On the verge of its seventh anniversary next Spring, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers tribute band Petty Larceny won’t back down from new opportunities and band defining gigs — and are in such demand in and around Worcester, they’ve had to become selective.
“We could play every weekend, but we try to limit it two shows a month. We like going to see other bands, and we each have our own family stuff. We make a little bit of money, but it’s more we do it because we have fun,” said drummer Brian Lizotte, of Oxford.
Lizotte, who’s been with the band for four years added, “When you play every week, it gets old. No one wants to see a Tom Petty tribute band every week. This way we keep the audience fresh and the people coming back.”
For the past year, things have been going very well for the six member band, according to bandleader and keyboardist Bob Dec.
“I haven’t had to call a club in the past year to get a gig. They’ve been calling us,” Dec said. “We’re booked months and months ahead of time.”
Dec, one of three original members of the six man band, recently retired after 44 years of working as the head of the Arts Department at Bancroft School in Worcester. Dec is originally from Fall River and attended UMass Dartmouth for his undergraduate studies before earning his Master’s Degree at Columbia University.
Lizotte, of Charlton, works for an electrical distributor. He is a graduate of St. John’s high school in Shrewsbury and earned his degree at University of Massachusetts – Amherst. Right out of college, Lizotte joined the Marines where he served for 12 years.
“We’re at the point now where we can be selective on what gigs we pick. When you’re first starting out it’s tough getting in the door. You’re typically begging bar owners to give you a chance and get in places,” Lizotte added in an interview on Aug. 31. “Now, luckily, that’s no longer the case for us.”
“It’s the complete opposite from when we started,” he added.
Petty Larceny consists of Lizotte and Dec, along with Scott Edman [lead vocals], Phil Maltais [lead guitar], John Maguire [rhythm guitar] and Bob Letourneaux [bass guitar].
Along with Dec, Maguire and Letourneaux are original band members.
The band formed seven years ago when the former lead singer posted a Craigslist ad seeking musicians to form a Tom Petty tribute band.
“The first night, six of us showed up there together and the amazing thing was we just gelled right away,” Dec said.
Even with their recent run of popularity, things didn’t always go smoothly for Petty Larceny at the beginning. Since their inception, two original band members left the band for personal reasons and one member was kicked out of the band.
Beyond the turnover in the band, Petty Larceny has also experienced some gigs they would rather forget entirely.
For example, right at the start of a show at The Cove on Green St. in Worcester, on the first note guitarist Maltais blew an amp. He had to run to their practice studio all the way in Whitinsville to get a new amp while the show was going on.
At Days End Tavern in Oxford, the band was put downstairs in the bar area while a DJ was playing in the club upstairs. Unfortunately for Petty Larceny, they could barely hear their own instruments during their show.
“All you could hear during our show was the bass bumping upstairs. The floor was bouncing. We couldn’t hear ourselves playing,” Lizotte said.
“To this day, it’s the only venue to never call us back to play again,” Dec said.
Today, however, Petty Larceny has no trouble getting booked and does 25 gigs a year [around twice a month]. Although that may not sound like many, the band is in a position to be selective and play how often they want.
When asked where their favorite venues to play in and around Worcester were, Lizotte and Dec listed Wong Dynasty, Frank’s and Padavano’s on Shrewsbury St., the Marine Corps League on Lake Ave., and Greendale’s on West Boylston St. in Worcester, the Central Tavern in Milford, and the Simple Man Saloon in Clinton.
“We play a lot of the same places two or three times a year,” Lizotte said. We wiill do a third or a fourth show in a given month if it’s at a new place opening up or it’s a really large show. We just did Indian Ranch [in Webster on Aug. 11] at our last gig and it was pretty spectacular.”
Beyond their Indian Ranch gig, Petty Larceny’s best gig — according to Dec and Lizotte — was three years ago at Game On in Boston for pre-and post- Tom Petty performances at Fenway Park.
Lizotte said, “It’s probably the best gig we ever did outside of the Indian Ranch this year. We had a two-hour show before and after Petty went on. There was a line on Yawkey Way all the way down and around the block. There was 500 people upstairs, and 500 people downstair. Our show was simulcasted on their televisions throughout the bar and out on the street.”
“It was just nuts,” Lizotte added, before mentioning that a former band member said he ran into Petty getting a sausage sandwich outside Fenway around 1 AM. “We’re still not sure that it’s true. It’s a legend at this point.”
Petty Larceny performs more than 50 Tom Petty songs — all of Petty’s hit songs and even some B-side tracks to keep their audience on their toes.
“We’ll throw one or two B-side tracks in a gig. We wouldn’t play them if they weren’t good. It doesn’t mean you’re going to know, but you’re going to like it,” Lizotte said.
Dec said, “We learned all [Petty’s] hits and now we’re playing songs that casual fans don’t really know. The song writing in some of his other work is really incredible.”
“Everyone loves Petty. The big comment we always get is ‘I forgot how many hit songs Tom Petty has.’ We’re working on new songs constantly. We always have two or three new Petty songs that we’re working on — one we’re really serious about, and a few others we just want to try,” Lizotte said.
The band also covers ten songs that Petty and the Heartbreakers cover, and ten non-Petty songs to give the crowd a break and thank them for coming.
“The last six months, we’ve ended every show with a non-Petty song. Usually [Bryan Adams’] Summer of ‘69, or [Eddie Money’s] Two Tickets to Paradise. It’s just something we do for the audience. They’re out there all night listening to Petty songs and dancing with us. It’s nice to show them that we know songs other than Tom Petty once in awhile,” Lizotte said.
The band is booked with 10 to 12 gigs from now until the beginning of January and will be playing in Worcester at Frank’s, Padavano’s, 4th and 1, and the Kasbar.
On Saturday, Sept. 16, Lizotte and Petty Larceny will be playing at one of the band’s favorite venues: Wong Dynasty in Holden.
According to Lizotte, anyone interested in attending the show should get there early.
“The place is always jammed when we play. It’s such a great place to perform. You should get there, get a table, and be ready to dance all night,” Lizotte said. “It’s a great venue and it’s a lot of fun. We hope everyone comes out to see us.”
The band goes on at 9 PM and there’s no cover charge.
For a full list of Petty Larceny shows, visit their webpage here.