Talking to Grant Hart yesterday, I was surprised to find him sounding even more downbeat than when I talked to him a couple days after the house fire that temporarily left him homeless in late January. And then he spilled the news: His mother, Annetta Hart, who also lived at the home in South St. Paul that caught fire, passed away on Feb. 26 at the age of 86. Grant had put in her in a care facility just around the holidays, which wound up being something of a blessing when the fire hit (Grant's father Vernon is still living but had already been in a care facility). But Annetta apparently deteriorated quickly from there.
"She had a good run," Grant said, smiling at memories of his mom's support throughout the years. "This woman, she attended all sorts of punk-rock events. It was all thanks to her Hüsker Dü got its first 7-inch out." As is known in Hüskers lore, Grant would print up flyers on the copy machine at the credit union where Anetta worked, which is also where the band got a loan to put out its first 7-inch.
Grant said he hoped to pay tribute to Annetta in some form or fashion tonight at First Avenue, when fans and friends are putting on a benefit concert to help him rebuild his house -- which he finally opted to do instead of calling it a lost cause: "It's been in the family since 1919, so how could I do anything else?" he said. Among the performers tonight are Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner, Curtiss A, the Magnolias, the Alarmists, the Melismatics and one of Grant's old bands, Yanomamos. It's an early show, 6-10 p.m., with a $10 cover.
Despite all the calamity, Hart is in the midst of something of a musical comeback, which started with the excellent 2009 album "Hot Wax." He is headed off for another monthlong European tour after tonight's show, plus he is in the thick of making a concept album based on John Milton's epic poem "Paradise Lost." Producer and Rank Strangers leader Mike Wisti, Hart's chief collaborator on the album, was raving about the music in a separate conversation. Something to look forward to.