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NOV
16
2 YEARS

Stars of Film, TV and Music Run Down a Dream at Petty Fest: Playing Heartbreaker for a Night

Johnny Depp, Justin Bartha, Sarah Silverman, members of The Strokes, Black Keys and Kings of Leon were among the bold-faced names who turned out to cover Tom Petty's hits for a charity event held at L.A.'s El Rey Theatre.

Sarah Silverman
Chris Godley

An all-star ensemble of film, TV and music stars -- Johnny Depp, Sarah Silverman and several members of The Strokes, among them -- gathered on Wednesday night and paid tribute to Tom Petty. The occasion: Petty Fest West at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, the first ever West Coast happening of the New York-based charity celebrity all-cover concert series.

Backed by the Cabin Down Below Band, primarily comprised of Rolling Stone staffer Austin Scaggs on bass, Alex Levy (ex Epic Records exec) on guitar and Matt Romano (Albert Hammond Jr. Band/Little Joy), the series of such "Fests" (there have also been Dylan Fests and Stones Fests) started as a community jam amongst friends and eventually began performing live with proceeds going to the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund.

The rotating ensembles rolled through 24 tracks that ran mostly like Petty's Greatest Hits album with a few deeper cuts peppered about. The group also included Pat Carney of The Black Keys, Jared Followill of Kings of Leon, Ke$ha, Butch Walker, actress Mae Whitman of Parenthood and Arrested Development, Ryan Miller of Guster, Brandon Pigg and Har Mar Superstar, among many others.

"We can't believe we came from New York to L.A. and we got this!" said an excited Scaggs towards the night's end.

Considering its star-power alone, it would be hard to consider the event anything but a resounding success. But at times, especially at its start, the show felt like little more than a cool kids karaoke night when some celebrities -- such as The Hangover and The New Normal's Justin Bartha who sang "Into the Great Wide Open" -- walked onstage only to sing off key and read the words out of a lyrics book.

PHOTOS: Mumford & Sons at The Hollywood Bowl

Nevertheless, the show eventually synced up and the band locked in with the impressive musical talent that graced the stage. Brian O'Connor and Dave Catching, bassist and guitarist of Eagles of Death Metal, lent their typically heavy tones and shredding to "Running Down a Dream," pounding the audience into the floor with each run of the song's lead riff. Producer and recording artist Butch Walker celebrated his 43rd birthday onstage with his Venice Vintage Motorcycle Club pals in the audience, all in cuts, tearing through "Breakdown" with a committed force. And, Silverman showed impressive vocal chops singing "Don't Come Around Here No More" in her instantly recognizable nasally cartoonish voice, dressed in daisy dukes and a brown top, ranting over the song's end such nonsense as, "Don't come here no more… And I don't appreciate it… Don't stop by… F--- you… Because I don't need your shit anymore."

Maybe it was the free sponsored Jameson Whiskey that did the trick but by the show's midway point, when Rodrigo Amarante of Little Joy and Guns 'N Roses drummer Matt Sorum jumped onstage for "I Won't Back Down," most cynicism had washed away in favor of a good time sing along. From there, the guests became increasingly more impressive too. Sorum's drumming was, by far, the best of the night, but adding The Strokes' Fabrizio Moretti and Carney to the mix, as well as Kings of Leon bassist Jared Followill, brought appreciated name-recognition to the rhythm section. Depp's appearance with Ke$ha, Nicole Atkins and Adriel Denae for "Mary Jane's Last Dance" came a little later and didn't disappoint, especially where the movie star's guitar skills were concerned.

REVIEW: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at Cal State Northridge

The night's true high point came towards its end when Nick Valensi of The Strokes led the band through "American Girl," his bandmate Moretti on the drums and Depp to his left. It was a truly powerful and showing that had the side wings filled with guest performers, watching, dancing and singing along, and eventually spilling onto the stage to join in for the chorus.

"The people who put it together are all my friends," said Valensi after the show. "They've done it in New York annually for several years now and I've always said no, until they brought it to L.A. I was happy to do it in L.A., I live here and I love it here."

"Did you see me?" said Whitman, "I stood on the side stage the entire time and partied for every song."

After talking to friends and Arrested Development cast-mates Michael Cera and Alia Shawkat who'd participated in New York, and with a recommendation from Har Mar Superstar, Whitman said she'd been excited to be involved with the night, adding, "And it was crazy and awesome."

Making plans to keep the birthday celebrations going, Walker stood outside the venue with his motorcycle club, their bikes all on the sidewalk in a line. "There's no judging tonight," he said, modestly. "When I found out they were going to be doing [the event] on the West Coast, in my neighborhood, it was a no-brainer to me. I was like, yeah, I know every Tom Petty song there is. I grew up on all of them. I'll be glad to come out and display some random acts of plagiarism -- for a good cause."

Set List:

Cabin Down Below
Don't Do Me Like That (feat. Har Mar Superstar)
The Waiting (feat. Harper Simon, Jenny O on harmonies)
Wreck Me (feat. Jesse Malin)
Into the Great Wide Open (feat. Justin Bartha)
Learning to Fly (feat Brandon Pigg, Mae Whitman)
Running Down A Dream (feat. Brian O'Connor and Dave Catching of Eagles of Death Metal, Austin Scaggs)
Time to Move On (feat. Jenny O)
Yer So Bad (feat. Adriel Denae)
Breakdown (feat. Butch Walker)
Don't Come Around Here No More (feat. Sarah Silverman)
Stop Draggin' My Heart Around (feat. Nicole Atkins, Har Mar Superstar)
I Won't Back Down (feat. Rodrigo Amarante, Matt Sorum)
Refugee (feat. Petter Ericson Stakee of Alberta Cross, Matt Sorum)
Wildflowers (feat. Ryan Miller of Guster)
You Don't Know How It Feels (feat. Fabrizio Moretti, Cory Chisel, Ryan Miller)
Anything That's Rock And Roll (feat. Pat Carney of Black Keys)
Mary Jane's Last Dance (feat. Johnny Depp, Kesha, Nicole Atkins, Adriel Denae)
Here Comes My Girl (feat. Jared Followill of Kings of Leon)
It's Good to Be King (feat. Adam Busch, Johnny Depp)
I Need to Know (feat. Albert Hammond Jr., Johnny Depp)
Honey Bee (feat. Nick Valensi, Johnny Depp)
American Girl (feat. Nick Valensi, Fabrizio Moretti, Johnny Depp)
Handle With Care (feat. Cory Chisel, Nicole Atkins)
Free Fallin' (feat. Nicole Atkins and all)

Twitter: @THRMusic

Chris Godley