It is strange to think that an accountant is behind a weekly queer shaker that is helping Calgary get its groove back. However Brennan Tilley — bookkeeper by day — transforms a local alternative drinking hole, called the Marquee Room, into a queer dance haven every Wednesday night. Called Hump Wednesdays, the venue is located in downtown Calgary above one of the city’s oldest cinemas, the venerated Uptown Stage and Screen.
“I was involved in a Facebook group that formed last year around the need for more gay hangouts in the city,” says Tilley, who works at the Uptown and is the marketing coordinator for Hump Wednesdays. “Then a guy named JP Rousseau found us with the Hump Wednesday idea and we responded by saying, ‘yeah — we could be that place.'”
JP Rousseau, originally from Ottawa, has been in Calgary for two years. He approached the Marquee Room because of its popularity and openness, having previously hosted a handful of successful Lesbian Dance Party nights.
“I was bouncing for a similar event also called Hump Wednesday at the Helsinki Lounge in Ottawa and was interested in doing a gay night here that was like it, but a little different — a straight up DJ night,” says Rousseau.
Calgary’s first Hump Wednesday was held Oct 15 and its growing popularity culminated recently in a sell-out New Year’s Eve Hump.
“I was surprised at how good the response has been, and really pleased at how many people are coming out,” says Tilley. “The commitment of our regulars is excellent — particularly in how they are making Hump Wednesdays their own. For example, one of our customers called JP and said, ‘Hey — we are all coming next week wearing neon’ — so we sent out a message telling people that it was going to be neon night.”
Rousseau adds, “The support from the DJ community has been amazing — there are people who are clamouring to play — and it is mostly straight DJs in the city who want the opportunity to play for a gay club. The club has been great as well — an all around good vibe.”
Hump Wednesday may be changing the nature of Calgary’s downtown west end, which is known for iconic straight bars, like the former Cowboy’s.
Tilley explains that some people feel the downtown west end area is a redneck zone, but Hump is out to change that. “We have gone out of our way to be really welcoming and it has worked,” he says. “Everyone who comes in is a friend on Wednesdays.”