10 November 2010

Petty Fest 2010

petty fest 2010 from Meghan Farrell on Vimeo.

This year's concert was unbelievable-- definitely one of the best Dylan/Petty Fests I have ever attended!

Read my interview with Austin Scaggs of Rolling Stone and Matt Romano (Two-thirds of the Cabin Down Below Band) on the OC Blog HERE.

UNCUT Version Below:

Meghan Farrell: I have been going to Dylan and Petty Fests for almost 5 years now... How many years have they actually been happening?
Austin Scaggs: This is our third year for Petty Fest, and I think our seventh or eighth time doing Dylan Fest.

MF: Can you talk a little about how and why they were started?
AS: Well, I started working at Rolling Stone magazine in 1999. I remember going to the Christmas party, it was at the Limelight, and someone from Rolling Stone had hired this swing band Cherry Poppin Daddies to play. I thought, “how fucking lame is this?” so, unlike most things in life that I complain about, I actually did something about it. The next year I assembled a band of a few guys and gals that worked at RS, but padded it out with ringers-- – people I knew who were really killer musicians. We played cover songs that night (that year's party was at the Roxy), and it was just awesome… I think I had the most fun playing the Dylan stuff, so that sparked the idea to have a Dylan Fest every year, around the time of his birthday. So the first one I put together was at this shithole dive bar called Manitoba’s on Avenue B. We packed the place with about 13 people. It was so much fun. Those were the humble beginnings. Then we played some other basement rathole on Avenue B called Rehab, I think, and then the Mercury Lounge... and we’ve sold out every show every time…

MF: As the years go by, how would you say they have changed and evolved? What were the first Dylan/Petty fests like?
AS: Well, the first ones were at tiny bars, and I’d say in the last few years we’ve put together a band that can handle all this stuff. Matt Romano on drums, Alex Levy, my friend who works at Epic but plays guitar better than any of the dudes in bands on the label, and myself on bass. We’ve been the core trio.
Obviously, since the beginning, we’ve tried to recruit our friends to come play with us. The first person that signed on was Adam Green, who is a friend of ours and a real musical genius in my opinion. From there the ball started rolling. We got guys from the Strokes in there early on, and guys we knew from Mooney Suzuki, the Killers, the Black Keys, Sean Lennon, Norah Jones, Binki Shapiro of Little Joy, and then Will Forte and Jason Sudeikis of Saturday Night Live.

MF: What is the process like, putting these shows together? How early do you start planning?
AS: A few months prior to the show, Alex and I sit down and think about set lists: about songs we’ve never done and how we could outdo ourselves from the previous year. We also think about who should sing what, and how we can make it work for each musician. This year I really wanted Norah Jones to sing “Just Like A Woman” at Dylan Fest. She was up for it. We worked it up in A [key] instead of E, and she fucking killed it. I literally play bass at two shows a year. My job keeps me busy, and hustling for gigs is the worst. So to get to stand up there and play bass behind her is like a goddam dream come true. She unreal. So I made sure to get a duet with her at Petty Fest.

MF: Do you guys reach out to get other musicians involved? Or do these musicians come to you?
AS: All the guys in the band try to recruit. I don’t think anyone’s ever come up to us and said they WANTED to play with us. Actually, Regina Spektor was at this year's Petty Fest and insisted on being a part of the show next year. It’s hard to explain to people what these shows are like. Sometimes it may might sound as if they’re hastily thrown together, or like it's some big wet sloppy jam session. But that ain’t the case. Our band is tight as shit, so once the musicians play with us, and see the vibe at the shows, they’re way into it.

MF: How do you decide on a set list, and who sings what? What made this year's set list special?
AS: We plan the sets pretty meticulously. With Dylan there are so many amazing songs – over a thousand probably – so narrowing them down is a nightmare. We never want the sets to be self-indulgent. We want the majority of people to recognize the tune or sing along. That said, I have been known to throw in a sick version of my favorite Dylan song, “She’s Your Lover Now.” That’s the great thing about Petty-- everybody knows those hits. It’s amazing to hear everyone sing along, and get really stoked when we play their favorite Petty song.

MF: Your first memory of hearing a Petty Song:
AS: I have no idea. Sorry. I can’t even remember what happened two weeks ago.

MF: Favorite Petty video and why:
AS: Don’t Come Around Here No More.
Matt Romano: Favorite video, not sure if it counts-- but the Peter Bogdanovich documentary "Runnin' Down a Dream" is a must see for any Petty fan. If you're not too familiar with him, don't let the 4 hour run time scare you. You could easily watch more.

MF: Kind of corny, and perhaps a silly question to ask (and I myself could answer)-- but why Tom Petty?
AS: Because both chicks and dudes worship Tom Petty. That’s a rare feat. Introducing a Petty Fest into our year was actually my wife’s idea.

MF: Anything else?
AS: We just love to play, so even going to rehearsals is like a dream come true. We take over the Strokes' rehearsal space on 8th Ave. (and we thank them so much for that!), smoke tons of cigarettes... and pass around a bottle of Jameson, blow out our eardrums most of the time, and just freak out. Norah Jones came to one of those rehearsals, and sang for a few hours, and worked out harmonies, and drank Patron from the bottle with us…. Also, Caleb Followill from the Kings came by and we got drunk and he sang American Girl, Free Fallin, You Don’t Know How It Feels and a bunch of other stuff. He sounded amazing. Caleb couldn’t make it to the show this year, the Kings had to be in England, but he promised to come next year.
My favorite memory of the show this year was when some belligerent asswipe threw a vodka cranberry and hit Sammy James, Jr. from the Mooney Suzuki right in the side of his head. Sammy simply said, “Don’t hate me cuz I’m beautiful." We has the asshole thrown out and just launched straight into Jammin’ Me. And Sammy crushed the solo.
Also, for this year's Petty Fest, we got to do Don’t Come Around Here No More for the first time. Norah Jones, Catherine Pierce and Nicole Atkins sang backup. I guarantee you: there is no hotter and more talented trio of backup singers anywhere in the world.
MR: Our first Petty Fest at the Mercury Lounge has always been in my top five most fun moments I've had on stage... Until this year's. Everything just got bumped. This year's show was incredible.

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