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MY GENERATION: The Sons and Daughters of Marin Rock Elite Carve Their Own Path

Nate Seltenrich - Marin Magazine | February 01, 2013

Best of the North Bay 2012

The Bohemian | March 22, 2012

Voted Best Band – Marin – Petty Theft

Don’t Tom around here no more

Pacific Sun | October 21, 2011

“The desire to make off with the substance of others is the foremost—the most legitimate—passion nature has bred into us,” the Marquis de Sade once wrote, “and, without doubt, the most agreeable one.”

The members of Petty Theft, a local Tom Petty tribute band, might agree and add that the Florida rocker’s songs are a treasure ripe for picking.

“Tom Petty’s songbook is so deep and varied. We can play for three hours and every song is basically a hit that the audience knows and loves,” says Petty Theft guitarist and singer Monroe Grisman. “That’s pretty amazing, and very few other artists can claim that besides maybe the Beatles.”

Of course, Petty has inspired a thousand tribute bands, including Free Fallin’, Full Moon Fever, the Petty Breakers and even a Dallas-based band also known as Petty Theft.

Last week, some of the biggest names in the music industry—including the Black Keys, the Strokes, Kings of Leon and Norah Jones—gathered in New York City at the fifth annual Petty Fest, a benefit for Doctors Without Borders.
Closer to home, the jangle of Petty’s distinct brand of Southern rock can be heard on local stages.

Since 2005, when lead vocalist Dan Durkin and bassist Django Bayless first indulged their obsession with all things Petty, the band has rocked more than a house or two while spotlighting some of the best players on the Marin club scene. These days, the band includes Durkin, Bayless, Grisman, guitarist Michael Papenburg, keyboardist Mike Emerson and drummer Adam “Bagel” Berkowitz—veterans of such local bands as the Mother Truckers, American Drag, the Jerry Hannan Band and the 85’s.

“We are as a band always revisiting the music both from the studio and live recordings to glean new nuggets that we didn’t hear before,” Grisman says, “peeling back the layers to get inside of the songs and what makes them tick and click for the audience.”
Part of the hard-rockin’ band’s strength is the ability to steer clear of caricature—no top hats or rose-colored granny glasses—while staying true to Petty’s essence. “We have never tried to be Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and never will&—that would be un-Petty-like and totally defeats the spirit of his vibe….

“We play the music and we play it very well and with a lot of love and passion for it. It’s really a shared experience as we’re really a celebration of the music more than a tribute band—we celebrate together with the fans as we are both fans of Tom Petty.

“So, we’re kind of becoming a hub for the party of celebrating Tom and the music.”

Breakdown, go ahead and give it to Greg at gcahill51@gmail.com.

Greg Cahill

Tribute Band Petty Theft Won’t Back Down

Walnut Creek Patch | September 16, 2011

Young women in straw cowboy hats waved their arms in the air and swayed atop the shoulders of young men.

Gray-bearded Deadhead types in light blue denim shirts smiled and rocked gently on the heels of their worn cowboy boots. Couples danced in front of the stage. And surprise: the twenty-somethings in the crowd knew the words to all the songs and shouted them when prompted by the band to do so. Most of the songs were popular before they were even a gleam in their parents’ eyes.

Clearly, the band Petty Theft, a Novato-based tribute band to veteran rocker Tom Petty, has a cult following. They had turned out in force last weekend for Petty Theft’s appearance across the bay at Café Du Nord in San Francisco.

But will Petty Theft’s hardcore fans drive all the way out to Walnut Creek for the group’s gig at Dan’s Irish Sports Bar this Saturday night? One can only hope because a full house for a mellow rocking band like Petty Theft only makes a good show better.

Tom Petty’s voice always sounded kind of whiny to me. The somewhat slower pace of ’70s countrified rock overall propelled me to seek out the faster harder picking of authentic bluegrass (interestingly, Petty Theft guitarist Monroe Grisman is the son of well-known bluegrass mandolin maestro David Grisman, who named his son for bluegrass great Bill Monroe). But a friend from Petaluma who prefers nostalgia rock over Kreayshawn wanted to meet up at the Café Du Nord show and it seemed like a good halfway point.

Nostalgia, it turns out, is music to the ears. After a slightly tepid ZZ Top cover band opening act, the six-member Petty Theft band came on the crowd and excitement was contagious. As the thumping chords amped up by the energy only live performances bring surged through the speakers … suddenly, after all these years, hit songs like “Running Down a Dream,”  “Free Falling,” “Breakdown,” and “Won’t Back Down” sounded great.  Although the band’s musicianship is spot on, I know that these familiar melodies, once annoying to me, now triggered a deep nostalgia for my youth. And compared to pop hits like the jaded “Gucci Gucci,” a classic like “Even the Losers” seems fresh again.

But it’s just not me. And it’s just not Tom Petty. Tribute bands loom large right now. Very big. Even with audiences too young to wallow in nostalgia.

Name a mega band from the latter part of the 20th century and there’s a cleverly titled tribute group making a living replicating their tunes. Led Zeppelin? There’s Zepperella, an all-female Zep tribute band, as well as Dread Zeppelin. Sting? There’s Stung. Aja vu is a wonderfully named Steely Dan band (a play on the term déjà vu and the popular Steely Dan album “Aja”). The Sun Kings are local favorites who play all Beatles all the time. Pretending is, yes, a local band pretending to be The Pretenders. And I just learned there’s an all-female Kinks tribute band called The Minks who play songs like “You Really Got Me” while dressed in period go-go boots and mini-skirts.

More than just covering the classic songs in their own style, tribute bands aim to ape the way the songs sound on the recordings we all know and love. That is what today’s audiences of all ages seem to want.

“Why pay big bucks to sit in some stadium to see some big rock star past his prime from so far away he’s the size of a toothpick when for much less money I can come hear these guys who have more energy and put on a better show in a smaller, better club space?” one young man commented. He was seated at the bar waiting for Petty Theft. Later that night he was bouncing to the beat at the front of the crowd.

Another young man, who had just seen a Smiths tribute band called Smiths, Indeed perform in Manhattan, observed, “Most current bands are just regurgitating lesser versions of what’s come before so people my age are tired of hearing new crappy things. We’d rather hear familiar great songs done well.”

As for me, I’ve outgrown my petty distaste of all tunes Tom. I’m going to head over to Dan’s to hear Petty Theft again on Saturday night. Even tribute bands get lucky sometimes.

– Deborah Burstyn

Best of the North Bay 2011

The Bohemian | May 23, 2011

Voted Bast Band – Marin – Petty Theft