Whether you are a Tom Petty fan or not, there is no denying the countless amount of hits that man has written. From pop rock anthems, to sad love songs, Petty has been the soundtrack to many Friday nights and long drives home for years, ever since he hit the scene in 1976 with the Heartbreakers. As time has gone by, his songs have remained influential to young songwriters trying to create that simple feel good rock song that will stay in hearts forever.

Best Fest curated Petty Fest, with some of the most formidable young artists, veterans, and celebrities taking the stage at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium in late February, to honor the man they admire so much. It was only fitting that the SF version of Petty Fest took place at the Fillmore, given the epic residencies Petty and the Heartbreakers held there back in 97 and 99. 100% of the proceeds of the night were given to Sweet Relief, which provides health care for musicians.

The house band for the night was the Cabin Down Below Band featuring Austin Scaggs, Alex Levy (pictured above), and Matt Romano, who opened the show with, what else but, a nice version of Cabin Down Below off of Petty's Rick Rubin produced “Wildflowers” record.

After Har Mar Superstar (pictured above) kicked off the first guest appearance with a few hand stances on one of Petty's best hits Don't Do Me Like That, the next act that got the crowd howling was Danny Masterson (That 70's Show, Men at Work) coming out to play guitar on Into the Great Wide Open with his co-star Adam Busch (Men at Work).

The best performance by an actor however goes to the surprise appearance by Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite, Blades of Glory), who did a karaoke like version of Don't Come Around Here No More including the one and only stage dive of the night. The runner up goes to Father Guido Sarducci (SNL, pictured below) who cracked jokes during his own version of Petty's lesser known Southern Accents while putting his own accent on the song.

After Sarducci performed, you had a feeling that this night was your chance to hear some of the deeper cuts from Petty's catalog that he rarely plays live anymore. That continued to hold true, as Ethan Miller from Howlin' Rain performed like a young and wild Petty on 1977's Fooled Again, and Isaiah Mitchell sleighed Mike Campbell's guitar solo.

The female acts of the night were definitely holding their own, as Aimee Mann (pictured above) came out and performed You Don't Know How It Feels and Even The Losers. The up and comer Jenny O. came out and performed a soulful version of Time To Move On, before later jumping on stage to back up Catherine Pierce on Mary Jane's Last Dance.

Local gal Nicki Bluhm (pictured above) along with her husband Tim Bluhm (The Mother Hips) gave one of the best performances of the night on You Got Lucky as Nicki strutted around the stage in her 70's inspired high wasted green pants showing off a voice of her own that could soon be a household name.

The local boys, Two Gallants, were the one act of the night to play without the Cabin Down Below Band and create their own unique acoustic version of Petty's A Thing About You. This was the one performance that deserved to be recorded on tape, as it was so much different from the original. Adam Stephens (pictured above) took his time with the lyrics, showcasing the song in a way that felt almost better than Petty's version.

One of the biggest surprises of the night was when Lucinda Williams came out, and performed a mumbled version of Rebels. It was apparent after the song had ended that she was very disappointed with her timing on the lyrics as she discussed what went wrong with guitarist Alex Levy for about 4 minutes by the drum kit before Boz Scaggs was brought on stage to join them.

Scaggs helped Williams perform her own Change The Locks which Petty covered on the Ed Burns “She's The One” soundtrack. It was hard not to notice Williams reading the lyrics on the monitor to her own song. Scaggs stayed on for two more including a duet with his son Austin on You Wreck Me, and Honey Bee, the first song of the night to feature Nick Valensi of the Strokes on lead vocals and guitar.

Valensi (pictured above) was in our top three performances of the night, as he portrayed the singing of Petty, and the guitar playing of Mike Campbell at the same time. Matt Sorum (Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver) who had performed earlier in the night with his fiance Ace Harper, joined the band on drums for the last two songs with Valensi, showing why he is in the Rock Hall of Fame. Valensi closed out the set with American Girl, which has an intro that as you may know, sounds almost exactly the same as The Strokes first hit, Last Night. You quickly forgot about that fact as Valensi's guitar playing got every mom in the audience to put a pause on their awkward clap and smile dance, and just shake their ass.

The night ended with a final performance of none other than Free Fallin' by all of the performers. Looking at the stage and seeing all of that talent in San Francisco was reminiscent of The Band's Last Waltz. As a concert lover, you are always searching for that one unique show that you won't see again. The organizers of the Best Fest are working to provide just that, and donate money to a good cause at the same time. We can't wait to see what they will come up with next.


Brownie points go out to Paul Sprangers of Free Energy, who after being introduced as Paul of Free People, got the crowd moving with Learning to Fly and his signature high kicks. Sprangers spoke on stage the next night at his own band's Noise Pop Festival show, about how performing at Petty Fest changed his life. Additional highlights included watching Nick Valensi and Jack Dischel (The Sheepdogs) smoke a joint by the drum kit during Free Fallin' instead of singing along.

Chuck Prophet also seriously impressed us performing Swingin', the only cut played off of Tom Petty's “breakup” album Echo. (words by: Michael "You Built A Time Machine Out Of A Delorean" Courtney) (Photos By: Andrew "Castro" Seishas) Cheers, FYM. They Live!


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