DC’s Black Eyes & rare Sheilbound quartet lineup at Mohawk Place, Buffalo 2002


Help! I can’t remember when this excellent night of music happened, but I’m thinking it must have been late July or August 2002. Here’s why:

We had seen Washington DC’s Black Eyes in their hometown earlier this same summer on June 11, 2002.

READ: Noise Rock shows its Pride – Japanther, Early Humans & Black Eyes in DC, 2002

I assume that was just prior to them starting their summer tour, as was de rigueur for bands with student players, as I believe at least a few of the Black Eyes were still in school.

Also, I’ve reminisced about how I was prepping to move to L.A., which I did in late October 2002. So it must have been before that.

Re-live the best—and last—damn concert I saw in Cleveland

We were shutting down the Cleveland recording studio where I lived, The Invisible City, where we had recorded 150+ sessions (including Black Eyes predecessor bands Exaspirin and The No-Gos), many bands had crashed (including Black Eyes) and which had been the headquarters for U.S. Rocker.

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But my departure wasn’t the only reason we were shutting down. Invisible City main dude Mike Shumaker had accepted a second guitarist slot in the new Braid spinoff, Hey Mercedes. The band was signed to Vagrant (who was backed by Interscope)—exciting times! Emo was hitting the big time. We were all so excited for Mike and his new band. Too bad that meant moving to Milwaukee…

Black Eyes Sheilbound Buffalo New York Mohawk Place 2002

Tick-tick-tick. The countdown has begun. Wells Bennett (Early Humans) plugs his ears before Sheilbound’s imminent explosion. Photo: Carnage.

Consequently Mike’s longtime main band, Sheilbound (originally known as Primitive), with drummer Isaac Edwards and bassist Jacob Edwards, was winding down as well. Jacob was all-in on Jakprints, his screen printing business that was taking off. And Isaac had become a pilot!

I thought it was cool that rather than throw in the towel, the band was making moves like adding a new member, second guitarist Mike “Misha” Lester. Sheilbound had never sounded better or more impressive.

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Mike Shumaker was already practicing and writing songs with Hey Mercedes and commuting to Milwaukee, but he had a couple months break. So Sheilbound revved into overdrive once more.

Black Eyes may have been staying at The Invisible City in July 2002. I can’t remember for sure. The band were frequent visitors during this period—using our spot as a jumping off place for Midwestern gigs. I’m also not sure if Black Eyes offered Sheilbound the opening gig at Mohawk Place in Buffalo or if it was the other way around—this was perhaps a mini-tour with Sheilbound. Mike Shumaker says they may have played the Lime Spider in Akron together as well. In any case, I decided to go with everyone to Buffalo. I can’t remember how we got there (did I drive the legendary Camry wagon—the one that was stolen and returned at Speak In Tongues?).

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One of the photos shows Wells Bennett from Exaspirin, the ancient DC band from whence Black Eyes sprung (Exaspirin met Mike and I when we were playing with Bobby Bertalan and Chris Young in The Divine Invasion).

NOT the “Jim Clevo Stage”: The Divine Invasion at Speak In Tongues

So that must mean that Wells’ current band at that time, Early Humans, played this gig as well. I have no photos however. Not sure why I don’t.

I DO remember Black Eyes’ and Sheilbound’s sets. Both sounded the best I had ever heard them. Both bands were setting fire to their respective ends of the Indie / D.I.Y. / Post-Hardcore spectrum we all inhabited. Black Eyes was blowing up the atonal, socially-conscious, funky, experimental Noise Rock side of things. Sheilbound had buffed their take on red-blooded pop / progressive / Emo-sounding music to a mirror finish—their apex as a band.

Drummer Isaac Edwards called Sheilbound’s style at this juncture “very tight but loose as hell at the same time. It was absolutely my favorite era as Mike and Misha together were unreal! It was ALL about the live show in those last years.” It was heaven, I agree. An excellent performance.

