Requiem for a Heartbreaker

By Dagney C. Ernest | Nov 10, 2017
The late Tom Petty and his band the Heartbreakers will be celebrated Thursday night, Nov. 16, at Rockland’s Rock City Café.

Rockland — There will be a gathering at the Rock City Café Thursday, night, Nov. 16, to pay homage — and play music. The collaborative evening will be filled with the music of the late, great Tom Petty, who died last month on a day already overburdened with loss.

“We all felt Tom Petty’s unexpected passing,” said Drew Weber, who is organizing the one-night tribute that will begin at 6 p.m.

“We’ve all played Tom Petty tunes over the years in bands and open mics ...  I just felt his music has influenced many of us, and there are so many good songs!”

Weber said he started thinking about how people had put together tributes to the music of Prince and David Bowie after their deaths.

“We’ve lost so many the last couple of years, you could have one every month,” he said.

He talked about Petty and his music to Tom Ulichny, who runs the Midcoast Music Academy, where Weber teaches drums and percussion.

“Really, all my musician friends were bummed that we’d lost Tom Petty. We’d all had some experience with a particular song having an influence or special meaning or an experience that happened playing one of his songs,” Weber said.

Then he began to think about Petty’s body of work, which first gained recognition with 1976’s self-titled “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers” and included hit after hit — and great songs that should have been — with his band, solo stints and his work as a member of The Traveling Wilburys, a short-lived supergroup that included Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne.

“There’s so much music, everybody could have a different favorite,” he said.

That boded well for an evening of performance that Weber said he just happened to be the one to organize because “we all felt the same way, anyone could have put it together.” While the event being a benefit of some sort was considered, Weber said he felt strongly it should be free.

“I know it’s a lot to ask of other musicians to donate their time and talent, but I didn’t feel right about taking money for something like this,” he said.

That didn’t hold anyone back, as it turns out. Weber complied a list of Petty tunes and asked each email recipient to choose a few.

“There are so many good songs! Everybody said they still felt there were plenty to choose from; it’s not like ‘all the good ones’ were taken,” he said.

Woody Bryant will open the evening. Also performing will be Will Neils and the Midnight Ramblers and the Blind Albert Band. Ulichny and MCMA staff members will do one song, and Scott Sell will offer an acoustic number. Mid Life Crisis (MLC) will play, as well, led by K2 Music manager Mac Economy.

“He’s also bringing the PA and will run sound, maybe some lights, taking care of all of that for us,” said Weber. “And I’ll get up with some people I play in Right Track Band with.”

Weber said he will encourage performers to say a little something about the music they’ve chosen. He admitted he’d have a hard time naming a favorite among Petty’s many songs.

“They’re all such classic songs — “Even the Losers,” “A Woman in Love” – there are too many to pick,” he said.

Weber also said he would like to have included more musicians, but the time, space and plentiful songs will pack the evening as is. It will pack the Rock City stage, as well, especially at the end.

“We’ll have around 25 people playing! We’ll try to get as many on the stage for the last song as we can, trade vocals, that kind of thing,” Weber said.

The audience chairs are likely to be packed too, which also is part of the reason for the event.

“Because he’s an artist of influence and also because I’m a big supporter of live music, local music,” Weber said. “There are a lot of great musicians around here who put their passion and their time into playing their own songs and others'.”

The Tom Petty tribute is slated for 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Rock City Café, downtown at 316 Main St. Food and drink are available until closing.

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