked, it was an all-volunteer force. It all happened very organically and very quickly. Ricki C. stage-managed the whole thing. There were no advertisements and there was no cover charge. You won't find any footage online as we respectfully asked folks to keep the phones away and stay in the moment. It was one of the best nights I ever had playing music. It was one long Tom Patty sing-along. The only thing missing was a campfire. Below is the set-list and players to the best of my memory.
Colin Gawel - The Wild One Forever / WildFlowers (solo) w/ Jim Johnson on drums and Rick Kinsinger on guitar: Change of Heart / Listen to Her Heart / Rebels / Straight into Darkness / The Waiting
Dave Masica - Walls (Colin on Drums, Rick on Guitar) / Shadow of a Doubt (Jim - drums) / Angel Dream / Southern Accents
Brian Clash - Century City
John Estep - You Wreck Me / Sea of Heartbreak (Herb Schupp on drums) / Kings Highway
Patrick Buzzard - Yer So Bad / Learning to Fly / Into the Great Wide Open
Dan Orr Project - Breakdown / Don't Do Me Like That / American Girl
John Estep & Everybody - I Won't Back Down / Mary Jane's Last Dance
Also a couple of my favorite Tom Petty tributes: the first by Tom's contemporary, the great Dan Baird. (I snagged from his Facebook page. reproduced without his permission as they say.....)
For me, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were a rock and roll band that came onto the scene when the pigeon hole genres were taking over. Punk rock, new wave, heavy, hard, prog, glam, etc. There were a bunch of em. Not that they were at all bad. Some great bands came out of those rebranding and fashion trends. I was going along with the times and trying to find music I related to inside those brands, but something was missing for me.
And here comes this rock and roll band that doesn't apologize for being just that. 2 guitars, B3, piano, bass and drums. Sing along choruses, tight punchy songs, great simple arrangements played by a gang of mo-fos on each instrument and a shaman/believer for a front man and songwriter disguised as an everyman.
They'd picked up rock and roll and placed it onto a trajectory that seemed like the simplicity of what they were reintroducing had never stopped. It had. Was very close to complete dismissal. Their whole "We just don't need anything new, other than more great songs" was a bold move in the face of the change. Obviously it struck a chord with me.
Yes they dabbled in new sounds after a few years, but it somehow sounded organic inside the song. Acoustic ballads got more common, but it felt right because of the conviction and honesty of both band and singer (didn't hurt that those ballads contained some of Tom's finest lyric either).
The live shows could have been a greatest hits for 2 hours. They weren't. Great covers, older obscure numbers, new songs. To me, his North Star might have gotten hidden behind the clouds now and then, but when they cleared, look out, shit was back on.
Thank you for showing the way to work inside a traditional medium and not sacrifice integrity, heart and soul.
A rock and roller of the highest order to the end.
I was lucky enough to catch Tom and The Heartbreakers on the last tour. I was sort of leaving it up to fate when at the last minute I got an invite. As I was watching the show I thought to myself I should have brought my son Owen to this show. He has seen Springsteen, The Who, The Stones, AC/DC, Cheap Trick, KISS, Aerosmith, Foo Fighters and Green Day. For some reason I didn't feel it necessary to bring him to Tom Petty and it was a parenting fail. It is/was easy to take Tom Petty for granted. Tom Petty never demanded attention. He didn't need to. He was focused on earning your respect. Well done. RIP Tom Petty
Colin Gawel plays in Watershed and fronts The League Bowlers. He founded Pencilstorm and wrote this at Colin's Coffee in between serving customers.