Thursday, Sept. 17, Doors at 5:30
$20 Advance, $25 At Door
Kids Under 12, Free
Blue Mitten Farms
4977 Cornell Road, Meridian Charter Twp.
Never describe Dixon’s violin playing with a label or brand it with a specific genre. That is precisely the kind of “fit into a box” categorization he scorns. Dixon, whose legal name is David James Hammond, is a musician and philosopher who never plays the same song twice and never asks for people to limit themselves to narrow categories.
He’s bringing his Humankindness Tour to Okemos on Thursday. The outdoor concert is at Blue Mitten Farms, and attendees are asked to bring their own chairs, blankets and beverages. A yoga and meditation class with Katy Joe DeSantis will precede the 7 p.m. concert.
“Humankindness is the blending of humankind and kindness,” Dixon said. “I believe we are all connected and we can honor each other with compassion and care.”
Dixon was raised in greater Flint and lived 17 years in Lansing before moving to Dearborn and more recently Ann Arbor. “I’m blessed to have a comfy home and wooded land that I share with my beloved, Leslie,” he said.
Using a five-string Yamaha EV-205 electric violin and a bank of effects and looping pedals, he makes truly unique sounds. The extra low C string and digital enhancements give him a six-or-seven-octave range to play with. The system Dixon invented makes him an all live, one man symphony. “I love the idea that what you see is one person with a violin but what you hear is 12,” he said.
Besides manipulating the violin, he has to listen closely to all the layers s to harmonize and keep rhythm with them. “I believe there is an analogy there in life,” Dixon said. “In addition to speaking our truths, we need to be carefully listening to others in order that we work together.”
Dixon improvises multiple rhythmic and melodic violin repetitions with the loops — adding percussive noises, power chords, speed runs and more on top of the recordings. Dixon might pluck, strike, or bow his metallic violin — or attack the fret board like a rock guitar god.
The result can be a swirling cascade of sounds or gentle, harmonious patterns. Even Dixon doesn’t know where a spontaneous composition might go. “It’s a delight to see what sonic landscape I can create and play with,” he said.
Dixon’s favorite composition is called “The Song That Doesn’t Exist — Yet.” He creates it live. Like his concerts, the instrumental is never the same, twice.
Dixon’s between-song chats do have some of the same messages. He has three recorded TED Talks that are easily streamed that feature Dixon’s uplifting and consistent philosophies.
“In my first, I took the audience on a journey of catharsis,” Dixon said. “My second was sharing a bit of my story of walking away from the corporate world to follow my dream, and my most recent was about defying categories.”
Dixon, 50, who has been training on the violin since age 10, never planned to make a career out of solo performances. He played in various orchestras, including the Midland Symphony, but got a graduate degree in computer science from Michigan State University. “Yes, I’m a geek,” Dixon said.
For most of his life he had a tech career. “I was director of technology for a couple of successful startup companies in Lansing for over 15 years,” Dixon said. “My specialty was multi-dimensional data visualization,” he said. A liberating trip to the Burning Man festival in Nevada in 2005 changed everything.
“After living my life only using my head, when I realized the power of sharing from the heart, and the soul-moving, even spiritual experiences you can share through music, I knew I had to do this full time,” Dixon said.
He now boasts 10 performances at Burning Man, and more shows in states than he can count. “I’ve played much of the United States, as well as a number of shows across Canada, a couple of times in Mexico, and even once in South Africa,” Dixon said. He always wants people to leave his shows with feeling “they can do anything they set their mind to.”
The Humankindess Tour, which gets its electricity from Dixon’s own solar battery-powered PA and lights — is his first since the Covid shutdown. “Instead of doing a smaller number of big shows, I’m doing a ton of small ones,” he said.
Audiences are usually kept to 50 people in a large outdoor space — the Okemos show allows no more than 100. Attendees are encouraged to wear masks whenever entering or leaving their spots. So far, the social distancing has been great, Dixon said. “Occasionally, someone forgets and offers to shake my hand. This is very different from some other events I’ve read about where the attitude is to ignore safety,” he said.
A portion of the ticket fees goes to support Black Lives Matter. “We have been able to donate over $2,000 and counting,” Dixon said. “I acknowledge all the privileges I’ve had in my life so I am happy to support this important cause.”