Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent those of Maryville College or the Highland Echo staff.
When one of my friends suggested that we go to a country-dance club called the Cotton Eyed Joe on a Saturday night, I was not very enthusiastic. I had never gone to a club before and only had second-hand accounts to fuel my imagination, so images of a darkly-lit room filled to the brim with people and music so loud that I would be near deaf by the end of the night came to mind. However, I had heard before that this club, also known as simply “the Joe”, was a hotspot for Maryville College students on weekends. So, with some reluctance, I gave into my friends as well as my own curiosity and, digging out my pair of cowboy boots that they insisted everyone wore, agreed to go to the Cotton Eyed Joe
The Joe does not give the best first impression from the outside. With dark, opaque windows, dingy paint and a neon sign only half-lit, I began having second thoughts as our IDs were checked and we paid our entrance fees—five dollars for those over 21 and 10 for 18 to 20 year-olds.
The minute I walked in, I was hit with an unexpected blast of music that you surprisingly could not hear outside the club at all. However, once I got over my initial disorientation and adjusted to the noise, I quickly realized that the inside didn’t reflect the rough looking exterior at all.
The interior is a single large room, well-lit enough that you can always see where you are going and exposing walls covered from top to bottom with posters, pictures and other Wild West and country memorabilia. It was far from the dingy, foreboding room that I had imagined.
My friends and I decided to explore the club first, discovering a mechanical bull, which could draw a large crowd depending on how skilled the rider was. Only the worst, those who fell off before the ride even started, and the best, those that clung to the bull for dear life and somehow managed to stay on, drew spectators.
For all of the attractions around the room, however, the heart of the club is the dance floor. The space is more like a stage, brightly-lit and built to look like a corral. Tables, chairs and stools surround the dance floor so that while trying to talk with friends over the music, you can still watch the dancers and enjoy a snack or a drink.
The most popular thing to do at the Joe is to dance, and there are definitely a wide range of dances and songs to choose from. For example, in the span of maybe ten minutes an old country song came on and only a few couples moved to do a slow two-step, but when “The Electric Slide” followed, people flooded the dance floor.
Despite my lack of coordination, even I joined in for some of the line dances where obvious regulars, ranging in age from college students to people well into their sixties, and almost all wearing cowboy boots, were happy to lead the way and show first-timers like myself all of the steps. They were also kind enough to bring those standing on the sidelines into the action, something I learned first hand when my friends and I were ushered onto the dance floor for a traditional line dance that we had been too nervous to join on our own.
During dances where the choreography was too complicated for me, my friends and I retreated to one of the many bars around the room. Eager to cater to exhausted dancers, the Joe provided at least four coolers per bar station full of cold water free of charge.
My friends and I stayed for about three hours, dancing when we could or watching and trying to catch our breaths when the steps became too confusing. Exhausted, but not unpleasantly so, we left at around 1 a.m. with the club still as full with people, excitement and energy as when we had arrived.
Would I recommend the Joe to other students? It seems to me that the Joe is best enjoyed when you come with a group of friends to dance with and if you don’t mind shouting over the loud music. However, if you like dancing or are just looking for a new experience, the Joe is definitely the place to go. Even if you are a bit reluctant to try it like I was, I would definitely recommend any MC student put on their best pair of cowboy boots and give the Cotton Eyed Joe a chance.