When the news of Tom Petty’s death came in early October, shock and heartbreak set in for people all around the world. Nothing can replace our love for Petty and his timeless music, but local musicians will come together Wednesday, Nov. 15, at Off Broadway for Twangfest Presents: Learning to Fly: A Tribute to Tom Petty in celebration of one of the greatest musicians of all time. The show will feature PettyCash Junction, the Sleepy Rubies, Brothers Lazaroff and many more. Check out our Q-and-A with Twangfest Vice-President Roy Kasten to learn more about the show.
How does the loss of Tom Petty affect the local music scene and how did it influence your decision to produce this show?
Petty’s death stunned everyone, and I know, just from the bands I see and talk to regularly, both at shows and online, that it cut as deeply as losing Prince or Bowie or Chuck Berry even. Petty has long been on my short list of artists deserving a full-blown tribute night. His passing gave such a night a special urgency. That said, it was important to wait long enough to let musicians and fans digest the news, to feel the loss, and then to feel ready to celebrate Tom and his amazing music again.
Why is the music of Tom Petty important to so many people?
Because it’s rock & roll — distilled to an exhilarating essence. His songs, and their creation through the Heartbreakers, one of the greatest bands ever, have this incredible capacity to make you feel like you know the singer, like you’ve known the song forever, and like you’re not alone in the world. His greatest songs are just so catchy, so exciting, and so moving — and very few records sound and feel so damn good in so many different ways than a great Tom Petty record.
How will this show celebrate the life of Tom Petty?
I’ve been producing tribute nights for over eight years now. (The first was in honor of Gram Parsons, back in 2008, which I helped produce along with fellow Twangfest organizer Scott Swartz, who came up with the idea to pay tribute to Gram.) I try to make each show special. That starts with finding the best local musicians possible, and pretty much letting them do the rest. This show will celebrate Tom Petty’s life and music because the 12-plus bands lined up love and know his music so well. Some of the bands perform his songs regularly; some have been listening to his records since they were teenagers. And I know the fans who will come out will sing and dance along to every song. That’s the best kind of celebration.
How and why did you choose the selection of performers for this show?
I started with St. Louis bands I was certain knew and loved Petty’s music, and then I tried to balance styles within the range of rock, pop and Americana that is at the core of Petty’s music. Some musicians I invited couldn’t make the date work; at the same time, I had so many requests to play the show, and I just couldn’t fit every band on the schedule. That said, and at no risk of overstatement, I think this is the single best lineup for any tribute night ever in St. Louis.
Will each performer/band sing just a few songs or will some perform more than others? Will they sit in with each other?
A few musicians will criss-cross, but each band will get its own set. With just a couple of exceptions, each band will play three songs.
What is the background of Twangfest? Does it normally produce events like these aside from the annual festival?
Twangfest was started 22 years ago by a bunch of music fans and musicians in St. Louis and around the country. We all met through an online discussion group called “Postcard 2,” which focused on roots music — country, blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll — broadly defined. Over years, Twangfest has evolved into a fully independent, volunteer-based, nonprofit music organization that produces events in St. Louis (and in Austin, Texas, for SXSW). Along with our big festival in June, we also produce a free-concert series at the Tower Grove Farmers Market, May through October, and also organize other events around town, including the occasional tribute night.