Tribute to Tom

Petty Rocks pays homage to the Heartbreakers Saturday at the Reel.|

Tribute bands are all the rage these days. Since many of the original members of the bands have moved on to the great sound check in the sky, fans have no chance of seeing their favorite bands from the past perform. The next best thing is a tribute band.

There are tribute bands out there honoring the works of the Eagles, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Steely Dan, the Grateful Dead (over 300 Dead tribute bands around the world), and many others. Frequently, these tribute bands play songs note for note, sometimes even recreating actual concerts, song for song and note for note.

Note: a cover band plays songs by many artists, spanning several genres, with no intention of recreating anything other than playing great songs well. A tribute band tries in earnest to recreate the actual fan experience of watching and listening to that original band, down to the outfits, gear and even wigs and hats.

In a nutty development, the actual band Journey needed to replace front man and vocalist Steve Perry. They found the man they were looking for singing in a Journey cover band in the Philippines. Arnel Pineda was discovered on YouTube, and he was flown to the U.S. to audition for his big break, and he passed the test. Lesson? Don’t stop believin’.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers tribute bands are one of the most common and most popular. The hard rockin’ Petty died tragically in 2016 of a drug overdose. He suffered many ailments including a broken hip. The drugs found in his system were largely related to the pain caused by his condition.

A fine local Petty tribute band called Petty Rocks hits the stage at the Reel and Brand tomorrow night, Feb. 26. In true tribute band tradition, Sonoma County based Petty Rocks strives to present detailed and faithful versions of Petty’s songs.

David Rau is the leader of the band and the Petty pretender. A resident of Rohnert Park, Rau has been a busy musician for a long time and is mining a popular vein with his Petty band. Petty and the boys were elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, their first year of eligibility. The band has sold over 20 million records. They were the Super Bowl halftime entertainment in 2008. Petty remains popular, to say the least.

Petty Rocks got together for the first time in 2018 – they held their first practice on what would have been Petty’s 68th birthday, we “clicked right from the get go”- and the phone began to ring off the hook. But the world shut down, and the waiting became the hardest part.

Like the original Heartbreakers, Petty Rock is a five-member band. Like TP, Rau plays the rhythm guitar and sings. Petaluman Jim Cassero does his best Mike Campbell with the lead guitar licks. Anthony Martinez is a Santa Rosa resident and plays the keyboards. Drummer Kenny Montante lives in Petaluma and Tom Martin plays the bass.

A conversation with Rau last week revealed an interesting tale about the genesis of the band. Rau said, “I came across the idea for the band by chance. I was playing in another band, an originals band, and usually did a Petty song for the sound check. Somebody commented that I should do a Petty cover band.”

He continued, “I was disappointed in the turnout for the show. After the show, I was getting into my car ready to leave the gig. I thought to myself, “If the radio is playing a Tom Petty song, I will take it as a sign that I should put together a Petty band. I turned on the radio and it was Tom Petty.”

Rau continued, “The next song that came on the radio was Pink Floyd’s “Money.” I thought, ‘Aha!’ The Universe is telling me something.”

Petty Rocks has played up and down California since the pandemic and its restrictions have loosened a bit. The guys don their best Heartbreakers hats and rock and roll wigs and play out in a high energy, true rock show.

The band starts at 7 p.m. The Reel and Brand’s dance floor will be bouncin’.

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