The steadfast, workman Rock n’ Roll institution that was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers will see loving tributes by some of Ottawa’s finest musicians on December 16th at the Rainbow Bistro. Shawn Tavenier—who fronts Silver Creek, the bill’s headliner, and one of Ottawa’s most dependable, hard-working rock bands—detailed what to expect from this evening of carefully curated covers from all nooks and crannies of Petty’s catalogue, and what Petty’s music means to the over-arching Rock n’ Roll story.

What’s your relationship to Petty’s legacy? What is it that draws you to his and the Heartbreakers’ work?

Tom Petty is a huge influence on my songwriting. I’ve always appreciated him for: A) keeping such a great rock n’ roll band together for so long; and B) the simplicity—he found a formula that worked and stuck to it… and they admit it, everyone in the Heartbreakers admits it, you know, “don’t bore us, get to the chorus”… but he’s always been there, releasing records that are easy to love.

All proceeds from the tribute show go to the Heart Institute Foundation. That seems thematically important.

I think the least we can do, especially during the holidays, is try and raise a little money for a good cause. And of course, there’s the sheer number of times “heart” crops up in Petty’s lyrics; the Heartbreakers and their logo, a flying v splitting a heart in half; and the man himself dying from one epic instance of cardiac arrest.

Tell me about the lineup. What can we expect from the evening?

We’ll be sharing the stage with leMeow, the city’s soul powerhouse; Ray Harris, a folk/country Ottawa mainstay; Rob Bennett of The Bushpilots; Julie Corrigan, one of my favourite songwriters in the city right now; Liam Deery, an extremely talented guitarist who has a physical limitation that only allows him to play guitar with his left hand—he taps, playing his instrument almost like a piano; as well as Curtis and Matt Chaffey—[the former] a highly proficient guitarist and [the latter] one of the best vocalists the city has to offer—of The Split.

Petty continued waving his Rock n’ Roll flag well into middle-age, arguably without succumbing to the “washed-up” rock stardom of so many golden-age peers who either rest on their laurels or, say, grow to muddy the line between band and brand. What is it that separates Petty from this breed? Where’s his place in the Rock n’ Roll canon?

You’ve got the Bono’s and the Mick Jagger’s, the kind of stratospheric superstars, and Tom Petty was a vanguard. He was always there, tending the flame, and he was as good as any of his peers. Put it this way… we don’t think of Mike Campbell [of the Heartbreakers] as a guitar god, but once you start to study him, it becomes apparent—he’s Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood all in one, and he can do anything and then some that Jimmy Page can do, but he doesn’t enjoy that same level of celebration. Tom Petty could write as good a song as, say, Bob Dylan, but we don’t quite think of him as a foremost American songwriter […] but he was amazing. Now that he’s gone, people are forced to reflect.

Heartbreakers for Hearts takes place on Saturday, December 16, 2017 at the Rainbow Bistro. Doors at 9PM. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at doors, 19+.

UPDATE: The Dusty Drifters are no longer on the bill.

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