Flat Tire Ambulance
by Ryan Smith
Now in their tenth year, Flat Tire Ambulance have been bringing their brand of straight-ahead riff-heavy rock to the Summit City from their hometown of Defiance, Ohio since early on in their existence. As a band, they're adept at writing originals (they have released three full albums so far, along with the occasional music video available on YouTube) though their live set nowadays is often heavy on crowd-pleasing covers. They are in the process of writing and recording another new album, which they intend to release this year.
Upon first listen, FTA hit you over the head with some seriously heavy guitar crunch, but don't mistake them for a purely aggro band. There are always hefty doses of melody in the mix, and the basic mood and tempo of their music ranges from fast and aggressive to moderate and fun-filled to slow and moody. That variety is reflected in their lyrical mix, too, which can range from the more serious (the death of a loved one) to the lighthearted (humorous takes on love and relationships) to pop culture (the history of the Etch-A-Sketch).
In fact, while the band can blow the roof off musically, there is a consistently wry sense of humor that makes its way into the band's lyrics, attitude and even its name. The name Flat Tire Ambulance - which in real life would be your worst nightmare but kind of funny as well - comes from a mix of real life and witty fiction. Founding member, singer/guitarist and chief lyricist Skip Skeens was indeed in a serious vehicular crash (he was struck by a drunk driver) and his wife always made fun of the way he said the word "ambulance," which has an unusual emphasis on the last syllable - "ambulance." He figured he had come up with a memorable band name he could use to rib his wife with.
"I always would make up a different story every time I'd tell it. I had people believing I was in a bad accident and we had a flat tire on the way to the hospital," says Skeens. "And there can be so many different meanings that you put to it, like life's little unexpected things that happen all the time, and what could be worse than being in an ambulance and getting a flat tire."
Despite their Murphy's law-like name, Flat Tire Ambulance haven't experienced much in the way of transportation difficulties, enabling them to take their music into a number of nearby markets. While Defiance - population 16,000 - has a solid local music scene, it's also located within a reasonable driving distance to several other cities with significant music scenes. Fort Wayne is about an hour's drive for them ("I would say outside our hometown of Defiance, we probably play Fort Wayne most frequently," Skeens says), but they are also close to Toledo, Bowling Green and several other smaller cities.
The band may have formed ten years ago, in 2007, but their history goes back even farther. Founding members Skeens and drummer Joe Robles had known each other for years, having played in previous bands like Grace Engine and Delphi. Starting out as a three-piece, FTA eventually expanded by adding a second guitarist. Current members are Skeens and Dan Hamminga on guitar, Chuck Mast on bass and drummer Matt Egler. Robles left last year due to health issues and was replaced by Egler, who was already familiar to band members. Hamminga attended school with him, and Skeens knew him from the local scene.
Despite their talent, hard work and strong body of work, the band have no plans on straying far from home anytime soon. They all have domestic responsibilities - both familial and professional - but that doesn't stop them from playing some high-profile regional gigs. They have been on the stage at the Hub (when it was Piere's) and at C2G Music Hall, and they still have dreams of being able to play even larger venues like the Coliseum. They have also been able to open up for some of their heroes, including guitarist George Lynch.
"I was always a huge George Lynch fanatic," Skeens says. "I would sit in my room and read about him in Guitar Player magazine ,and I never thought I'd meet the guy, much less share the same stage as him. But we opened up for him twice, got to met him afterwards, got pictures and stuff ... I was on cloud nine."
Making connections can be a powerful part of being in FTA, but its their personal connection with fans that keeps them going.
Skeens points to one of his songs, "I Wish I Knew," which was written after a nephew of his committed suicide, and the effect it had on someone that attended one of their shows.
"There was a person that came to a show that said how much that song really touched them because they lost someone to suicide," says Skeens. "That connection of knowing how that song touched somebody, that was just a good feeling. So, to keep doing stuff like that and even if somebody comes up after a show and says hey that's an awesome show, that really keeps us going."
