Peter Martin, who records, tours, and creates Tiktok content as the artist named Petey, performs at Union Stage on Nov. 9, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
With a willful spirit at its core, recorded music can invigorate and infuse a winning attitude into the listener. And if songs can offer these benefits in the live setting, then they most certainly can set an ideal tone for connecting with fans.
Petey — a musician who also happens to be a Tiktok star with more than a million followers — recently brought his refreshing and unbeatable sonic workout to the nation’s capital, playing a wildly entertaining sold-out show at Union Stage and demonstrating the charm and reward in the songs that put him on a path for success even before he grew famous on social media.
Petey, whose real name is Peter Martin, has garnered much love on Tiktok with his crispy, aloof breed of comedic skits, but plenty of fans have found him with their ears as his early recordings feature an irresistible emotive flair and a strikingly unique blend of sounds influenced by the rock, rap, pop, and hip-hop artists he listened to as a youngster near Detroit and, later, in Chicago as a drummer in various outfits.
He eventually moved to Los Angeles — a manifestation of his obsession with The OC and a longing for the California lifestyle — and though he never had any outright intention of forging a music career, he would find his way into one. While conducting session work as a drummer, Martin struck up a conversation with a sound engineer that would eventually lead him to record his first two singles, “California” and “Apple TV Remote,” and couple years later these would become the first two songs on his first record.
Stream Petey’s introductory studio album, Lean Into Life, via Spotify:
Friends in the industry, upon hearing the tracks, rallied around him, hoping to help him make the most of what seemed like an opportunity to dive in deeper. They assisted him in creating music videos for each of his first two songs, and shortly thereafter he signed a record deal with the LA-based Terrible Records, now known just as Terrible.
The pandemic, of course, forced musicians everywhere to adjust their plans, even experiment with ways of reaching fans. Petey embraced Tiktok, where his distinct character and style took off and his followership and views — in the hundreds of millions — grew so large as to attract him sponsorships and partnerships with notable musicians like Fred Durst. His presence became relatively tremendous, especially for an upstart songwriter who just released his first album last fall, the exceptional Lean Into Life.
At Union Stage on Nov. 9, the self-proclaimed goofball was as playful as he appears in his clips — a T-shirt, a Blackhawks hat, wide eyes, and a grin that regularly made its way across his bearded face. But as can be seen in his viral videos and can be heard in the toiling questions and proclamations in his lyrics, he’s a man who ponders his existence and that of those around him as he navigates the strange but prosperous path he’s on.
Promoting Lean Into Life and honing material for a new album, it was his first show in DC and his second time ever visiting the nation’s capital, and no doubt the first chance for most if not all in the room to see these songs performed live. Though he is widely adored for his quirky sense of humor, Petey showed that underneath it all he has a brilliant approach to songwriting and the purview to lead these songs to glory on any given stage.
Watch the official music video for Petey’s 2022 single “Big Bad” via his YouTube channel:
Starting the night, the summer single “Big Bad” was followed by “Pitch a Fit!” from his album premiere, and these immediately showcased the dash in his voice and the excitement in his soul to deliver such energetic tunes.
Petey himself took the mic sans guitar for the opening pair of songs, but he’d pick it up to lead “Apple TV Remote,” which so artfully weaves its way through different styles en route to something wholly original.
“This is my first time here since, what, it would have been an eighth-grade field trip,” Petey told the audience in his Great Lakes accent, his smile clearly contagious as the crowd beamed back at him in celebrating his visit. That trip, he explained, was defined by “weird sexual energy.”
“I don’t want to go into detail, but some fucked up stuff happened,” he said. “This is way cooler. … When we pulled in, I saw some sights that reminded me this is the same city where the National Treasures movies were filmed.”
The crowd cracked up, but he’d let his songs conduct most of the banter, including an epic take on “We Don’t Need To Talk About It,” accentuated by an absorbing delay before fracturing crashes morphed this jaunt into a compelling, ethereal rock journey.
“Microwave Dinner” is an itinerant piece with some of the most vulnerable, conciliatory words in his songbook, and in DC it showed off the range in Petey’s vocals with a beautiful howling chorus before he launched an introspective tirade that built to a shout over contrasting melodies to make this one of his defining achievements. Just a snippet:
“Do I really wanna live a life like this? / Yeah, do I really wanna take over my old man’s Honda dealership / And buy a little house, maybe have a couple kids / So I can learn what to be loved unconditionally is / Is that selfish? … Not more than drinking 20 beers and getting tan and eating shellfish / On the Mississippi River / And my head is like a riddle / Where anxiety and narcissism meet somewhere in the middle …”
“Shredding. These guys are shredders, all three of them,” Petey passed the credit after this song to his bandmates and took a moment to introduce each of them. He was accompanied by the artist Albon on bass, guitarist Garrison Benson, and drummer Ukiah Bogle.
Some of the most passionate Petey supporters on hand were elated to hear the forthcoming “Did I Mention I’m Sorry …,” and that reveal was followed by some of his most popular songs, including “We Go On Walks,” “California,” and the contemplative/apprehensive masterpiece “Don’t Tell The Boys” to close out the set.
Stream Petey’s 2021 digital EP Other Stuff via Spotify:
Creating songs on a continuous search for a clearer perspective and better footing in life — with special care to not burden or harm others — the wide-open realm in which Petey has placed himself might be best illustrated by the undefeatable title track to his debut, which served as a fitting encore at Union Stage.
An amplifying, encouraging exercise in personal motivation, “Lean Into Life” resonates as a celebration of all he’s accomplished, and Petey and his team used it to not only pump up the already electrified and well-hydrated DC partygoers, but to send them off in better spirits than they found them.
And whether they’re a Tiktok addict or abstain from social media altogether, any listener with their senses about them would have to admire the genius in Petey’s insightful songs and the ambition he exhibits in conceiving them so unusually, especially in an intimate setting.
Pitch a Fit!
Apple TV Remote
We Don’t Need To Talk About It
Did I Mention I’m Sorry …
We Go On Walks
The Same Chords
Don’t Tell The Boys
Lean Into Life
Young Jesus Setlist
Root & Crown
Here are images of Petey, along with the night’s opening act, Young Jesus, performing at Union Stage on Nov. 9, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.