Matt Hebert—Xtra Ticket

Actually, I was born in Toledo, Ohio in ‘74 and in ‘79 we moved to Colorado, I’ve been out here pretty much ever since. However, I did move to Arizona for 2 years with Dave (“Abear,” his brother) in 1998 but other than that I’ve been in Colorado, so I consider myself a Colorado native. 

My first memory or exposure to music, I was three or four years old. My dad, he’d lull us to sleep at night playing guitar and singing Willy Nelson tunes, “The Redheaded Stranger” was one of my favorites. Also, by the time I was six years old I was always getting into my parent’s album collection. They had the Woodstock Soundtrack album. I’d put on headphones and lie on the floor listening to those three albums over and over again. At that age, I didn’t know the political dynamics of the ‘60’s nor what the counterculture was about. I just knew what I was listening to was raw and powerful, I liked it. Also, I remember when you opened the three panel album up, inside was this huge photo of the crowd that was mesmerizing. 

Dave and Matt—Photograph © Stuart Weisbuch

My first instrument was trombone; I played that in middle school band. Around 15 years old I picked up the acoustic guitar and started learning the basic chords and kind of stayed there. I never really progressed the way my brother Dave has. Obviously, I watched Dave pick up the guitar at 13 and saw his struggles and his successes. You know learning the guitar and then playing in bands in college, I wanted to do that too. 

Still in high school, my brother James was playing drums and I was playing electric guitar, banging out power chords and things like that, making noise. However, there were two of us guitar players in the band and that was when I was like, “We need a bass player”, so I sold my guitar and bought an Ibanez Roadstar 2 bass.  I’m so glad I did. What’s funny is that, listening to music I’ve always connected with the bass but just didn’t know it as a player until I got that bass in my hands; it was a fairly natural fit. 

Photograph © David Schitter

In ’92, my brothers Dave and James and I started our own band, called Milestone. We were the right out of high school party band that jumped right into the bar circuit, underage I might add. Those first few years, however, we were changing the band’s name and players so many times, you know we were just searching for a sound but getting caught up in the party.

It wasn’t until late ‘96 –‘98 that we gained some notoriety as “Brother Kind.” On July 7 1997 as “Brother Kind” we had the extreme privilege of playing  at Red Rocks Amphitheater for the Mimi Fishman Glaucoma Society Benefit. This event featured three local Colorado Bands, we were one of those.  Gov’t Mule, Merl Saunders and the Rain Forest band and the David Grisman Quintet were the main attractions. This was such an amazing experience, being 23 years old at the time. 

I first connected to the Dead when I was about 14 years old watching MTV.  The “Touch of Grey” video was my first exposure to the Dead. Then it wasn’t until high school, I met Brian Galloway (the son of Ted Galloway, founder of Colorado’s, Shakedown Street) when I connected to the Grateful Dead. Brian would loan me bootleg tapes of the Dead and he talked me into seeing my first show. So, yeah, I saw my first Grateful Dead show at McNichols Arena Dec. 2, 1992, and then again on November 30, 1994, also at McNichols.  

Photograph © Donna Savage

In the summer of ’98, my brother David, my wife Lani, and I moved to Phoenix, AZ. Shortly after moving, Dave met Even Jones (guitarist in Xtra Ticket) and was soon the Jerry guy in Xtra Ticket. My wife and I had our first child in ’99, so I was doing the family man thing. However, by the time our son was 6 months old we would take him to the Xtra Ticket show at Boston’s, a venue in Phoenix, AZ. It had a nice outdoor area where you could hang out and watch the band play. 

During this time and throughout the years I would periodically Phil-in, pun intended, on bass with Xtra Ticket. One of the highlight’s during this time period, 1999-2000, was getting to tape Xtra Ticket’s first show with Vince Welnick, which I still have the VHS, that was special. But, shortly after that the family and I moved back to Colorado. 

After relocating to Colorado in 2001, we had child number two on the way. (By the way, we just celebrated her 21st birthday in Nashville recently.) It was around 2002 my brother James and I started playing music together again. From 2003 to 2014 we both were in and out of multiple projects together, playing different genres of music; rock, funk, blues, and reggae, you know a bunch of different styles of music. I must say learning these different genres of music, as a rhythm player, it really helps to know how all those rhythms fit together. 

Xtra Ticket—Photograph © Donna Savage

We didn’t play so much Grateful Dead stuff, except when Dave would come to visit we’d always put together a show in our home town of Manitou Springs, CO. James and I knew just enough Dead songs to do a one night show. However, there was a turning point in 2011 when James and I flew to Phoenix. It was Dave’s 40th birthday as I recall. Evan Jones and a few other musicians threw a party for Dave and we all played together. It was then that I realized I didn’t really know much or had forgotten a lot of the GD material that I once knew. On the flight back to Colorado with James I had an epiphany. I wasn’t confident enough to play music with my brothers anymore. I really wanted to play music again with Dave and James the way we once had. So I went back to the woodshed, so-to-speak, and started learning a lot of JGB material. Because this was around the same time Dave started playing with Melvin Seals & JGB, it seemed to be the obvious place to start. 

Then in 2016, after Dave’s five-year stint with JGB ran its course, Dave was living in Denver and we would occasionally do gigs together. Steely Dead is one of the many projects Dave had started a few years later. In 2019 we started a Production company, Mr. Big Bear Productions, and started touring with Steely Dead. Then COVID, so we had to adapt. During that time we built a streaming studio and started streaming a live show from our basement, the Mr. Big Bear Show. Now that we’re up and running at full speed we have multiple bands and studio projects going simultaneously; “Steely Dead”, “Dave Abear’s – A Very Jerry Band”, “Dave Abear and Friends” and “Xtra Ticket”.  

Xtra Ticket—Photograph © Chris Bachler

I did my first three shows with Xtra Ticket this summer in Colorado, and I just got back from the Halloween gig at Cactus Jacks in Arizona, wirh Scott Guberman sitting in on keys.  Xtra Ticket is a terrific band, and I’m grateful that the bass slot opened up because Paul is moving to Oregon. They’re all good players. They’re a fun band, with a big sound and you know obviously my brother plays in it, so I kind of approve (laughter). 

And I’m really looking forward to Ventura.  Last year, 2022 with Steely Dead, was my first year there. Ventura, it’s wonderful, Skull and Roses was mind blowing because it’s much larger than I had anticipated. It was nice to listen and meet some of the other bands and the community of people is the best part of it, you know they’re genuine.