Thursday 21 July 2016

2016 Tour Highlights

My Spring 2016 House Culture Tour was one of the most enjoyable tours I've ever done, and I'd like to share some of what made it special, acknowledging all the people and organizations that were part of it.

The trip was fun for many reasons. I've been touring long enough now to really know how to do it – make the logistics run smoothly, keep my energy up, and put on events that really facilitate connection between people, which is what house culture is all about. More than ever before, I had a sense of making a contribution, which is very gratifying.

I also scheduled many days off, in which I could recuperate, hang out, and have unplanned experiences. Discovering an appetite for learning and trying new things, I said yes to offers that were outside what I normally do on the road, and this led to lots of great stuff.

So here are some of the highlights!

For my first time, I got to explore the collapsed parts of Detroit. I saw miles of city being reclaimed by wildness: sidewalks crumbling, plants growing up between the cracks, and abandoned houses completely engulfed by vines. I actually found it refreshing – a glimpse of truth behind the lies about America's greatness, and a testament to the power of nature.

Then that night at Cheryl's house in Southfield, I got to see how an audience can come together with a small group of local musicians to transform a living room into an exuberant dance party, without need for microphones, a PA system, or recorded music. Singing favourite pop songs, the crowd's collective memory called up all the lyrics, while it's collective voice provided all the power needed to match the volume of the band. 

In Urbana, Illinois, my friend Beth introduced me to the School For Designing a Society, a collective that, along with many other cool projects, puts on an annual theatre show in people's homes. I was welcomed into their fold, and quickly offered the opportunity to not only sing and play, but also act, in this year's production. It took place in two houses, in six parked cars (actors in the front seats and audience taking turns in the back), and under seven "cones of intimacy" (decorated umbrellas with room for one actor and three audience members). As I'd suspected, house theatre works just as well as house concerts. And as I didn't suspect, I can indeed act.

In the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, I participated in Space Between The Stories, a retreat given by my favourite contemporary thinker, Charles Eisenstein (left above). I'd asked him to speak at my house concert in nearby Asheville, and he'd invited me to do some music at the retreat. It was wonderful being immersed in his optimistic teachings for the weekend, and I met lots of great people, two of whom ended up hosting concerts for me later in the tour.

"Space between the stories" refers to the period of bewilderment and reflection we need to go through when we find previously held approaches to life breaking down, before we can forge a new path. On my tours, I meet many people who no longer believe the old narrative that conventional education, jobs, and relationships will bring them security or fulfillment, yet don't know what else to do. There were several such people at Catherine's in Durham, NC, and full of inspiration from the retreat, I had a great weaving of songs and conversation with them, making it one of the most magical shows of the tour. 

In Tranås, Sweden, I did a writer's residency at Kultivera, an organization exploring connections between sustainability and culture. They'd invited me to come work on my book-in-progress about how we consume and relate to music. I'd been reluctant to give up gigging time for this, but it ended up being one of the best weeks of my life. The support I felt from Kultivera had an amazing effect on my belief in the book, and it was great having a place (pictured above) where I could devote myself to it without distractions. 

Kultivera also helped find a gig for me at Svalan, a home for Afghan refugees in Tranås. Like much of the West, Sweden is becoming polarized by the crises stemming from our world's vast disparity of privilege. Many are opening their arms to refugees, while others are joining nationalist parties and racist groups. The day after I played at Svalan, one such group had plastered their promo postcard to the front door, featuring the face of Hitler. 

In the Danish countryside, I played at Makvaerket, an abandoned ceramics factory that a bunch of young people are converting into an eco-cultural commune. The place was really inspiring, with an events hall, a restaurant-quality kitchen, dormitories, composting toilets, a giant free-store, workshops, great stockpiles of materials and tools, art-making spaces, and gardens, as well as a culture of inclusion, consensus, conflict resolution, and intimate communication. I played in the eating-and-living room, seated atop a warm cob oven built in the shape of a 20-foot dragon. Staying two nights, I had time to join in a day of skill-sharing, in which I learned how to restore broken windows, stimulate lucid dreaming, and dance the tango. I also had my first fully naked, mixed-gender sauna, a practice quite common in Northern Europe.

Shortly after two extraordinary Belgian house concerts (at Eric's in Fontin and Koen's in Leuven) I had a chance to play abroad with my long-time Canadian collaborator David Celia (left, above). Since we're both on the road so much, we rarely get to see each other anymore, even back in Toronto. But crossing paths at Judicael and Nathalie's house in Lille, France, we had a great concert that also included his new girlfriend Marla. 

In England, I had two exciting opportunities: providing musical accompaniment for an epic tale performed by storyteller Stephanie Bradley, and playing at the home of Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Towns sustainable community movement. Like Eisenstein, Hopkins is one of my personal heroes, so this was very meaningful for me. 

I was also able to do more with my newfound taste for acting. In Glastonbury, Somerset, my friend Cath Brown and I spent four intensive days writing a one-act play, which we then performed at Helen's house in the town of Street, and at Catweazle, the legendary intimate performance gathering in Oxford.

Back Stateside, I did a few things around my 30th high school reunion. In a show at my classmate Daniel's in Columbia, Maryland, I got to play some of my classical-style duets, with Dan on bassoon and his friend Matt on violin. And in New York City, after attending two reunion events, I played a house concert where the host (Paul) and two of the guests were classmates.

I took six days in Baltimore to begin work on my first film music project, scoring my friend Joe Tropea's new documentary. It was a really interesting time. Racial violence has been erupting in his neighbourhood, and I didn't feel comfortable going out at night, but I walked around a lot by day, getting more of a sense of America's economic injustice and precariousness.

