The Global Warmers
With song titles like "Minivan Mama," "In High Gear" and "Hammer Down," surely The Global Warmers were destined to play in an art car parade.
The Lawrence band, which describes its genre as automobile-based rock, will perform on the back end of a decapitated 1991 Chevy Suburban during Saturday's Art Tougeau Parade.
"Basically it's a V-8-powered stage," says Kelly Howell, who sings and plays guitar for the five-piece.
It took him two solid hours of cutting with a gas-powered chop saw to sever the top off the rusty sport utility vehicle. A couple of artists painted the altered beast, and band member Melia Clark stenciled the group's flaming-sun logo on it.
"It looks like a fireball coming down the road," Howell says.
This will be his first time in the 11-year-old parade, which features wheeled art projects - from simple children's bikes decorated with streamers to farm vehicles converted into flying saucers.
"Mixing cars and art just makes all the sense in the world to me," Howell says. "I've been a mechanic and a musician both all my life, and an artist in certain ways. It's a great deal of fun."
Although The Global Warmers are amateurs in the art car arena, the phenomenon is hardly new. The oldest and largest such parade in the country - Houston's Orange Show - took place last weekend. In fact, the winners of the Participant's Choice Award at that event will be in the Lawrence cavalcade. Rich and Pam Molden's Da Kuntry Pedlur consists of an old truck plastered in gas lanterns, antique trombones, antlers and all manner of odd miscellanea.
"It's real interactive," says Pat Slimmer, an organizer of Art Tougeau and creator of several art cars of his own. "Kids really like it."
At least two other out-of-towners will be driving in from Omaha, Neb. Mark Passer and his wife have covered an old milk wagon with chalkboard paint.
"Every parade, it's a different art car because people draw on it," Slimmer says.
And Peter Lochren will show off his Ambulance to the Future, a 1970 Cadillac Ambulance covered in a futuristic mural.
"You can spend all summer doing the (art car) circuit and going to parades," says Slimmer, who won an award in last year's Orange Show for his flying saucer car.
Art Tougeau, which has a small budget to attract touring types, also competes this weekend with the art car parade in Tulsa, Okla., says Slimmer, who notes that the Lawrence parade is fed largely with local creations.
New to this year's event will be an Art Car Cruise that will send parade participants to several Lawrence elementary schools and the Lawrence Arts Center preschool today to show off their cars. The Pre-Parade Paint Party returns Friday to the top level of the New Hampshire Street parking garage, where participants can bring any wheeled contraption and parade organizers will supply the paint to deck it out. The customary awards ceremony will follow Saturday's parade, as well as a block party featuring music by several local bands, including the bluegrass duo Truckstop Honeymoon.
Slimmer, who's been involved in planning the event for about four years, says he has two new cars in the works that won't be ready until next year - meaning he has no intention of cutting ties with the quirky procession.
"Everything that I like about Lawrence, the parade represents," he says. "It appeals to all classes, all ages and celebrates the diversity of the city."
Despite the subject matter of their lyrics, The Global Warmers - composed of Howell, Clark (vocals), Harold Brandt (lead guitar), Joe Osborn (bass) and Rick Puhl (drums) - never have played a roving venue. They're more accustomed to spots like The Gaslight Tavern and Harbour Lights.
Occasionally they run into folks at gigs who see their name and think they must be environmental activists.
Not so, Howell says.
"Everybody gets riled up about what causes global warming. Everybody and everything does," he says. "We're kind of pointing the fingers at ourselves and saying we're as responsible as anybody else."
Frankly, Howell says he was amazed no one had snatched up the band name already.
"We don't even have to advertise for name recognition," he says.
That ought to free up enough money to fuel the gas-guzzling Suburban for the duration of Saturday's parade. Howell doesn't feel guilty about the extravagance.
"I gave up driving V-8s myself when gas went up above a dollar fifty a gallon," he says. "But just for something like this, for a toy, it's not a daily driver."