South Florida’s Petty Nicks Tribute Band Make Small Moments Count
Despite the pandemic and the challenges that musicians have faced over the past 18-months, many are adjusting to the new normal; the return to live music continues to be in demand at nearly all levels, from sold-out mega tours to jam sessions at local bars and clubs, is what we all desperately desire. As a music journalist with 20-plus years in covering live music who often attends concerts of 20 thousand crazed music fans filling amphitheaters and arenas to capacity, I often find myself disconnected from the local music scene. The talented musicians who play rock gods on any given weekend most often have never gotten the right break or a chance to perform on the big stage as a headline act. The dreams remain alive, and many try running down a dream, perhaps not quite ever finding it. To my detriment, the appreciation for local talent hasn’t been there in many years. The focus of my work often extends to well-recognized artists with massive productions whom mainstream readers have an interest in. Due to the cancellation of this weekend’s massive Rebel Rock music festival in Orlando, I found myself in the small town of Stuart, Florida, visiting a friend who wanted to see a band that has recently been making waves in South Florida.
Petty Nicks is a surprisingly talented tribute band who play homage to two of rock’s greatest musicians: Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks. The recent formation of the seven-member band is the inspiration of longtime local South Florida musicians Billy D. Lindley and Fonda Cash, who perform as Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks, respectively. What I found satisfying was that the band doesn’t rely on any of the special effects, vocal tracks, and other industry trickery to enhance the concert experience. In fact, these musicians rely purely on raw talent and ability to satisfy the thirst of the mostly over-40 crowd attending that night. Cash, who does her best to resemble Stevie Nicks, has performed in other bands and maintains her family’s musical pedigree that was paved by her father, a former live performer. On this night, several hundred fans convened on Terra Fermatta, a local music venue that has hosted many recognized names including Pat Travers and Devon Allman among other notable names, provides a simple venue that drew music lovers of Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks who gladly paid to attend and be entertained for the nearly two-hour set.
There were a few technical issues during the sound check that delayed the opening way beyond the posted start time. This happens when there isn’t a team of roadies tuning guitars and checking cords; the band members themselves do their own load-in and setup. On this night, the band unveiled three new members; they are adjusting, but it worked, and the fans didn’t notice. Musically the band was relaxed, without seeming the least bit studied or too stiff — they seemed to be having fun onstage. Along with Lindley and Cash, the band is comprised of a talented group of experienced musicians including Clint Ettore (guitar), Gary Bivona (keyboards), Kevin Agnelli (bass), Troy Pitcher (guitar), and Pat Rossi (drums), most of whom have played in other tribute acts.
Those attending came to hear the hits, and Petty Nicks obliged. The setlist moved easily in an alternating fashion through the Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks catalogs, including “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” “Refugee,” “Gypsy,” “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Dreams,” “Breakdown,” “Stand Back,” “American Girl,” “Edge of Seventeen,” “If Anyone Falls,” “Silver Springs,” “Free Fallin’,” “Landslide,” “Learning To Fly,” “Into The Great Wide Open,” “Leather and Lace,” “The Waiting,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “Whenever I Call You Friend,” “Talk to Me,” “Needles And Pins,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” “Sara,” “Insider,” “I Will Run To You,” and “Gold Dust Woman.”
The band-plus-fans combo worked well, keeping the fans engaged and singing along with a medley of songs in an exuberant, let-it-all-out attitude, singing loud enough that you become part of the act. After all, we know the songs, we know the lyrics. Of the two main singers, there’s one in particular that stands out: Cash. Think Arnel Pineda of Journey, who sounds like a close-enough version of Steve Perry: Cash is that. Her talent is undeniably there, yet you know that most musicians are simply a hit away from making a name for themselves. She has a history, but like so many, pure and raw yet never quite got there. On the small stage, Petty Nicks provided the entertainment, the bar served cold beer, and the fans, oh yes, the ones who came for a good time found it.
It was quickly apparent Petty Nicks have gone all in with their wardrobe and approach. Lindley had the top hat and dark round sunglasses, very Petty, and he had the gear too, matching Charlie T. Wilbury Jr.’s well-recognized Gibsons. Cash of course had the lace with the hat to match, boots, and the Nicks long blonde hair. There is something there as long as the band can pull through their growing pains. There is a market for ’80s tribute bands that sound like the record, not 70-somethings doing their best to satisfy their fans who pay hundreds of dollars to see legends who often don’t have the chops they once did. It’s pure entertainment, and it is fun. For two hours most of the crowd stood, holding cold bottles of beer and doing their best version of Free Falling. In all, Petty Nicks is worth the watch; they found a niche that so many crave, and for a brief moment they take you back to simpler times, the ones that existed without cancel culture and the great divides that exist among us today.