By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
"It's a party at a Rodeo, man!" Big J shouted over Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." during last week's Back to School Bash at Rockin Rodeo. The crowd went wild. Wild. And, honestly, there's nothing quite like seeing a dance floor packed with a couple hundred folks dancing in unison, doing the "Cupid Shuffle" ("To the right...to the left," etc.) or all throwing their hands up in the air at Cyrus' command.
Since opening in 2002, Rockin Rodeo may have developed a reputation as nothing more than a red-dirt country venue and party bar—the kind of bar that hosts acts like Charlie Robison, Johnny Cooper and Eleven Hundred Springs, as well as Girls Gone Wild when its cameras roll through the two-university town. And, well, over the years, the venue has been known to be that kind of place. But Rockin Rodeo, which boasts "the largest dance floor in Denton," is also the home of XS, Big J's Wednesday night DJ weekly that's turned into Denton's biggest dance party.
According to Big J (of Clever Monkeys, Cool Out and Suite/Plush Basement) the night's attracted an average of 500 people in recent weeks, turning it into his most successful weekly gig. But how did one of Dallas' premier DJs end up with a weekly at a country dance hall in Denton? "Red Bull had me out there to DJ hip-hop for a DJ battle," Big J says. "That night the owners asked me if I'd be interested in a Wednesday night thing. I didn't have anything else going that night, so I said yeah."
But while he didn't have anything else going on Wednesdays at the time, now he DJs around the region every night of the week except Tuesdays—something he's "very thankful for," he says. XS started off "super-duper slow," Big J says. "But after three months of word of mouth, the night began catching on. The night really came from the ground up." And it only takes about one half-hour set to figure out that it's the tracks that Big J spins that attract the near-capacity crowds. In addition to spinning plenty of local hip-hop tracks, Big J says he plays everything from Top 40 hits and hip-hop to "underground, dirty South sorta stuff," which is good because this is a diverse crowd where cowboys mix on the dance floor with hipsters, hoods, sorority girls and everyone in between. But, to be fair, Big J's skills aside, it probably doesn't hurt that the bar slings 25-cent wells from 9 until 11 p.m. and $1 wells from 11 p.m. until last call. As he said, it's a party at a rodeo. —Daniel Rodrigue