The whole idea of a “new tradition” is a bit of an oxymoron, and it’s rare for any new festive celebration to become a true holiday staple. Somehow, Winnipeg singer-songwriter JP Hoe has done it. His annual JP Hoe Hoe Hoe Holiday Show has been going on for nearly a decade, and it has grown exponentially in scope and popularity since its humble beginnings at the King’s Head Pub.
“It was initially just an excuse to have a show,” says Hoe about that first holiday show. “I was a new artist, and there weren’t a lot of shows happening in December. Also, I had grown this awful mustache for that month. As a Chinese man, I thought mustaches were funny, and they didn’t grow very well on me. We used it as a reason to shave it off onstage, to mark
That bizarre act of barbering (“it was done to ‘Eye of the Tiger,’” Hoe says) helped give birth to the spirit of fun that Hoe tries to bring to the show every year.
“That first show just seemed like a really great excuse to get together with friends,” he explains. “Personally, I love Christmas. I love the holidays. I love the lights, people are in a good mood, there’s lots of food. As cold as it is, there’s a good feeling.
“Every year, it felt like I had to keep doing the show. I like doing this for Winnipeg because I love living here. I know winter can be harsh. It became a fun thing for people of any age. It’s the Christmas concert that I hope people want to go to.”
The event has changed venues as it has grown in popularity since the inaugural King’s Head show; after a stint at The Academy and a long stint at the Park Theatre, the show made the jump to the Burton Cummings Theatre last year.
“I think I’m going to be less in awe of the venue this year,” Hoe says. “Last year I was nervous, and the night felt like a blur. On tour, you don’t get to see venues with the artistry that went into building, designing and sculpting the Burt. You can feel that legacy.
“It gives you energy, because you’re excited to share a stage that’s been played by so many incredible talented people, that’s been enjoyed by so many audiences. That vibe has lasted there. It’s what makes the Burt such a special place to play.”
The years have brought other changes. Hoe now performs the show with an almost 20-piece band, and the experience eventually inspired him to record a six-song EP of original holiday songs, which he performs at the show.
“We also like to take regular songs and force them into a Christmas sensibility,” Hoe explains. “One year, we played Mike & The Mechanics’ ‘All I Need is a Miracle,’ and turned it into a Christmas song. It translated really well. There’s this kitsch, this cheese factor that I think should apply to anything around the holidays. I want it to be the most ‘Christmas concert’ Christmas concert.”