In Toronto, many musical friends and I mounted a benefit show for my former wife Cora's Lyme disease treatment crowdfunding campaign. We raised money, made great music, and had a big, healing dose of the community spirit I've come to cherish in Canada. It was also a rare chance to play with my old band The Kids (Don Kerr, Peter Murray, and Dave Celia). Many of the performers are pictured above with Cora, third from the right.

Other highlights were the gatherings at Billy's in Urbana, Illinois; Marcus and Johanna's in Werther, Germany; Olivia's in Reims, France; Cassandra's in Barrie, Ontario; and JP Cohousing in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, which was the best final concert I've ever had on a tour. 

But all the shows were special, confirming once again that culture in the home is a beautiful and powerful way to bring people together, build community, and remind us of what's really important in life. I send my deepest thanks to everyone who participated in this tour in any way!

Now I'm looking forward to organizing Toronto's third annual Festival of House Culture in the fall. For more on house culture, see my article about how to do it in your own home or town.

And here are some other links you may enjoy: (download music, order albums, blog, photos, tour dates, etc.) (follow me on Facebook) (watch live performance videos) (listen to my music)

– Michael in Truro, Cape Cod
July 2016

Bedroom concert at Hillery's, Rome, Georgia

House concert, potluck and beach party at Doug's, Salem, Massachusetts

House concert at Janine's, Strasbourg, France


March 12 Kingston NY - Potluck and intimate concert at The Lace Mill 
March 14 State College PA - Friends and Farmers Coop appreciation dinner at The Meetinghouse
March 16 Oberlin OH - House concert with Hassan Allen at Andru & Sarah's
March 18 Southfield MI - House concert, dancing and open stage at Cheryl's
March 19 South Haven MI - Concert at Lee Street Listening House
March 23 Bloomington IN - House concert at Travis' with Upfolk
March 25 Madison WI - House concert at Scott & Monica's with Beth Simpson
March 30 Urbana IL - "You Had to Be There" – house theatre with School For Designing a Society at Susan's
March 31 Urbana IL - Song swap conversation at Billy's
April 1 Urbana IL - "You Had to Be There" – house theatre with School For Designing a Society at Susan's
April 3 Rome GA - Potluck and bedroom concert at Hillery's
April 6 Asheville NC - Potluck, house concert and salon with Charles Eisenstein at Cathy's
April 7-10 Flat Rock NC - Space Between The Stories Retreat with Charles Eisesnstein
April 10 Durham NC - House concert at Catherine's
April 15 Stockholm SE - Album release concert at Fylkingen with Fredrik af Trampe
April 16 - 22 Tranås SE - Book-writing residency at Kultivera
April 21 Tranås SE - Concert at Svalan home for Afghan refugees
April 24 Malmö SE - House concert at Filippa, Jackie, Oscar, and Max's
April 25 Copenhagen DK - House concert at Jeff's
April 28 Knabstrup DK - Intimate concert at Makvaerket
April 29 Copenhagen DK - Vegetarian dinner, meditation, and intimate concert at Ananda Marga Yoga Centre
May 1 Hamburg DE - Afternoon house concert at Mimi's
May 4 Werther DE - House concert Marcus and Johanna’s
May 5 Berlin DE - House concert at Patrick's
May 6 Strasbourg FR - Birthday concert at Janine's
May 7 Reims FR - AQUATINSONG house concert at Olivia's
May 8 Brussels BE - House concert at Ralph’s
May 10 Sint Amandsberg BE - Intimate concert at Cohousing De Schilders
May 11 Gent BE - House concert at Lucie's
May 12 Liège BE - Afternoon music at Bring Your Mug Café
May 12 Fontin BE - House concert at Maison Maldoror
May 13 Leuven BE - House concert at Koen Van Wonterghem’s
May 14 Leuven BE - Pereboomstraat Block Party
May 15 Lille FR - House concert with David Celia and Marla at chez Judicael et Nathalie
May 16 Buckfastleigh UK - Storytelling workshop with Stephanie Bradley
May 17 Dartington UK - Kitchen concert at Emma & Rob Hopkins'
May 18 Truro UK - House concert at Heather & Jonathan's
May 22 Glastonbury UK - House concert at Pendragon Community
May 25 Street UK - "Other Side The Cave" – a one act play with Cath Brown at Helen's
May 26 Oxford UK - "Other Side The Cave" with Cath Brown at Catweazle Club
May 28 Columbia MD - House concert at Dan and Heather's with Daniel Davidoff and Matt DeBeal
June 1 Baltimore MD - 2640 Space with The Jennifers and Batworth Stone
June 4 Brooklyn NY - House concert with Alice Bierhorst at Alice's
June 5 Bronx NY - House concert at Paul & Cathy's
June 6 Kingston NY - Potluck and intimate concert at The Lace Mill 
June 11 Salem MA - House concert, potluck and beach party at Doug's
June 12 Lincoln MA - House concert at Jon & Katherine's
June 16 Toronto ON - Help Cora Kick Lyme benefit concert at Friends House with Bob Wisemen, Marker Starling, Ronley Teper's Lipliners, David Celia Band, Michael Holt & The Kids.
June 17 Barrie ON - House concert at Cassandra & Brynn's 
June 23 Ripton VT - House concert and potluck at Jeff's
June 24 Billerica MA - House concert at Jude & Laurel's
June 25 Cambridge MA - House concert with Heather Scott and Taylor Holland at Heather and Sam's
June 26 Jamaica Pain MA - Dinner concert with Heather Scott and Taylor Holland at Jamaica Plain Cohousing


  1. Michael, I'm blown away by your industry, your bravery and mostly by all you've accomplished as a musician. You're truly becoming a master. It's a privilege to join you in music making and a pleasure to be your friend.

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