The Petty Party ::: photo by Abbey Simmons
One of Seattle’s best live bands is a Tom Petty cover band. Seriously. I’d thought so the last three times I’d seen The Petty Party, but I’d been drinking. A lot. But after last night’s strictly one-Rainier viewing, I can tell you without hesitation or whiskey ears: The Petty Party, the Kevin Large led local all-star Tom Petty cover band, is one of Seattle’s best live bands. And for pound-for-pound entertainment value, I’d put them against just about every act in Seattle.
And that’s because the Petty Party is more than the presumed shtick. In fact, what makes them so delightful (as pointed out by City Arts) is that they’re not. Kevin Large loves Tom Petty, unironically. And so do the talented musicians who back Large, including arguably the city’s finest keyboard player in Ty Bailie and one of its best electric guitarists in Ryan Leyva of the Chasers. If the Heartbreakers ever called it quits and Mr. Petty needed a backing band, these are the guys to call. And then of course, there’s Large himself, who does Petty better than Petty these days. Large transforms from a painfully nervous singer-songwriter who as Widower wears his insecurities on his sleeve right next to his heart, to a confident rock star. Singing the songs of Petty, Large performs – playing to the crowd, fist pumping and delivering line after line with serious rock’n'roll swagger.
Performing to a packed Comet last night, Large and the Petty Party incited an honest to god, full-on dance party. The Comet’s wood floor bowed and swayed as a Saturday-sized crowd sang and bounced along to every song with unabashed pleasure and intensity rarely seen outside of very intoxicated karaoke. And perhaps that’s what was most amazing for me to watch, here on the corner of Pike & Pretentiousness, where you normally couldn’t pay a room full of 20 and 30-something Capitol Hill dwellers $6 to admit they knew Tom Petty had written 14 songs, you had a packed room that had paid to delight in the fact they knew every word to those 14 songs. There was nothing bashful or guilty pleasure about the night, these were people in the throes of experiencing something they loved, genuinely.
Now that’s not to say, it wasn’t a night of nostalgia. It absolutely was. Directly in front of me two sisters acted out dance routines which I could only imagine hadn’t been performed since the mid-90s in some suburban living room, to every single song. About every 30 seconds they’d lean into each other, almost nose-to-nose with gigantic grins on their faces, animatedly mouthing the words. Its a scene that took me back to my ’80s and ’90s childhood, when Tom Petty was everywhere, on the TV, on the radio, on the tape deck … if you were alive then, these are songs you know by heart whether you’re willing to admit it or not. And the crowd at The Comet was more than willing to admit it. They wanted to shout it, fists pumping in the air, dancing with grins, mouthing “oh my god!” to friends and strangers, jumping up and down with glee when the chords would start to a new, but always familiar hit. It was a show where everyone knew the words to the songs — from the 20-somethings who weren’t born when “Breakdown” was released to the 60-something year old standing next to me, uttering in disbelief “Damnit this is good. This is like a fucking time warp. Damn! They! Are! Good!”
And they are. If you’re not ashamed to admit you know and like a Tom Petty song or two, if you like a band that sounds good drinking cheap beer and whiskey to, if you want to see a set of hits performed, well in the smallest room you’ll ever experience them, or if you want to go to a show where no one’s ashamed to dance and sing along, I suggest you keep your eye on The Petty Party.