Paco Paco might've been a drive-thru likker store back in the day. Something about the slanted roof, pointy lit-up sign, and the way the squat structure juts out to the south of Earll Drive on 16th Street with a little driveway off to the side. Whatever its original use, it's a gay Latino spot now, and normally closed on Tuesdays. Still, here I am on a Tuesday night, doing an interview with Phoenix metro's most influential rock DJ outside the front door of the joint, counting the cop cars as they roll past, and the squalies as they file by for the soon-to-be bi-monthly dance par-tay Plus One.
No scenester worth his or her vintage tee will dispute the above assertion of DJ Denny Le Nimh's clout. Often referred to as DJ Nimh, or plain "Denny" by P-town clubbers, the 29-year-old's the Yoda of rock DJs in tha PHX, the guy who took a gritty dive called Boom (now the far less gritty Karamba) and made it the place to see and be seen on Friday nights. This was two-plus years ago when electroclash was the rage, and Hot Pink! was a dark, trashy den of smoke-laden sluttiness with a frenzied Fischerspooner-esque soundtack. Denny's name was on the tongue of every hot 20-year-old bimbette with enough sense to score her own fake ID. And since HP's always had 18-and-over after-hours, even just-past-puberty jailbait with candied lip gloss and too much makeup regarded Denny as a DJ god.
By the time I hit town, Denny was already taking the show on the road, eventually DJ-ing at a spot called Scenic on New York's Lower East Side, the site of Gotham's first Hot Pink!. He's kept his thumb in the Phoenix pie through HP residents like Dirty Dave, by jetting into the Zona monthly to do sets, and by setting up special appearances by legends like Marky Ramone this past February 3. The worm's turned in the past coupla years, though. Electroclash has pretty much electro-crashed and burned, leaving dance-rock, Brit-pop, and neo-New Wave to fill the void amongst the same Hot Pinkish faction. Karamba's drinks are a helluva lot more expensive, too, and sadly there seems to be less dry-humping and saliva-swapping in the club's shadowy recesses, maybe because there are precious few shadowy recesses left in the renovated danceteria.
On the NYC tip, Scenic recently swapped ownership, according to Denny. Hot Pink! will be reopening on April 7 at another Lower East Side spot called The Annex. In the interim, the workaholic mix maestro has a Hot Pink! poppin' off at Tommy Lee's Rokbar in Miami for the Winter Music Conference. There are even plans for a Hot Pink! in Stockholm, for cryin' out loud! So if Hot Pink's fuchsia-tinted star has dimmed slightly around here, it's understandable that the wax wizard can, er, wax philosophical about it.
"Anything you do in Phoenix, if you do it for a long period of time, it's gonna go through phases," explains Denny, lookin' chill in his black leather jacket. "There are only so many people who patronize these type of events. So some people will be over it. At the same time, you're going to be getting people who just turned 18 or 21 and are just getting into it.
"As far as Phoenix Hot Pink!, it's kinda in a transitional stage," he continues. "Some people are like, 'Why don't you just end it, or change the name?' But I want it to be a staple, a brand, something that's open to anybody who wants to have a good time. So if you have friends in from out of town, and they ask, 'What's there to do in Phoenix?' there's always Hot Pink!"
I'd give the boy props if he needed them. When most folks migrate to the Big Snapple they suddenly get water on the brain when it comes to their hometowns. They'll diss 'em, even deny that they're from there. But Denny has opened up a musical conduit between the two metropolises, exposing PHX track-shufflers to New York, and helping them score gigs there, while using the connex he's garnered in Manny-hanny and other cities to funnel in some different flava to Fenix. Take tonight's Plus One, which features not only Denny, Dirty Dave, and Frank the Rabbit on the decks, but a baby-faced newjack from Hollyweird named DJ Paparazzi.
Denny's not the only needle-dropper with contacts beyond Maricopa County, and not the only one importing cool shit. Moreover, he prolly wouldn't be doing it if there were zero ducats in it for him. But by carving out a dance-rock niche in a PHX awash with hip-hop, techno, Latin and house, he's paved the way for other popular rock and dance-rock nights, like Palo Verde's Tee Roy and Donkey Show and the Rogue's Shake!.
"So why Plus One?" I query, as I look around, anticipating the Jettster to show her pretty puss at any moment.
