Music fans wear cowboy hats, boots and large belt buckles, and tip back beer from longneck bottles when visiting Club Tropicana on Friday and Saturday nights.
But tunes by George Strait, Tim McGraw or Kenny Chesney don't provide the soundtrack for this large dance hall at 6447 W. Washington St.
It's Mexico's version of country music -- several styles collectively labeled "regional" -- that rules at Tropicana, at two Indianapolis radio stations and at record stores that cater to the city's Hispanic population of more than 50,000, as counted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Spanish-language bands play keyboards to create the polka-influenced sound of Duranguense, the popular regional style that emerged in Chicago at the beginning of the decade.
Musicians who appear at Tropicana and Far-Eastside nightclub El Rey de Copas, 8083 E. 38th St., typically wear matching suits and sing romantic lyrics.
The main attraction, however, may be the rhythms pounded on drum kits and additional bass drums.
"People go to the clubs so they can dance," says Emmanuel "Nino" Martinez, drummer for Indianapolis-based band Pantanos Musical. "We give them what they want."
An acrobatic dance known as quebradita, or "little break," is pushing rhythms faster.
Mixing elements of yesteryear's swing with modern gymnastics, quebradita features partners who cup their hands to launch one another in the air before being yanked under legs and thrust overhead.
Willie Guerra, who established a club for quebradita dancers last year, has perfected a mid-air move in which he doesn't put either hand on a female partner while she rolls across his shoulders.
His Toreros club, which takes its name from bullfighters who tangle with unpredictable animals, has a membership that ranges from 15 to 24, depending on the time of year.
"When we go to a Latino dance, as soon as the music starts, we go out there and dance fast," Guerra says. "We flip the girls, and the first thing people do is move out of the way."
Guerra, 24, says he learned basic quebradita moves as a teenager, when the style was a sensation in Los Angeles. After falling out of popularity, the dance has been revived in Chicago -- home to Duranguense and hundreds of bands that play regional Mexican music.
One Windy City band, Oasis Musical, performed earlier this month at Tropicana. Featuring a trombone player in addition to keyboards and percussion, Oasis refers to its musical style as "tierra caliente."
"Chicago is alive, jumping and humming," keyboard player Noel Alcauter said before his band took the stage. "Music is part of everyday life. It's involved with work, riding down the street, your own personal enjoyment, everything."
Duranguense vocalist Sergio Gomez, who was killed in December after a concert in Mexico, found fame in Chicago with his band K-Paz de la Sierra.
Gomez, who moved his family to Avon in 2003, is a posthumous nominee for a Grammy Award in a category devoted to Banda, a Mexican genre defined by its use of brass tones. The Grammy Awards will be handed out Feb. 10.
Pantanos drummer Martinez says his band aspires to make recordings on par with K-Paz.
"I think they inspired everybody," he says.
While the roadside slaying of Gomez is viewed as a mystery, he's one of several musicians who have been killed in Mexico during the past two years.
"The truth is, nobody knows why," Martinez says.
Organized crime is suspected in the attacks, which have spread to mainstream artists following the deaths of "narcocorrido" singers who glamorized drugs and guns.
Oasis keyboard player Alcauter says the violence is alarming, but adds that he's not going to give up music.
"You can't stop," he says.
From 2000 to 2004, Indianapolis was one of six American cities where Hispanic populations grew by more than 40 percent.
Mayraelisa Arroyo, manager of Tropicana and program director at radio station WNTS-AM (1590), says movement from other U.S. cities accounted for much of that increase.
"If (someone's) situation was hard, you'd call them and let them know, 'Here we have better jobs, better pay and the rent isn't high,'." Arroyo says.
Now 30, Arroyo moved to Indianapolis at age 15.
"There wasn't anybody here," she says. "When you saw (another Hispanic resident), you'd go directly to him and introduce yourself."
Although things have changed, Indianapolis has produced a handful of regional Mexican bands compared to the hundreds based in Chicago.
Miguel Cano, a 24-year-old who frequents the Tropicana, refers to Indianapolis as "a small town" in terms of its Hispanic population.
"If you come every weekend, you're going to see the same people," Cano says.
Another Tropicana patron, 26-year-old Juan Acevedo, says he would like to hear more variety in local Spanish-language radio. "We need more stations that play Mexican rock 'n' roll," he says.
