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Only rock 'n roll, but I liked it

I was born in 1974, so many of my formative years were spent in the 1980s. It was a confusing time. Women wore their hair high enough to take down passing aircraft, and it was considered acceptable -- sexy even -- for certain men to wear make-up and dress in stretchy, brightly-colored pants.

I can't say I understood much of it. But maybe that's just because I didn't participate. While many of my peers got excited when future VH1 dating-show star Brett Michaels asked them to talk dirty to him, I was listening to "Weird" Al Yankovoic singing parody songs about ice cream and fat people. It amused kids in my sixth grade class to no end that my friend C.J. Draper and I believed Jon Bon Jovi was singing, "Shot through the heart and you're too late," not, "and you're too blame" on the classic (to the kind of person who likes that kind of thing, anyway) song "You Give Love a Bad Name."

In other words, I was totally cool. When I didn't go to parties in high school it was because I was sure they wouldn't play enough They Might be Giants, not because nobody ever told me where they were.


All of which is a long way of saying I am not the target audience for Hairball, the Twin Cities band that has built a dedicated following with it's detailed recreation of such so-called hair metal classics.

Still, the band has its followers, and when the Farmington Rotary Club signed them up to play at the club's first Rocktoberfest fundraiser last weekend, I knew I'd have to get used to the idea of bare male chests and trousers asked to do more than their fair share of work. As a member of the club, I knew I'd be there to help on the night of the event. But could I really have fun watching a bunch of glammed-up guys performing songs from a genre defined at as, "A form of 80's teenybopper music made primarily by effeminate men wearing makeup and dressed like women, with stereotypical 80's big hair"? Could I really enjoy songs with deep, meaningful lyrics like, "So I'm a scruff bag well it's no disgrace, I ain't in no hurry and I don't know why"?

Turns out, I could. The whole night was loud and over the top and it was a blast. I could almost hear the overtaxed stereo systems at all those high school parties I never attended. I didn't even think it was that weird when the band included a couple of songs by Minnesota hero Prince, who had certainly the make-up and the tight pants down but seemed to lack a certain metal edge, what with his songs about fruit-colored clothing accessories improbable precipitation.

I wasn't the only one who felt that way, either. Many of the 2,000 or so people who braved the cold and rain to listen to the sounds of their youth -- or possibly of their parents' youth -- dressed in 80s-appropriate outfits. They waved their hands in the air, fingers forked into devil horns. They sang along to songs I might otherwise have preferred to pretend had never been recorded. They behaved like they were in high school again, or like they wish they had then. The only difference was, this time they could buy beer legally.

Apparently, it's possible to have hair metal even when you don't have hair anymore.

I doubt Saturday's experience will inspire me to rush out and pick up any Van Halen greatest hits CDs. And if I never hear another Bon Jovi song I will die happy. But for one night at least it was better than even the best of Weird Al's famous novelty polka medleys.

And that's saying something.