Danny Michel Brings School Night Mondays To Crow

by Bill Monahan

Monday is the one night in the week when live music doesn’t happen.  When Danny Michel decided to rectify that six years ago at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto he was bucking conventional wisdom.

“Everybody said I was crazy,” he says, “nobody will come on a Monday.  It turned out to be the opposite.  People loved that there was something happening on a Monday.  But it was early so they could be home by around 9:30.  The other thing is that there was no competition.”

The first series he did at the Dakota sold out for eighteen weeks in a row.  He always invites friends to join him and his band.  The Dakota series included a who’s who of artists, including Sarah Harmer, Jim Cuddy, Ed Robertson, Tom Cochrane, Amelia Curran, and Royal Wood among others.

“It’s created for no other reason than for musicians, friends, to get together to play and enjoy it.  The rest of our lives is all stressful gigs that are about your career and trying to sell tickets.  I kind of missed that whole thing about getting together just to play for no reason.”

Danny Michel has a habit of thinking outside the box with his musical projects.  The empathetic nature of his songs mirrors a career that follows his heart.

In 2011 he relocated from his home in Kitchener-Waterloo to Belize, drawn there by one of his favourite bands, The Garifuna Collective.  The resulting album, called “One of the finest musical works of our time” by Billboard’s Larry Leblanc, led to a sold out North American tour with The Garifuna Collective as his backing band, and a worldwide release on Cumbancha Records that garnered him a Juno nomination.

Wanting to give back after gaining so much from his Belize experience, he created The Danny Michel Ocean Academy Fund to provide scholarships for students.  The Ocean Academy High School is the only high school on the island of Caye Caulker.  It is a not-for-profit school only partially funded by the Belize government, leaving students responsible for costs in the neighbourhood of $1,000 U.S. every year.  The fund he created has raised enough to provide scholarships for almost half the student population.

Back in Canada, he created the unique Internet series he called “Dan’s Space Van”, in which he interviews musicians and other inside a 1978 GMC van airbrushed with a Star Trek theme.

“That’s a show that I make sometimes just for fun,” he says, “I wanted to learn about making video so I thought I’ll just make a little show for fun so I can learn how to do that.”

Last year he was invited by Col. Chris Hadfield, astronaut and musician, to join scientists, photographers, writers and videographers on an arctic expedition aboard a Russian icebreaker.  He wrote and recorded an album during the journey, inspired by the unique experience.  It includes contributions from the Russian dishwasher on board and Col. Hatfield himself, who sang in Russian a song based on the poetry of Alexander Pushkin put to music.  Afterwards, brass and string arrangements were added by his longtime collaborator Rob Carli.  The music of the album has been arranged for symphony orchestra to be performed with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at the behest of Col. Hadfield.

Alongside these varied experiences and projects, the School Night Mondays series has taken on a life of its own.  In addition to the Toronto series he has done one in Waterloo and now, starting on March 5th, he’ll be doing it for a month of Mondays at CROW Bar and Variety in Collingwood.

The shows start early, with doors opening at 6, and end early, at 9.  The idea is that it will allow people to get out and enjoy live music on a Monday without it being a late night.

“I look at it more like going to a movie,” he says, “That’s something you do on a Monday.  People can go out and still realize they’re going to be home on time for school tomorrow.”

“It’s a very casual night,” he adds, “I’ll usually play songs from my catalogue and if I have new songs, I’ll try them out.  We have a friend join us to perform a few of their songs.”

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One Response to Danny Michel Brings School Night Mondays To Crow

  1. Gillian says:

    Great post! I watched some Space Van after reading this 🙂

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