El Rey Theatre
Better Than: Tom Petty tribute bands that Johnny Depp aren't a part of.
It was a litany of crowd pleasers last night at Petty Fest, a celebration of the songbook of the SoCal shaman of laid back classic rock. The show was a storm of guitar solos and strange bedfellows as Sarah Silverman, the Eagles of Death Metal, Jenny O, Butch Walker, Harper Simon, Nicole Atkins, Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, the Kings of Leon's Jared Followill, Nick Valensi, Fabrizio Moretti, and Albert Hammond Jr. from the Strokes took the stage for a greatest hits show. Oh and Ke$ha and Johnny Depp (yes that is correct) performed too.
Hosted by Rolling Stone's Austin Scaggs (the son of Boz) and ex Epic Records and Rolling Stone exec Alex Levy, it seemed appropriate that the third installment of Petty Fest (the first two were in New York), would be held here, in a town that inspired many of his songs.
The night went something like this:
9:34pm: Petty Fest's Cabin Down Below collective, (led by Austin Scaggs, there appears to be, like, nine people in this band), are onstage playing “You Wreck Me.” I am up in the balcony wishing someone would just hand me a tambourine and invite me onstage already.
9:35pm: Justin Bartha (the guy from The Hangover who isn't Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis or Bradley Cooper) covers “Into the Great Wide Open.” It isn't great. Points for trying though! What a great song!
9:38pm: The Eagles of Death Metal take the stage. “I bet they're going to do 'Runnin' Down a Dream'” says a woman wearing a floppy hat. And they do.
9:41pm: The sound production isn't great and no one can hear the “Runnin' Down a Dream” guitar solo except for maybe the guy playing it, which is unfortunate, because it is a righteous F-ing guitar solo.
9:50pm: “If no one plays 'Zombie Zoo' then no one here is a real Tom Petty fan” declares a man at the Jameson-sponsored bar.
9:51pm: He and I drink some Jameson.
10:05pm: Sarah Silverman comes onstage wearing jorts and does a vaguely threatening rendition of “Don't Come Around Here No More.” She changes the words to include “fuck you” and something about vaginal herpes. The crowd cheers louder than they have so far all night.
10:09pm: Holy shit. There is a pile of free fried chicken and pulled pork sandwiches in the VIP area.
10:15pm: Singer Nicole Atkins comes onstage and announces that all of the money raised by the event is going to Sweet Relief, which is aiding in the Hurricane Sandy assistance effort. Then she does the Stevie Nicks part of “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” and it sounds legit. What a great song!
10:18pm: Why is no one eating this fried chicken? Is this fried chicken not actually for free?
10:23pm: Rodrigo Amarante from Little Joy and Matt Sorum from Guns 'n Roses and Velvet Revolver tear through “Refugee.” The crowd is becoming a bit more animated. It may or may not be all the Irish whiskey.
10:27pm: I eat a chicken leg. “Yes! It is on now!” yells a tall, bearded man standing next to me as he beelines towards the pile of meat.
10:34pm: Ryan Miller from Guster comes out and announces that “it's a lot of A-list and alpha energy” backstage, which seems reasonable as at any given point in the show there has been 8-10 men onstage. Then Miller plays “Wildflowers.” (What a great song!) “This is so Guster!” yells the tall bearded man as we stand next to each other, eating chicken and singing along. The whole affair is starting to feel more and more like a backyard BBQ.
10:40pm: All of the women in the audience look like models who live in Topanga Canyon.
10:42pm: Cory Chisel and Fabrizio Moretti do “You Don't Know How It Feels” (what a great song!) and then Patrick Carney from the Black Keys comes onstage and plays on Heartbreakers deep cut “Rock and Roll Style.”
10:45pm: In the most surreal moment of the evening, Johnny Depp comes out dressed like Davy Crockett with a blue guitar slung over his shoulder. And then Ke$ha comes onstage. An then the two of them play “Mary Jane's Last Dance” together while Patrick Carney drums along. Oh my my.
10:53pm: Ke$ha tweets “just got off stage w/ Johnny depp and patrick carney. wet dream? nope. REALMUTHAFUKKIN LIFE. #PettyFest” And this.
10:57pm: Johnny Depp is so into this, swaggering around the stage smoking a cigarillo and nailing the guitar solo in “It's Good to be King.”
11:11pm: Sounds issues have ceased and crowd engagement has reached full on singalong level during “American Girl.” Oh yeah. All right.
11:15pm: “Handle With Care!” Traveling Wilburys cover! Jeff Lynne co-wrote Full Moon Fever! What a great freaking song!
11:21pm: All the special guests, (except for Johnny Depp who has disappeared, probably in a cloud of smoke), return to the overcrowded stage and end the show, inevitably, joyously with “Free Fallin.” Sarah Silverman is so into it.
Personal Bias: The first time I ever got drunk was at a Tom Petty show in Milwaukee. And the first time I ever did mushrooms was at a Tom Petty show at Bonnaroo.
Overheard in the Crowd: “That was like a high school talent show at a high school that you were not cool enough to go to.”
Random Notebook Dump: Just me or is it impossible not to accidentally see everything happening in the men's bathroom while waiting in line for the women's bathroom at the El Rey?
Petty Fest continues tonight, 11/15, at the El Rey Theatre.
Set list below
You Wreck Me
Into the Great Wide Open
Learning to Fly
Running Down a Dream
Time to Move On
Don't Come Around Here No More
Stop Dragging My Heart Around
You Don't Know How It Feels
Anything That's Rock 'n' Roll
Mary Jane's Last Dance
Here Comes My Girl
It's Good to Be King
Need to Know
Handle With Care (Traveling Wilburys cover)