Saturday, November 3, 10:30 p.m.
I was worried I might miss Stoney’s Rockin’ Country, located just north of the South Point Casino on Las Vegas Boulevard. But the steady stream of tail lights gliding into the strip-mall parking lot leads the way. There, under an appropriately huge red neon state of Texas—read into that as you will, politicos—stretches a long line of cowboy and cowgirl hats, a veritable cattle call of plaid and denim. I’m a little more martinis and Manolos, a little less beers and steers.
But don’t let the uptown getup fool you. I went through one hell of a country-music phase that spanned high school and spilled over in to college. Why are some people so ashamed to admit they’re country-music fans?! I’m sure the 2,000 people packing Stoney’s tonight have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. Both the parking lot and valet (yes, valet) are awash in bumper stickers proclaiming the driver’s willingness to die for kin, country and ... country.
It’s not yet 11 p.m. and the 30,000-square-foot club is packed with post-PBR (Professional Bull Riders) rodeo revelers. One can only imagine the madness that will be Stoney’s slick pine dance floor when the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) rides into town December 7-15. I try to get two cowpeople to explain the difference between PBR and NFR, but all I get is a sports analogy, equally as confounding. I smile and compliment them on the size of their hats. “What is it about a black cowboy hat that renders the wearer, with few exceptions, a hottie?” one girl opines. I nod into my drink as a guy balances his beer on his head, his friend, who looks like Kenny Chesney, pounding his own brew and sticking the bottle in his pants. This is the VIP section, mind you.
Yes, there is a VIP section. A VIP host as well. Aaron Carroll is owner Stoney Gray’s brother and he keeps the bottles (in copper ice tubs) rolling out to the 10 huge, leather-upholstered VIP booths. More of a country nightclub than a country bar, Stoney’s boasts the “largest dance floor in the state” at 2,500 square feet, as well as a Johnny. Johnny is the mechanical-bull master who makes sure that when a foolhardy tenderfoot yells, “C’mon! Is that all you got?” he gets tossed right on his chaw tin. Of course, he also makes sure that when a lady is on his steed, she gets a long slow ride, more or less an opportunity for us to watch her hump the felt-covered cow-bot.
Behind the VIP section, Stoney’s also features a four-lane mini-bowling alley, four pool tables and a Cowboy Arcade of games all involving guns, boxing and throwing sharp objects.
While we wait for house band Austin Law to take the stage, denim-skirted Lisa shows our group how to tear up the dance floor. “This is like country techno,” my friend Zach observes of DJ Caz’s beats. “What do you call that?” he asks. I submit “country line trancing.”
While the DJ announces the next dance to Gretchen Wilson’s “Here for the Party”—I actually know this one!—Lisa shows us the Cupid Shuffle, a sort of Line Dancing for Dummies that one of our onlookers sums up as “the electric slide with a little wiggle.”
“Make your four beats count,” she counsels as I slide my hip right into our table. Luckily, Stoney’s offers lessons at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.
Pulling one of the many wood chips covering the floor off my heel, I observe that the people here seem a hell of a lot happier than many I’ve seen in mainstream nightclubs, making this a great opportunity to escape the rat race without giving up the upscale nightlife elements we’ve become accustomed to. Not to mention it’s the best place for a girl to be bought a drink and asked (politely!) to dance.
Austin Law’s lead singer starts saying something about pledging to wear his dog tags until the soldiers come back from “that sandbox they call Iraq.
“This next one’s dedicated,” he says, “to all those who get ’er done every day over there.” That’s sweet. Wait, did he really say “get ’er done”?!
Xania Woodman thinks globally and parties locally. And frequently. E-mail her at [email protected] and visit www.thecircuitlv.com to sign up for Xania’s free weekly newsletter.