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Maxx Fish is sweet — and 16

Whistler nightclub celebrates with a visit from DJ Neon Steve
The days of Wine and Party Time Maxx Fish's first manager Jorge Alvarez, top left, with Seal and friends on the night he refused entry to Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. Photos courtesy of Jorge Alvarez, submitted

So about that time when Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt went to Maxx Fish and were turned away...

Yep, that's right. The one-time world-famous couple couldn't get into the Whistler nightclub — it was too full.

"We became the place to go," says Jorge Alvarez, who was manager at the time. "People would offer hundreds of dollars to get in some nights but we couldn't because we were full. We'd have to close the front doors.

"One night we were partying with (singer) Seal, Richard Edson — who was in Reservoir Dogs — and (actor) Fisher Stevens.

"We were all getting loaded and a doorman came running down the stairs and he goes, 'Hey man, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston are trying to get in. They were at Sushi Village and heard we were the place to go.'"

But Alvarez couldn't let them in — they were full.

"'But Jorge,' the doorman says, 'Do you realize how famous we will be if we let them in?' I said, 'Do you realize how famous we'll be if we don't let them in? Sorry.'"

Clearly, Alvarez could write a few tantalyzing tales into a book on how music changed in the resort as talented DJs pushed to perform.

Alvarez, who owns Toad Hall Studios, says Whistler didn't have much in the way of dance clubs at the time, the ones that were there were more like "varsity bars." The nightclub scene tended to play Top 40 only, not the original work of creative DJs.

"I gave (Maxx Fish) the name and the initial concept, I guess. We wanted to do something in town that was different," Alvarez recalls, adding that he wanted to bring to Whistler more of what was developing in electronic dance music (EDM).

"When we opened there was Tommy's (Tommy Africa's) and the (now defunct) Beagle. We wanted something that would bring live music and would feature original electronic music... We didn't want to be like a radio station."

He gives credit to those other clubs and DJ Scott Arkwell — still performing as Vinyl Ritchie — and DJ Chek, for bringing house music, drum 'n' bass to town in 1997.

"In the beginning, the DJs encountered resistance from the owners, but they insisted that it wasn't the future. They started doing Sunday Night Soul Kitchen at Tommy's. Now it survives as a radio show on Whistler FM," Alvarez says.

"We created a house night on Fridays at Maxx Fish with girl DJs... that was a banner night and crazy busy. Our suspicions about a club like this were correct."

Alvarez also credits Arkwell for convincing him to bring in more hip hop.

"He said, 'Stick with this!' and I had told him it wouldn't work... Scott wanted to feature local talent and this basically launched (Whistler DJ) Mat the Alien," he says.

"It took about a year to catch on and then it became huge. Then there were house nights on Friday nights and Arkwell played on Saturdays, always pioneering new music. It became the Maxx Fish motto — to be at the vanguard with new music."

Both Mat the Alien and Vinyl Ritchie still perform internationally and across Canada, exporting a brand of Whistler EDM.

To celebrate the 16th anniversary, Maxx Fish is bringing in Victoria DJ Neon Steve, someone who been a regular performer during the rise of the Whistler EDM scene.

In an interview, Neon Steve says he has been working on a lot of music for TV, with a new piece about to come out on Britain's SKY TV network.

"It's been going really good. I've been writing lots of original music, and I was doing the whole festival circuit this summer," he says.

He is currently working on music for an original EP. His last one had a Jimi Hendrix theme.

"I took four of my favourite tunes of his and remixed each one in a different genre. I did 'Purple Haze,' I did an upbeat clubby thing with that. I did 'Foxy Lady' as a hip hop song," he says.

"I upset a few old guys. It was an interesting response; to a lot of people remixing Hendrix is like remixing the Bible. The goal was to breathe a bit of life to it and people could groove to it."

And Neon Steve has just switched over to the winter DJ club season.

"It starts when the kids get back into university but that only lasts until the kids blow their student loans in September and October. Then it slows down again," he laughs.

Thank goodness for the ski season, then, eh?

"Mmm-hmm. Definitely," he says.

Neon Steve plays the Sweet 16th Anniversary party on Friday, Nov. 20. Doors open at 9:30 p.m. and admission is ticketed but free.

Be there or be Pitt-Aniston.