Local Current Blog

Minneapolis funk evangelist Bobby Kahn celebrates Prince party, dreams of festival

Bobby Kahn dances at First Avenue. Photo by Ryan Motta.

Bobby Kahn is coming off the wildest 10-day period of his life. First, he organized a show with a Detroit DJ who Prince fans only dreamed of booking in Minneapolis. The next weekend, he pulled off a two-night variety show called “The Great Equalizer,” which featured musicians, spoken word artists, and an abundance of dance. Oh, and he also has a full-time job as an accountant.

Well-known in the Twin Cities arts community since cable-access TV show Freaky Deeky, Kahn is one of Minneapolis’s most passionate party-planners by night, and he’s out to convert more people to the religion of dance.

In addition to his role as party guru, Kahn is a writer, often contributing to City Pages, his website Chosen By The Funk, and the Local Current Blog. He stands out because of his incredibly detailed prose — “Is Minneapolis techno having a renaissance?” runs 2100 words long, and “How Prince’s love affair with Detroit helped fuel the birth of techno” clocks in at 3000 — but he’s never dry. His writing is plainly heartfelt.

Kahn is not one for brevity in person, either. When he gets excited, he talks faster and faster, and he could discuss music for hours. He’s just as eager to talk about people who inspire him (techno hero The Electrifying Mojo, dance duo Al Taw’am) as his own plans.

“Can I count on you to help me keep Minneapolis funky?” Kahn asked the 7th Street Entry crowd on April 21, the anniversary of Prince’s death. He wore a purple tie, held a microphone, and ramped up his delivery over the splashy guitar and synth solos of the Time’s “Get It Up.” He continued, “Can I count on you to join me on the dance floor?”

That night, Kahn was introducing Moodymann, a Detroit DJ legend and intense Prince fan, to a sold-out 7th Street Entry. He’d always wanted to book Moodymann for a tribute show, talking about it regularly since Prince passed away. But it wasn’t until he ran into the DJ on the First Avenue dance floor last October (on the night of the official Xcel tribute) that they actually got in touch. To follow up, Kahn sent Moodymann a vinyl of Purple Snow: Forecasting The Minneapolis Sound via post.

At the Entry, Kahn says, “Moodymann really dug deep. He played songs I’d never heard, shared incredibly rare videos from Paisley Park and old concerts, and even the songs he played that I did know, he played a different version that I had never heard.”

In addition to Prince tributes, Kahn also wants to organize events that Prince himself would want to be at. He dreams of a free funk block party and a funk festival in Minneapolis, helping his city become more widely known for funk the way Detroit is known for techno. Through the Moodymann show, he “made connections with several more people from Australia, France, England, and several different states,” and the scale of it all inspired him to dream larger than before.

Kahn can be a polarizing person, always persistent in accomplishing his goals. He’s been friends with First Avenue talent buyer Eli Flasher since Hebrew school, and he’s always pitching Flasher event and show ideas, particularly ones that feature dance. But without the pushing, would Minneapolis enjoy so many dance-centered shows? Would Moodymann have played the Entry or really connected with Twin Citians at all?

You’ll definitely learn something if you talk with Kahn, but more than that, you’re likely to feel something. It could be a calling to get out of your seat and prepare yourself to act; a curiosity about what it’d feel like to push your body through movements it doesn’t know. You might wonder how dance can enrich your life.

You’ll certainly wonder what Bobby Kahn will pull off next.