Alex Levy co-founded The Best Fest, where he currently serves as executive producer and musical director, and helped launch Petty Fest, in which live performers ranging from Norah Jones to Jakob Dylan have paid tribute to Tom Petty.
After Dylan Fest had caught on and was a popular yearly event in NYC, the guys from Bowery Presents who were promoting the shows came to us and said, “This is great! Now you gotta do more!” The thing about Bob Dylan, and what makes Dylan Fest so special creatively, is that he’s a musical common denominator. If you put a bunch of musicians, singers and songwriters in a room, lock the door and say, “Bob Dylan… discuss!” they will be able to talk for days and days and days. So the question was, who else can do that? Tom Petty’s music is a common thread, a common ground, no matter what type of artist you are. His music is the soundtrack to all our lives. It’s timeless.
Tom’s daughter Adria is a friend and champion of ours. She was running in our circles in New York at the time and came to the show. She told her father about it, and the next thing we knew, Tom sent his videographer to capture some of it. A review of the show wound up on Tom’s website, and from then on out we had his blessing. His management team have been absolute princes to us. They’ve always gotten involved with the shows with ticket giveaways to the fan club, social media posts, etc. I think they all saw it as part of Tom’s legacy. They saw how much we all loved this music and how these artists had this need to come together to celebrate it. It’s emotional. It’s a tremendous honor that it was acknowledged. It’s not lost on us how special that is. It’s not something that we take lightly.
I can’t remember a time when Tom Petty’s music wasn’t on the radio. As a kid I always thought of him as a contemporary of The Beatles, The Stones and Dylan, even though he actually came up in the generation after them. He had great taste. He was a rebel. He distilled his influences into his own music in a pure and original way to the point where even that generation that came before him considered him one of their own. He was that strong of a source.
Tom Petty’s music is this amazing rallying point. It’s brought so many amazing people in our lives. It’s magical. We’re all very grateful, and very heartbroken.