DJ shows spotlight a growing community in Winnipeg’s music scene

By: Rainah Uhl

Gone are the days of Grippin Grain, Devotion, and Union Sound Hall. If you were born after 2001, you likely haven’t experienced these infamous Winnipeg DJ nights unless you sported a fake ID (no judgment). 

Most Winnipeg dance clubs have closed due to the pandemic, leaving only four clubs dedicated to permanent dance nights scattered around the city. 

While this might seem bleak for Winnipeg’s music lovers, a new generation is slowly — but steadily — taking over from below. 

Hayden Mushinski, 26, and Jason Aniceto, 27, are musicians and DJs working to make Winnipeg a hot spot for dance and house music. Mushinski and Aniceto grew up playing various instruments from a young age, eventually learning to use DJ controllers and subsequent equipment. 

“I started seeing all these cool DJ scenes emerge around the world because of COVID,” said Aniceto. “I think everyone has this idea that a DJ is Steve Aoki, which just isn’t true.”

“Coming from a rhythmic background, I thought, okay, I could do this, so I started DJing last year.”

(left to right) Jason Aniceto (left) and Hayden Mushinski (right) share music in Mushinski’s music studio in Downtown Winnipeg on Oct. 15, 2022. (Rainah Uhl)

A group of Aniceto’s friends involved in Winnipeg’s music scene grew restless during the pandemic and decided to throw a secret party in Wellington’s Munson Park. Aniceto had enough practice to perform at the first “Mush parties” at the park. These parties would become a successful staple in the underground dance music scene growing over the pandemic. 

Mushinski, who recently began performing under the stage name hallw_y, said this growing community is essential for the overall music culture of Winnipeg.

“It just feels like this is an amazing way to congregate around a speaker and dance and share music,” Mushinski said. “It’s like a sharing circle of sorts.” 

Mushinski added to the underground dance music scene with a series of warehouse parties at which he, Aniceto, and other artists could perform.

“I think people definitely enjoy the casualness of what we’re creating,” Mushinski said. “Some events in the city really promote a theme and dressing up.”

With both DJs growing in popularity across Winnipeg, so has the demand for their time. Aniceto and his friends played a notable alley-way show during Nuit Blanche, with a line wrapping around Albert St.

“That was such a special moment,” Aniceto said. “At Munson [Park], there’s so much room to spread out, but the alley was so tight you could see everyone’s reactions right in front.” 

While the requests to play shows steadily grow, Aniceto, who performs solo and as part of the duo LMAO, said he still wants there to be magic in the performances. 

“If you say yes to so many things, and start playing every week, the hype gets lost,” Aniceto said. “I’ve seen that happen with some bands in Winnipeg, so I’ve been learning to turn down things I don’t vibe with.” 

Mushinski said he hopes to create a more significant community of people looking to DJ within the city. 

“There are so many people who are learning or want to learn to make music, and I want to be a part of shaping this community.”