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I Won’t Back Down: Fargo Bands to pay tribute to the late Tom Petty


To call Tom Petty a ‘rock icon’ seems to fall pretty short, considering his impact on rock music and the degree to which his legion of fans adore him. With a career that stretched across 5 decades, his songs have been the background music for the life events of millions.

“Tom Petty is a staple of American music, an irreplaceable pillar.” – Alexander Phelps, Stovepipes Lead Singer

When Petty died last year at the age of 66, rock fans around the world were crushed. So many legendary rockers have passed away in the last few years, but Petty’s passing hit many harder than most. His friend and Traveling Wilburys bandmate, Bob Dylan , told Rolling Stone “It’s shocking, crushing news. I thought the world of Tom. He was a great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.”

Photo by Daniel Spiess

Petty’s library of rock hits include songs like “I Won’t Back Down,” “The Waiting,” “Learning to Fly,” “You Got Lucky” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and most of his albums went gold or platinum. In 2002, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

To honor Petty and his musical legacy, local bands will play a tribute show in Fargo on Friday, February 2nd at the Sanctuary Events Center. I Won’t Back Down: A Tribute to the late Tom Petty w/ FM Artists will feature local groups including the Pat Lenertz Band, The Wicked BeesThe Human ElementXPLORBig & Hungry and the Stovepipes with special guest artists joining them on stage.

“Tom Petty is a staple of American music, an irreplaceable pillar,” says Alexander Phelps, Lead Singer for the Stovepipes. “The Universality of his lyrics just floors me every time I listen. He leaves his words just vague enough so the listener can create their own meaning. He is a master and we are going to do our best to pay homage to the greatness that was, and is, Tom Petty.”

Petty’s life story is that of many an artist, using his music to overcome a painful childhood. His father was abusive and he was a poor student, according to The New York Times, but he took up guitar after meeting Elvis Presley who was shooting a film near his home in Florida in 1961. Petty dropped out of high school and joined a southern rock band that included guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench, who would go on to join Petty in forming The Heartbreakers.

Photo by Julio Enriquez

The group had a slow start, with no hits on American charts, but it was the beginning of a 40 year career. After label jumping and a lawsuit, Petty finally broke through with 1979’s Damn the Torpedoes, which reached Number Two on the album chart and has since been certified triple-platinum. From there, Petty enjoyed hit after hit.

“Tom Petty’s music has been part of the soundtrack to mine and many people’s lives,” says legendary local musician Pat Lenertz, who will play with his band at the Fargo tribute. “Growing up, and still today on certain stations, his music permeated our diaspora which had a great impact.”

In the late 80’s, Petty teamed up with Dylan, former-Beatle George Harrison, Roy Orbison and ELO co-founder Jeff Lynne to form the the Traveling Wilburys.  Their first album featured hits “Handle With Care” and “End of the Line.”and made it to Number Three on the album charts and was certified triple platinum. Petty soon followed up with a solo album, Full Moon Fever, that featured some of Petty’s biggest hits of all time including “Free Fallin” and “I Won’t Back Down”.

“‘I Won’t Back Down’ by Tom Petty was one of the first songs I learned to play and sing,” says Dan Christianson,  Lead Vocalist and Guitarist for The Wicked Bees. “He’s been a huge influence on my songwriting and has set the standard for great pop rock melodies.”

Photo by Takahiro Kyono

“Part of why we do what we do is that we want to have a good time playing great songs,” says Seth Holden, Drummer for The Human Element. “Petty wrote great songs, hits, that’s what he did, plain and simple. What band wouldn’t want to take an evening playing great songs written by someone as influential as Petty?”

At the tribute in Fargo, bands will perform selections from Petty’s massive library of music. Although Petty was not able to make a Fargo stop on recent tours, the tribute show aims to bring together his many fans in the community in celebration of his life, according the promoter Jade Presents.

“I had the privilege of working with Tom Petty in 2003 on the ‘Lost Cities Tour’ when we produced shows in Bismarck, Duluth, Mankato, Cedar Rapids, Sioux Falls and Rapid City,” said Jade Nielsen, president and founder of Jade Presents. “As hard as I tried, I could not work in a Fargo show on that tour and unfortunately, I didn’t get another opportunity. This is our chance to celebrate the songs live with some of FM’s best artists.”


If You Go

What: I Won’t Back Down: A Tribute to the late Tom Petty w/ FM Artists
When: Friday, February 2 at 7 PM
Where: Sanctuary Events Center, 670 4th Ave N, Fargo
TicketsTickets 300