Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks Swing Through Harvard Square


Dan Hicks & the Hot LicksSeveral hundred aging hipsters, baby boomers and a few relative youngsters packed the First Parish Church in Harvard Square on Friday, December 2, 2011 to see San Francisco Bay area legends, Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. The Cambridge concert was the Boston area stop on the band’s “Holidaze in Hicksville” tour.

A few minutes before the band appeared on stage, a man who introduced himself as “Dave” from Heptunes, the concert promoter, took the stage and announced that “a week from tonight is Dan’s 70th birthday.” Dave said that after the second song of the first set, bassist Paul Smith would signal the crowd to stand and sing “Happy Birthday” to Dan.

Dan HicksAfter the band walked on stage to wild cheers, “Dave” again stepped to the microphone to plug some of Heptunes upcoming events. Dan stood by expressionless through Dave’s rather overlong promotion. When Dave finally relinquished the mike, Dan deadpanned, “I thought that guy would never leave, whoever he is.”

The band launched into “Avalon,” an instrumental, “to warm up the instruments,” Dan said, and then played their traditional show opener, “Canned Music.”

At this point, Paul Smith raised his hand and on cue, the crowd rose and sang a rousing version of “Happy Birthday” to Dan as the band provided instrumental accompaniment. Dan appeared genuinely surprised and even displayed brief moment of uncharateristc sheepishness.

Happy 70th Birthday, Dan “Was that spontaneous?” Dan teased the crowd. “I saw people standing up and I thought, ‘That last song went over really well.'” 

The next tune was “Blues My Naughty Baby Gave to Me,” which Dan reminded the crowd was a song popularized by 1960s Cambridge folkie Jim Kweskin.

At this point, Dan intoduced the band: Benito Cortez on violin and mandolin; Paul Smith on bass; female backup vocalists, “Lickettes” Daria and Roberta. “And of course,” Dan added, “I’m Loudon Wainwright III.”

Next came the first of several Christmas tunes sprinkled throughout the show, “Rudolph the Bald Headed Reindeer.”

Lickettes and Dan HicksDan introduced “Along Come a Viper,” by telling the audience, “I tried to sell this song to Willie Nelson. He told me to get off his property.”

“I Scare Myself” was next. Dan explained that he wrote the song back in the Sixtes, at a time during the Haight-Ashbury period when he was very much in love. “Either that, or I had just eaten a big, fat hashish brownie,” Dan mused.

Next was another Christmas tune, “Somebody Stole My Santa Claus Suit.”

After an intermission, the band opened the second set with the Tom Waits composition, “The Piano Has Been Drinking,” followed by “Santa’s All Right with Me.”

LickettesLickettes Daria and Roberta were featured in “I’m an Old Cowhand,” which Dan explained was written by Johnny Mercer – “and myself.” Dan joked that he and Mercer co-wrote the song while rooming together at Boston University.

After playing “Santa the Man,” which drew comparisons between Santa and superheroes, Dan explained that the difference was “Santa is real. He’s as real as Herman Cain.”

The band then launched into the Dan Hicks classic “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away.”

Dan Hicks and Bassist Paul SmithDan intoduced “He’s Stoned” as a song about some of the guys that used to hang around Haight-Ashbury back in the Sixties.

The band said goodnight and returned to play “I Feel Like Singing” as their encore.

It was a solid two-hours of great music, and Dan had the crowd in stitches between tunes. It’s safe to say that a good time was had by all.

1972 Video of Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks

Hicksville website

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