Saturday, April 29
Click on the headings below for full calendars
Click header for complete Things To Do calendar
Fort Wayne March for Babies — 3.5 mile walk to support March of Dimes, 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 29, Headwaters Park West, Fort Wayne, 918-6343 (register at marchforbabies.org
Michiana Wine Festival — Local and regional wine sampling, live music, 5K, and more, 12-6 p.m. Saturday, April 29, Headwaters Park East, Fort Wayne, $10-$35, eventbrite
Touch-a-Truck — Over 50 vehicles including limos, fire trucks, police cars and tow trucks for children to explore, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Saturday, April 29, Northeast parking lot, Ivy Tech Community College, Fort Wayne, free, 480-4120
Tour for the Blind and Visually Impaired — Guided tour of the Expressions of Existence exhibition, 10 a.m. Saturday, April 29, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, free with museum admission ($6-$8, free to FWMoA members), 422-6467
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Click header for complete Music & Comedy calendar
4 Clicks North — Variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Big Dick and the Penetrators — Classic rock at Danny's Sports Bar, Barbee Hotel, Warsaw, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., no cover, 574-834-1111
Brent LaCasce Quartet — Jazz/variety at Club Soda, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-3442
Cougar Hunter — 80s glam rock at Rusty Spur, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m.-2 a.m., $10, 260-755-3465
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Karaoke at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Philharmonic — Philarmonic Pops performance of music from Star Wars at Embassy Theatre, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., $29-$72, 424-5665
He Said She Said — Variety at Mitchell's Sports Bar & Neighborhood Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $3, (260) 387-5063
Hubie Ashcraft — Acoustic at Michiana Wine Festival, Headwaters Park, Fort Wayne, 3-4 p.m., $10, 710-0199
Hubie Ashcraft Band — Country at The Venue, Angola, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $3, 665-3922
Joe Stabelli — Jazz at Don Hall's Gas House, Fort Wayne, 5:45-9 p.m., no cover, 426-3411
Jon Durnell Band — Variety at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 625-1002
Kat Bowser — Variety at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 489-2524
Mark Garr and Blues Trio — Blues at Eagles Post 3512, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 436-3512
Oferle — Variety at Two-EE's Winery, Huntington, 7:30-9:30 p.m., no cover, 672-2000
The Rescue Plan — Rock at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 422-5896
Samuel Harness Music w/Sunny Taylor, Hubie Ashcraft, Moser Woods — Variety at Michiana Wine Festival, Headwaters Park, Fort Wayne, 12-6 p.m., $10-$35, eventbrite
Shane & Eric — Acoustic at Country Heritage Winery, LaOtto, 5-8 p.m., no cover, 637-2980
Todd Harrold & Nick Bobay Duo — R&B/blues/variety at American Legion Post 148, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., no cover, 423-4751
Tone Junkies — Rock at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., cover, 483-1311
Click header for complete Karaoke & DJs calendar
Ambitious Blondes Karaoke — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Bucca Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Tower Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-6310
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Corner Pocket Tavern, Fremont, 10 p.m., no cover, 495-9255
Classic City Karaoke w/Tobin — Karaoke at Toad's Tavern, Monroeville, 10 p.m., no cover, 623-6226
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Karaoke at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., , 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 557-1563
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-4748
House DJ — Variety at Early Bird's Ultra Lounge, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 483-1979
House DJ — Variety at Flashback on the Landing, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 422-5292
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Live DJ — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Rockstar Karaoke & DJ w/Scotty — Variety at Pine Valley Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 490-9464
Shooting Star Prod. w/Barbie — Variety at Uncle Lou's Steel Mill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-5787
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Pike's Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-6200
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Funny Little Thing Called Love — Romantic comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Home and Jamie Wooten, 7 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. curtain, Saturday, April 29 and Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 and May 12-13, Arena Dinner Theatre, Fort Wayne, $40 (includes dinner & show), 424-5622
The Little Mermaid — Fort Wayne Civic Theatre musical based on the Disney movie, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 29; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 8 p.m. Friday, May 5; 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday, May 6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $17-$29, 424-5220
Little Shop of Horrors — IPFW Department of Theatre performance of Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical comedy, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 29, Williams Theatre, IPFW, Fort Wayne, $5-$18, 481-6555
Next to Normal — Tony Award- and Pulitzer-winning musical about coping with mental illness, 8 p.m.Saturday, April 29; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, May 4-6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Three Rivers Music Theatre, Fort Wayne, $10-$20, 498-2270
The Taming of the Shrew — William Shakespeare’s now somewhat controversial comedy about the battle between the sexes, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 29 and Friday-Saturday, May 5-6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7; 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 12-13, First Presbyterian Theater, Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 426-7421 ext. 121
A Wrinkle in Time — all for One productions’ adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s young adult science fiction novel, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 29; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 5-6; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7, PPG ArtsLab, Auer Center for Arts & Culture, Fort Wayne, $11-20, 422-4226
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Click header for complete Art calendar
37th National Print Exhibition — Juried exhibition featuring contemporary printmakers from around the nation, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
41st SOCA Student Exhibition — Works from students currently enrolled at USF’s School of Creative Arts, daily thru April 30, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Jan Krist-Finkbeiner — Exhibition of ceramic reliefs, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Juxtapoz Magazine: 25 Years Under the Influence — A chronicle of the iconic magazine’s evolution into one of the most influential magazines of art of the counterculture, Tuesday-Sunday thru July 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Kathy Funderburg & Diane Schafer-King — Acrylic paintings (Funderburg) and works in marbled paper and fabric (Schaefer-King), Monday-Saturday thru April 29, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Norman Bradley and Friends — Exhibition of works by friends and colleagues of the late Fort Wayne artist, Tuesday-Saturday thru May 20 , Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Perspectives Live Butterfly Display — Up close and personal perspectives of the Conservatory’s newest collection of live butterflies, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 25, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Rhoda Gerig: The Hope of Eagles — Photographic images of eagles, daily thru June 4, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102
Robert Williams: SLANG Aesthetics! — An exhibition of new work by the artist considered the godfather of the lowbrow, pop surrealist and colloquial realism art movements, Tuesday-Sunday thru July 23, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
SOCA Graduate Program: Student Highlights — Juried exhibition of works by students enrolled in USF’s School of Creative Arts graduate program, Monday-Friday thru April 30, Lupke Gallery, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Exhibition of works by IPFW graduation seniors, daily thru May 3, Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, Main Library, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Senior thesis projects from Bachelor of Fine Arts candidates Brenda Drayer (sculpture), Derek Hibbs (printmaking), Ellen Mensch (painting), Nathaniel Morris (sculpture) and Kyle Snodgrass (sculpture), daily thru May 7, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring Palette — New original works by more than 50 nationally recognized artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru May 20 (Cinco de Mayo Fiesta featuring mariachi music by Mark Meussling 6-10 p.m. Friday, May 5), Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568