State College-area musicians to perform in ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream’ Tom Petty tribute concert

Local recognizable and yet-to-be-discovered musicians will showcase Tom Petty’s massive catalog while raising funds for the State Theatre and Easter Seals Western and Central Pennsylvania with this weekend’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream” concert.

Having already tackled the tunes of Neil Young at previous shows, the third rendition of this concert series looks to build on past success and will focus on music by the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and his 38 years as one of the country’s foremost authorities of story-telling through song.

“Tom Petty reaches an audience that spans multiple decades,” said Liz Wainright, the Easter Seals Western and Central Pennsylvania development specialist and event organizer. “The music that he plays is about things that we recognize ... like rebels, runnin’ down a dream and free fallin’.”

“There’s a simplicity to his music, and a lot of his songs aren’t more than three or four chords,” said Jason McIntyre, one of the producers responsible for assembling the bands. “But within those three or four chords, he is able to come up with that catchy hook and chorus that sticks in your head.”

Having established State College cornerstones like Pure Cane Sugar and Ted and the HiFi’s share the stage with talented up-and-comers like Eric Ian Farmer and Hannah Bingman is a deliberate move.

“I try to add some new artists to the show every year,” McIntyre said, “I want to have a different and diversified show as much as possible that will also help the crowd learn a little more about each artist.”

“We’re so lucky to have all of these bands willing to play this show,” Wainright added. “We want them all to be as different as possible so that when you go and hear all of these Tom Petty songs, it’s not just a Tom Petty cover.”

“The ultimate goal is to be able to present an evening of local bands and highlight a very important and influential community partner,” said Greg Ray, the State Theatre’s executive director. “The performers at this show are specifically committed to the idea of the evening.”

Comfortably occupying significant real estate on the Mount Rushmore of American Rock, Petty, with his Rickenbacker, have carved an ideal niche for in the American consciousness, staking the claim of perhaps being one of the most influential active rock musicians of the past 40 years.

“I just saw him last summer, and his shows are still fantastic and he’s still putting out an album a year,” McIntyre said. “He’s probably not as acclaimed as The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, but I definitely think he holds his own against them.”

“He’s got this ’80s rock and end of new-wave feel to him, but he’s also played music with the likes of The Traveling Wilburys, even though he really came to be in the ’80s. He is able to transcend just an ’80s sound with an almost Dylan-esque feel,” said Ray, who attended the same Gainesville, Fla., high school that Petty dropped out of. “I think one of the great things about him is that there’s so many directions that different bands could take his music.”

Carrying over the momentum from the past two years, the benefit concert will serve as another incredible evening of great music for an ever greater cause.

“There’s going to be a lot of rock ’n’ roll with some solid performers who have their own different interpretations of Petty’s songs with both his hits and some of his not-so-popular songs too,” McIntyre said. “We’ve been organizing and working on this for over six months, and having the public come out to see all of the work that went into it is very rewarding.”