How social media led to the Buttrock Experiment

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barb abney dj icehouse minneapolis
Barb Abney spins tunes at Icehouse in Minneapolis. (MPR photo/Luke Taylor)

I don't remember where I first heard the term, but I knew exactly what it meant. I've heard it called "Camaro Rock," but "Buttrock" always seemed like the better choice.

Buttrock is a tough one to define. As my friend Luke put it, "It's the crack between Glam and Big Hair." At Rock The Garden, Jeremy Messersmith talked about how he and his band have long conversations about Buttrock while they're out on the road. Typically, it's music you would have found on the radio on AOR (an industry term for "album-oriented rock") stations back in the mid-to-late '70s and early '80s.

This Sunday evening, I will take part in a Buttrock experiment with my friend Jon Hunt. You might recognize his name from his musical work in Blue Sky Blackout or Landing Gear, and most recently, Lovely Dark. Or maybe you know him as a writer for L'Etoile.

Did I mention that I have never met Jon IRL (in real life)? I knew his name from the previously mentioned projects, and we have roughly 400 friends in common. In late winter 2013, I spent a few days listening to the Landing Gear record Break-up Songs For Relationships That Never Happened. It prompted me to send Jon a friend request and a message of appreciation for his work on the record. We chatted sporadically about our shared adoration of music most people call guilty pleasures:

"Dude, is this Ryan Adams tune a lost Rainbow track?"

"I just bought two Saga albums!"

One of us would throw a video out and see what the other would follow it with if it were part of a DJ set. And by March of this year, it became, "Man, we really should make this into a gig someday."

On a whim a few weeks ago, I sent a note to Icehouse asking if they'd let us borrow their stage for a night, and they said yes! I've DJ'd at Icehouse numerous times for kids' events, but this will be the first time I can get away with playing songs with a more "adult" theme — and I can't wait!

We'll flip a coin to see who plays the first tune and then Jon and I will musically duel a bit. We'll choose the next tune based on what the other person is playing at a given moment. Personally, we think it's gonna rock, but that's part of the experiment: Will people show up?

We once had a "what music is out of bounds?" discussion and we haven't actually figured that out yet. I'm wondering if a lesser-known Queens of the Stone Age track can squeak by, even though it was recorded in the Oughts. That's another part of the experiment, I suppose.

This week, as we've been getting our selections together, I've rediscovered Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush and the band Taxxi along the way, and Jon snagged some Billy Thorpe and Night Ranger.

If I recall correctly, we bonded over Saga, so that makes sense as our first tune of the night:
I asked Jon which songs were at the top of his list and he said the first ten or so on this YouTube list:

Maybe if the experiment pans out, we can develop a regular gig. Until then, come experiment with us Sunday night, Sept. 7, at 9:30 at Icehouse.

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