The leader of Big Fat Fun wants to meet in a doughnut shop to talk about his band.
On this morning, Jason Shire consumes nothing more fattening than a large cappuccino. But Shire doesn't downplay his fondness for food, either in an interview or on stage, where he shakes his 5-foot-7, 265-pound frame with abandon.
Asked to describe his performing style, Shire grins and says: "Fat guy in a glitter suit dancing like a bad stripper."
That stage persona — which seems a long way from Shire in person — has helped make Big Fat Fun one of the most popular bands in Wichita today, packing nightclubs and winning plum gigs at festivals, private parties and other events.
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Just how poplar is BFF? Shire sends out e-mails to more than 12,000 fans each week letting them know where the band is playing next.
If you didn't get yours, they'll be at Loft 150 in Old Town tonight and Saturday, and there will probably be lines out the door both nights.
Shire loves music — all kinds. By 15, he had his own radio show in Caribou, Maine.
Shire followed his father into the military, serving in the Air Force's civil engineering unit during the Persian Gulf War, and eventually being posted to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita. He was out with buddies from the base one night when somebody dared him to do karaoke. "That's when I realized I could sing," he said.
From there it was a short jump to the group that would become Big Fat Fun. That band was still needing a name when Shire, sitting in the Port of Wichita one night, realized fellow band members were staring at a beer sign with the phrase "Big Fat Fun" on it.
"I thought 'no, no, no. no,' " Shire, now 38, said. "I got outvoted."
But the concept was Shire's from the beginning — play a variety of fun, instantly recognizable songs from the '60s to the present, delivered in a style that would leave people smiling and exhausted from dancing.
Within a couple of years, Shire was booking all of the shows — 80 to 100 a year — that band members could handle while still holding day jobs. In 2006, he decided to quit his own with an auto dealership and concentrate on music full time.
And it is a full-time job, albeit one he likes. Shire does all of the booking and marketing for the band, owns and takes care of the sound equipment, and brings new songs to rehearsals for the band to work up (although all members get to vote on whether to keep them).
One thing that the old deejay in Shire detests is dead air. While other bands might play seven or eight songs an hour, with long jams and rambling monologues between tunes, BFF whips through 15 to 16 an hour.
The band has gone through numerous personnel changes over the years. Shire says the current lineup is the best yet, with Randy Key on guitar, Dave Keller on bass, Tom Henry on drums and Savannah Bogner joining Shire on vocals.
Shire says he never expected BFF "to take off the way it has."
It's played before 20,000 people at the Amelia Earhart Festival in Atchison, before tailgating fans at a couple of a Kansas City Chiefs games at Arrowhead Stadium. Then there was the outdoor gig in Winfield that ended with a tent on fire and a porta-potty floating down the river.
He met his fiancee, Amy Rose, at a gig.
Shire claims that, due to age, he's no longer the nonstop pogo stick he once was on stage. But he still promises a memorable show.
"I just get up there and I'm like a different person," he said. "People don't go to hear a band, they go to see a band. We just want them to forget about all the stuff that's going on for four hours and have a good time."
If you go
big fat fun
What: Wichita cover band
Where: Loft 150, 150 N. Mosley
When: 9:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
How much: $5 cover.