WNTS plays regional Mexican music, as does WEDJ-FM (107.1). WEDJ's sister station, WSYW-AM (810), plays a mix of Latin hits outside the realm of regional Mexican.
Radio station executive Arroyo estimates that more than 70 percent of the city's Hispanic population has Mexican roots.
Record-store owner Salvador Reynoso predicts that Duranguense will remain popular in Indianapolis, even if music fans in Los Angeles, New York City and Miami are moving on to different styles.
"There are some people (in Indianapolis) that like salsa and reggaeton, but they're from other places like Puerto Rico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic," he says.
Reynoso, who operates Reynoso Records shops at 3350 N. High School Road and 11 Beachway Drive, says venues such as Tropicana and El Rey de Copa have built-in audiences for local musicians who play regional Mexican styles.
It's rare for local acts to make recordings to sell, Reynoso says. When musicians do have CDs, Reynoso stocks them in his store and keeps no consignment fee from sales.
In her role as manager at the Tropicana, Arroyo says Indianapolis audiences are vocal about their music preferences.
"When I bring in a group -- even if they're from Chicago or somewhere else -- people will tell me if they don't like them: 'We don't want them. We'd prefer a DJ.'."
Norteno band El Poder del Norte, which has placed six albums in the Top 20 of Billboard magazine's regional Mexican albums chart, will perform Feb. 8 at the 1,600-capacity Tropicana.
Arroyo says it's the nightclub's first major event of the year, and she expects 90.percent of audience members to be dressed in cowboy gear.
The styles are a way for people to retain a connection to Mexico, she says. Duranguense, for instance, takes its name from Durango, a Mexican state known for ranching and scorpions.
"You don't see people dressing (in hats, boots and large belt buckles) when they walk down the street," Arroyo says. "But they have to be dressed that way when they go dancing. And they spend a lot of money on those things."
Pantanos drummer Martinez says it wasn't easy to form his band, which he considers to be the first Duranguense group in Indianapolis.
Referring to his brother, keyboard player Jorge Espinoza, as the group's driving force, Martinez says it was difficult four years ago to find musicians who loved the style of music.
To recruit vocalist Martin Hernandez, the members of Pantanos looked to Logansport -- a town of 20,000 northeast of Lafayette.
"Every Tuesday, he comes all the way to Indianapolis to practice," Martinez says. "Every weekend, he comes all the way to Indianapolis and then we leave from here."
Pantanos tours on a circuit that includes cities in Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri and Florida.
Martinez says he's grateful to have fans among dancers in Club Toreros when Pantanos plays hometown shows.
"Their support is important," Martinez says. "But I just play the music. I don't even know how to dance."
Meanwhile, Toreros founder Guerra says he enjoys the attention people give to his crew, who range in age from 16 to 27.
"Everybody who sees this dance gets curious about it," Guerra says.
"They want to know, 'How do you do it? How long have you done it? Are you guys afraid?'."
He acknowledges the importance of trust when attempting potentially harmful dance moves.
Couples practice repeatedly at slow speeds before males spring a faster pace on their female counterparts, Guerra says.
"That's it. You go up and you come back down."
Toreros and other quebradita clubs such as Acelerados have a reputation for being positive pastimes for young Hispanics, Arroyo says.
"They're not doing bad things," she says. "They have a lot of fun dancing and exercising."
Where to hear Spanish-language music
Club Tropicana, 6447 W. Washington St., (317) 247-7533.
El Rey de Copas, 8083 E. 38th St., (317) 945-4854.
Club Kaoz, 3970 Georgetown Road, (317) 290-1575.
Club Liquid, 2820 Westland Road, (317) 347-1000.
Vaqueras y Broncos, 1040 S. Sherman Drive, (317) 717-3525.
WEDJ-FM (107.1), 1800 N. Meridian St., (317) 924-1071.
WNTS-AM (1590), 3745 W. Washington St., (317) 472-7137.
WSYW-AM (810), 1800 N. Meridian St., (317) 924-1071.
Selected record stores
Gonzalez Records, 6396 E. 82nd St., (317) 585-8889.
Aguascalientes Records, 2125 W. Washington St., (317) 822-0705.
Reynoso Records, 3350 N. High School Road, (317) 299-7399, !and 11 Beachway Drive, (317) 381-0838.