I Won't Back Down


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You know you love Tom.

It's a big weekend for local (and nonlocal, in some cases) music, and the most comprehensive coverage (aside from the Pitch of course) of what's going on is just a click away, courtesy of our friends and guides at Sad Dog.

And now, myself.

Perhaps, as with many such situations, the Fates were the agents that brought me to Harry's Bar and Tables the night some acquaintances were discussing the formation of a Tom Petty tribute band. And no doubt the Morai also bade me issue the declaration, "I wanna be Mike Campbell!" And further to answer, when pressed on the issue of whether I could play guitar, those empresses of fortunes ill and good plied my tongue to cry, "Fuck yeah I can play guitar! Shit! You kidding me? Fuck*."

OK, I'll abandon that bullshit tone. I hate reading people who write using affected diction. But at least you learned about the Fates, right? Anyway, yep, I'm in a Tom Petty tribute band, for now, at least. We had our first full-band rehearsal — after many weeks of talking about it since that night at Harry's — last Tuesday. We started at 1, and after two hours, I called my boss to let him know I probably wouldn't be back until much, much later. When I did get back to the office, exhausted from Campbelling my ass off, there was a message from him in my inbox that read:

Subject: Tom Petty

Body of message: That's some funny shit.

It's always good to have the support of your superiors.

I haven't played guitar full time in a band ever. I've done bass, and I've switched to guitar here and there a few times. But I've taken enough guitar lessons from mullet-headed music store guys (and one brilliant college professor for the theory and smart stuff) and jammed with enough records in the living room to hold my own. I have a kickass guitar. It looks like a brown piece of shit, double-cutaway thing, but it's got P-90s and other good hardware bits, so it's like a hot-rod's engine in a Chevy Cavalier's body. It has no brand, though, because it was made by one of those be-mulleted music store guys.

Tuesday afternoon, I showed up with my Brown Bomber (as we may as well call it) and this crappy Epiphone amp that I bought from Midwestern Music for way too much. (Though, in all fairness, I bought the amp for quiet playing, and it does get some good tones, it's just not loud enough.) Luckily, the other Heartbreakers didn't laugh me out of the garage. Present were Dan, Jimmy and Adam, the guys from 30-Minute Recess, whom I wrote about here. Since that story came out, I started seeing them everywhere and kind of got to be drinking buddies with them. Maybe I should be ethical and avoid cultivating friendships in the scene (or go all the way and have no friendships, period), but fuck it, I wanna have a good time. Can't begrudge me that.

Also, like every critic who's not got his turntable arm shoved up his ass, all I really wanna do is be in a band.

The band is rounded out by heavyweights Ryan Johnson (drums) and Ben Grimes (Pettyesque vocals), both of the Golden Republic, and both real musicians. Actually, I'd say Dan, who does keyboards and some guitar, is a real musician, too. He did play with Elevator Division in its last incarnation, which was when they played the Buzz Beach Ball at Verizon a couple years ago, opening for Weezer, among others. As for Adam, Jimmy and I — all hacks, through and through.

But what matters is that for four hours one afternoon in a Midtown garage, we were Tom Petty and the motherfuckin'** Heartbreakers. Minus one showcasey lick, I nailed the lead on "Breakdown," and even though I didn't hit it perfectly, my slide sound on "Won't Back Down" was enough to earn me the right to learn the proper notes and play it next time. (Of course, I was playing on someone else's amp, but I came correct as I could, yo.)

Wish me luck on this. You may not love Tom Petty, but saying you hate him is like saying you hate ice cream. That's what we're banking on when it comes time to send our audition tape to Cheeseburger in Paradise.

*I don't really talk like that, Mom.

**All right, maybe I do.


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