"That came from people always e-mailing me and asking, 'I really wanna go to your party, can I get on the list plus one?'" Denny explains. "It kinda works because every time I do it, I offer people guest list spots. Just send me an e-mail, tell me who you're bringing, and you skip the cover. Why do it at Paco Paco? I figured I'd try a different venue. This spot still has that dive bar feel to it, but it also has a dance floor."
Truly, Paco Paco has a bitchin' lil' dance floor way in the back, mirrored with two soccer ball-sized disco balls, some surprisingly intricate less-is-more lighting, and the nemesis of my lungs -- one of those ever-present smoke machines. Before the dance floor is a rectangular bar, and there are tables all down one side. The staff's as friendly as Chloë Sevigny on the set of Brown Bunny, and the drinks are stiffer than Slobodan Milosevic. The way they pour a Crown 'n' Coke, it's basically all Crown with a splash of Coke, just the way I like 'em.
By this point, it's gotten so packed that Denny has to get crackin'. I'm about to follow him in when the bi-Kristen Bell arrives with her retinue. Chick's gotta better entourage than HBO's Adrian Grenier these days, all while doing as little as humanly possible. Amazing.
"Sometimes I'd swear you actually work for me," I crack as I play doorman for her and her crew.
"Kreme, if you'd just loosen up a bit and do more drugs, you'd not only lose some flab, you might actually have a little fun, maybe even get laid," she informs me with a flourish. "Look at me, I never break a sweat, and the world falls at my feet."
"Just long enough to look up your skirt," I grumble.
"What?!" she spurts.
"Nothing, my sweet," I say, handing her the camera. "Could you snap some pics now please?"
Inside, Plus One's all sweaty bodies and smoke -- ASU chicks too hip for spring break at Rocky Point, arty dropouts, and skinny white boys. Well, save for one 300-pound two-stepper in his Phat Farm lace-ups, natch. Jett's off shutterbuggin', and I'm suckin' on my third C-n-C when I bump into this handsome dood with a corpse-like complexion, jet-black hair and a Hitler forelock curving over his brow. Name's Tristan, and no he's not kickin' it with Isolde, but rather his lady Riana, a thin pale-skinned beauty with Egyptian eyes and raven tresses. I tell him he looks like Gary Numan, but Tristan's never heard of the '80s New Wave artist.
"He did that song 'Cars,'" I tell him. "Google him. You could be his twin."
"I know he who he is," Riana relates. "I did Tristan's hair tonight. That's kinda what I was going for."
"So what's your story, mornin' glory?" I inquire.
"I'm the singer in a band called Edison Gem," she replies. "We just did three shows in New York, and got booked back there again in June for three more. It's a two-person band. We're on MySpace, if you wanna check us out."
"Edison Gem, huh? Unique name for a band," I comment.
"Yeah, that was like one of the first phonographic record players," she informs me.
Now both Tristan and I have something to Google when we get home, I think to myself.
There be plenty of femmes in circulation ce soir, and quite a few of them nibblin' on each other, though I think that has more to do with the paucity of males present. Don't see Jett anywhere. I'll bet a year's supply of Jägermeister that skank's tongue-wrestling with some hottie in a dark corner. As there are four DJs on tap this eve, I won't to try to parse out who dropped what, but needless to say, the sounds are eclectic, and motion-provokin': both The Jackson Five, and Michael Jackson solo; Joy Division; Rick James; Prince's "Erotic City"; "Come on Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners; Toto's "Africa"; Pat Benetar's "Heartbreaker"; Biggie Smalls; ODB; Ray Charles; and on and on. Damn if that dance floor didn't stay bangin' 'til the bitter end, no matter what was flowin' from the sound system.
When the J-Unit finally returns the digital camera, I'm deep in confabulation with two booful brainiacs Beth and Caty about surrealist art, Francis Bacon, Wyndham Lewis, and how Dali was a total art whore. Jett's lipstick is smeared and she's drunk off love, if not more illicit substances.
"Kreme, I need to go, I feel kinda sleepy," she yawns.
I click through the pics. "Good enough, Miss Priss. Whatever would I do without you?"
"Sit at home eatin' candy bars in your bloomers, I guess," she jibes, annoyed. "I'm the one with game, remember? Christ, maybe I should write the column."
"When they start taking monosyllabic copy written in crayon, I'll let you know," I snipe back at her. "Thankfully, Jett, in this line of work, you're a little something I like to call, 'job security.' One of the two or three reasons I keep your ass around."
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.