Classic scene photos! Sheilbound at U.S. Rocker’s Rock Explosion ’96

We all stayed in touch for awhile, but the saddest thing about this show was that the Mikes, the Edwards, our DC friends—we’ve never been in the same spot at the same time since.

I miss all you guys. If you are reading this, I hope you are doing well—and I hope to see you again sometime soon!

Please contact me if you have more details about this show, or if you have photos or video.

Here’s Sheilbound—the classic trio version—from their only album, Counting On Abacus (recorded in the DC-area at Inner Ear with Jawbox’s J. Robbins), to listen to while you scope the photos:

Black Eyes Sheilbound Buffalo New York Mohawk Place 2002

Black Eyes (L-R) Jacob Long, Mike Kanin, Hugh McElroy, Dan Caldas, Daniel Martin-McCormick. All photos: Sean Carnage.

I really respect Black Eyes. They revived and evolved an earlier concept of underground music—one related to dance music and No Wave. I mean, they were from DC so perhaps that was in their blood—living in the land of both Dischord Records and Go-Go music. Black Eyes were a breath of fresh air on a scene that had gone way too Emo…

Black Eyes Sheilbound Buffalo New York Mohawk Place 2002

Black Eyes’ Hugh & Daniel. Photo: Carnage.

Black Eyes Sheilbound Buffalo New York Mohawk Place 2002

Daniel Martin-McCormick at the start of the floor tom era of underground music! Photo: Carnage.

Here’s a funny thing in retrospect: later in the mid-Oughties, Monday Night DJ / soundperson Kyle Mabson used to tease bands like HEALTH (and so many others) about the using a single stand-up floor tom, almost as a prop onstage. Kyle blamed Animal Collective. But this photo proves that it was Black Eyes who got the floor tom trend rolling. Go Black Eyes!

Black Eyes Sheilbound Buffalo New York Mohawk Place 2002

Black Eyes full out jammin’. Photo: Carnage.

Black Eyes Sheilbound Buffalo New York Mohawk Place 2002

More floor tom! Photo: Carnage.

Black Eyes Sheilbound Buffalo New York Mohawk Place 2002

Black Eyes’ Mike Kanin. Photo: Carnage.

Black Eyes Sheilbound Buffalo New York Mohawk Place 2002

Sheilbound’s Michael Shumaker. Photo: Carnage.

Black Eyes Sheilbound Buffalo New York Mohawk Place 2002

Sheilbound (L-R) Jacob Edwards, Mike Shumaker, Mike Lester & Isaac Edwards (on drums, not visible). Photo: Carnage.

I met Sheilbound all the way back when they were a trio as Primitive. Their musical journey was an incredible thing to observe and be a part of. This was a shining moment for them. I wish more people had heard the quartet version. Too bad there aren’t recordings…

Black Eyes Sheilbound Buffalo New York Mohawk Place 2002

The Edwards vs. the Mikes. This line-up was so awesome & special! Photo: Carnage.

Black Eyes Sheilbound Buffalo New York Mohawk Place 2002

Sheilbound, laying it down. Photo: Carnage.

Postscript: I consulted the Internet Archive in an attempt to reconstruct details about this show, since this was at the dawn of the mainstream Internet era. Thank you John Delzoppo, who reminded me of this resource. In Cleveland—with Freenet—we had been online since 1990, which was before web browsers. But everyone else… well, in 2002 they were just catching up. So there was a chance there were Sheilbound/Black Eyes artifacts floating around.

Alas, I could not find anything on the archive of the Mohawk Place site. However, I did see this:

The Centimeters Nora Keyes Los Angeles 2002 Buffalo New York Mohawk Place

The Centimeters, featuring Nora Keyes. Soon-to-be L.A. friends. Seems they were touring in the area as well. And playing the same venues!

New Carnage video: Nora Keyes “Luminosities”

So there you have it. Sometimes destiny is circling around you like a shark—no! a pack of dolphins—off the California coast. Shadowing one’s path in secret. Our timelines would cross soon enough.

One door closes, another opens.

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