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My first and last dance with Petty

Over the summer, my dad took me to see Tom Petty perform live at Wrigley Field, one of the many stops Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers made on the groups 40th anniversary tour. The weather that day consisted of sprinkled rain showers, which rolled on the Chicago skyline, stopping and starting like Morse code.

While the weather remained miserable through most of the night, I was in awe of how every audience member endured jovially. The near-constant rain didnt bother even the people sitting on the field without any shelter from the roof. They just pulled on the over-priced ponchos purchased from vendors outside the stadium and continued to enjoy themselves. The audience was just that excited to see Petty.

Unbeknownst to us concert-goers, this would be one of Pettys last performances as his passing came three months later on Oct. 2. Yet, on that night, his vivacious performance filled the sold-out Wrigley crowd with a contagious appreciation for life.

Being at the concert was a peaceful, nearly euphoric experience. I couldnt help but smile as Petty crooned the well-known verses of Free Fallin or even when the pungent smell of weed filled the stadiums air during Mary Janes Last Dance. I was truly living in a moment of pure happiness. Wrigley Field became a cocoon, shielding me from the disturbances of daily life just outside the stadium.

Theres something ethereal about listening to Pettys music. Perhaps, its that his music has withstood the turn of the century and has been ingrained across multiple generations.

The audience of Pettys Wrigley show had no specific demographic. There were people like me, who were seeing Petty live for the first time, and there were people like my father, who celebrated his fifth time witnessing Petty in concert. There were young people, old people, people from different parts of the Midwest and people of different racial backgrounds. Petty had the ability through his music to bring people together.

In a country so strongly divided by political opinions, racial tensions and record-breaking violence, its easy to take for granted someone like Petty. While I am not claiming that Petty took any stand in these matters, it is evident that there are some parts of life that connect us as human beings despite political preferences or differing backgrounds.

For me, Petty is not only an American rock icon: he is a binding force in cultural history. It is so rare to find people who can bring individuals together in a similar magnitude as Petty.

Ill never forget the memories of my childhood, riding in the car with my dad as he blasted Petty on the radio; he always tried his best to match Pettys tone. Those memories always bring me back to happy times.

Whatever represents harmony to you in the way Petty does to me, cherish it and understand its importance, especially during a time of such divide.

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