In its six years Awesome Car Funmaker has had a pretty wild ride, one that's involved a teasing war with another band, living out of a U-Haul and doing jumping jacks on stages from here to the Canadian border.
But the ride is over. The band will play a farewell show Friday, Feb. 13 at Der Rathskeller in the UW's Memorial Union.
Though the group's members seem like extroverts, they formed the band as a social experiment for wallflowers -- a way to make friends in a city of strangers.
"We didn't really know a lot of people in town at the time the band started, so we decided we'd play whatever shows we could get for about a year," says guitarist and singer Ryan Corcoran.
The Corral Room and the now-defunct Liquid Lyrics Lounge were the first to witness the band's over-the-top costumes and crazy calisthenics. Pretty soon the party-glam four-piece was appearing all over town, from co-ops and community centers to coffee shops and nightclubs.
A couple of years later, clubs in the Twin Cities and Chicago caught wind of the band's crowd-wowing live act, and Awesome Car took the show on the road.
As anyone who's been in a band -- or hung around with one -- knows, touring is one of the best sources of new material, whether it's song lyrics or unbelievable stories to tell your friends.
At least a few of Awesome Car's tour stories come, ironically, from cars -- cars of the not-so-awesome variety.
Corcoran recalls a show in Minneapolis at which the band made a not-so-awesome decision to drive back to Madison after its set.
"So we start driving south on I-90, and things are going alright until we get to Baraboo and run out of gas," he says. "Normally, you call AAA and they show up and bring gas and everything's fine."
AAA was called, and gas did arrive. Just another night on the road -- except that the Goodyear Pimps got wind of the mishap. The legendary Rockford, Ill. band is one of those groups that your high school guidance counselor might call a bad influence. Awesome Car's misfortunes -- and tons of innuendo involving the phrase "empty gas tank" -- became the subject of the Pimps' next set.
And then there were the phone calls. "They would call us to make fun of us, and we'd make fun of them. It totally got out of hand," says Corcoran.
This was only the beginning of Awesome Car's automobile-inspired hijinks. On a 2006 trek through Iowa, the band's van broke down, which required some quick problem-solving.
"We were towing a trailer that was past capacity, and we were late for our next show, so we were speeding and burning oil was spurting all over the place," says Corcoran.
So what did the band do? It had a hobo moment. "We abandoned our van and rented a U-Haul, which we basically lived out of for a while," says Corcoran.
Other tours have involved crashing on the couches and kitchen floors of numerous friends and acquaintances.
"When you're staying at some random guy's house and he has 12 cats and never changes the litter, that's a hobo moment, too," Corcoran says.
While the hobo moments make for charming dinner-party conversation, their appeal gets old quick. They're also the kind of thing that can break apart a band. In Awesome Car's case, bassist Justin Taylor has decided to seek greener pastures -- and more comfortable accommodations, perhaps.
But don't file away your memories of the band just yet. Corcoran says he and the band's drummer and keyboardist have a new project in the works.
He's not ready to share the details yet, but it will have a different name -- one that wasn't invented in a Culver's bathroom.
Yes, a Culver's bathroom. The band was joking about how much money they'd have to save up to buy an Escalade, when Taylor emerged from the restroom with a name fit for a Japanese game show.
"At the beginning, we wanted to call ourselves Dragon Wagon after the name of this cookbook we'd found, but the author told us that she didn't want the karma of a band attached to her recipes, so Awesome Car Funmaker it was," he says.