August 11, 2011

Room Full of Walters together again

The ’90s band Room Full of Walters is celebrating its 20-year reunion with a two-night performance this week at Loft 150 in Old Town.

Wichita is familiar ground for the group, who met in the area shortly after high school. Through the years, the Wichita natives have played almost every venue in their hometown, from the Cotillion to the Orpheum Theatre to Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The band has evolved from college alternative rock to Christian rock to an ’80s cover band. Today it plays a combination of old hits and original songs.

“We’re doing covers we did back in the day,” guitarist Mark Scheltgen said. The four-man band comprises drummer Alan Austin, front man Mike McDowell, bass player Kurt Starks and Scheltgen. They started out in 1991 as a college band playing at fraternity parties and bars in Lawrence. The band found success with its hits “Reading Kipling” and “Talking Too Loud.”

“We did three albums, and they were all produced regionally through Mercy Records in Lawrence,” Scheltgen said.

The original band played together for three years before making some member changes and switching genres.

Room Full of Walters made the move from their alternative college debut to a Christian rock band in 1995, but they did not have a lot of hope for the future. “We had kind of quit,” Scheltgen said. “I wasn’t going to be that involved, and it was going to be a small thing.”

But the “small thing” that Scheltgen was not that interested in turned into the band’s biggest success.

The four years spent on the Christian rock scene resulted in some of the band’s smash hits. Room Full of Walters produced two albums featuring five top-10 rock charting singles. The nationally released album “Sleepy-Head” featured hit songs “Home” and “Jeffrey Dahmer Went to Heaven.”

The band knew they had something good before their first Christian album even hit the airwaves.

“We could feel it in the songs,” Scheltgen said. “When we first got it recorded and drove home with the rough mixes, we knew we were on to something.”

A few member changes and another genre later, and Room Full of Walters was an ’80s cover band. The final phase of the band lasted for about three years before they disbanded.

“The ’80s thing was kind of running its course,” Scheltgen said. “Our singer at the time was moving to Texas, and instead of replacing him, we decided it was time to hang it up.”

Room Full of Walters reunited for the first time after eight years apart for the Flicker Lounge ’80s Band Reunion Bash in 2010. The experience led to the reunion concert in Wichita.

The concert “came up from the sort of success of the Flicker Bash, but not just the event itself. It was the good vibes we all got from being back together,” Scheltgen said. “It was like water under the bridge. We were all semi-interested in doing it.” Throughout the phases of the band, the member lineup has not always been the same. Despite the change-ups, Scheltgen says the band never existed without at least one of the original members.

The band members are not just one-band men. Austin plays in the local band Lucky People, Starks also is local with Naughty Astronauts, McDowell plays in a two-man guitar and vocals gig in Cleveland, and Scheltgen owns his own studio and small label called Digital Boy Records outside Wichita.

The original album “Wonderful” is remastered and available on iTunes. Scheltgen says the album most closely resembles their current reunion concert.

If you go
When: 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Loft 150, 150 N. Mosley in Old Town
How much: $5 cover charge starts at 7 p.m.

Related content



Entertainment Videos