New music and comedy programming is coming to Kennedy Street, just a stone’s throw from the University of Winnipeg. Kelly Hughes, previously owner of Aqua Books, and Elissa Black Wolf Kixen, comedian and co-producer of comedy events WOKE Comedy Hour and Queer and Present Danger, are teaming up to bring fresh faces and perspectives to the Knndy.
“Kelly approached me and said ‘Would you be interested in producing some shows at the Knndy’ and I was like ‘What the hell’s the Knndy?’” Elissa says. “And then he told me it used to be the Lo Pub.”
The much-beloved Lo Pub has been gone since 2012. Hughes says he is long-time acquaintances with the new owners, who also operate India Palace. During the 2018 Fringe Festival, Hughes was visiting their food cart in Old Market Square when they proposed a collaboration.
“Right now the bar is just sitting with four VLTs in it ... But they still have all the sound equipment, and it still is a functioning bar. (But it’s) not really their wheelhouse. So (they) said, ‘Do you want to get something going?’ and I said, ‘Sure.’
“That was how it came about. Just a conversation at Old Market Square while someone on a ladder juggled fire.”
They agreed to put the programming through a six-week trial period, running events Fridays (music) and Saturdays (comedy) from Oct. 5 to Nov. 10.
Music acts will include three Jazz-Machine shows, a series Hughes started back when he ran Aqua Books that features local jazz musicians covering pop albums. The renewed series will feature Amber Epp covering Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Keith Price covering Cinematic Orchestra’s Every Day, and Two Hip covering Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Other music programming includes a lineup of musicians who struggle with mental health and the Those Guys acapella group.
Hughes says he is dissatisfied with the comedy scene in Winnipeg.
“My big complaint when I go see comedy stuff is that I see way more 30-year-old straight white men than I want to ... I know what my jokes are gonna be. I want to hear someone who’s had a different experience.”
That is why he invited Kixen to organize comedy programming. Kixen says the comedy nights are all about introducing audiences to comedians who might not usually get stage time.
“Being a queer Indigenous comedian in this city ... I feel like Winnipeg is still lacking in terms of queer representation in comedy, so I thought I’d give it a little boost,” they say. “The point of the shows is to showcase people who don’t normally get showcased, because I feel like there’s the same eight to 10 comedians who get recycled throughout the shows in Winnipeg.
“I don’t believe in a hierarchy of comedy. I’m more of an anarchist ... Like if you’re funny, you’re funny, I’ll put you in a show. There’s no ass-kissing or paying of dues.”
Headliners for the Knndy’s comedy nights will include Ashley Burdett, Chad Anderson and Jared Story.
Hughes believes Winnipeg has more artists ready to perform than it has venues to showcase. He wants the Knndy to help change that.
“We have venues close all the time, new places open, but there’s never enough. I really believe there’s so many people doing creative and interesting things.”
The Knndy is located at 330 Kennedy St. Shows start at 8 p.m. with a $7 to $15 cover charge.