Mike Shumaker, my roommate and business partner in our Downtown Cleveland recording studio venture—The Invisible City—was and is an exceptional sound and recording engineer. He’s also one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard, besides being a nice guy and a great friend during my Ohio years.
I first met Mike when he played in Primitive with Jacob Edwards and Isaac Edwards, way back in 1995-96. The Primitive story deserves a full telling in another future post. But suffice to say they brought a jolt of youthful energy and ultra-precise playing to the Noise Rock genre when that scene was beginning to flag post-Grunge.
A few years after that, Primitive matured out of their initial Helmet-influenced sound and took on an unconventional new name—Sheilbound—to match their unconventional new music.
Some folks tagged Sheilbound as Emo. That label may have helped them with bookings, but they were way weirder than any Emo band I ever heard. Way ahead of their time.
As I got to know Mike I learned that a lot of Sheilbound’s off-kilter coolness came from dueling musical interests. For example, Mike loved bands like Jawbox and Rush. Shellac and Yes. Super frothy technical Prog bands and American stripped-down, no-BS Post-Punk. I really admire Mike’s quirky taste, although I probably gravitate more toward the Prog/Art Rock side of things. Mike and I got to play together in The Divine Invasion with Chris Young and Bobby Bertalan and we definitely explored those influences there (we’ll reveal more about that band in another post as well).
Anyhow, in 2002 Mike got the opportunity to join the guys from Braid in their new band, Milwaukee’s Hey Mercedes. They offered him the guitar spot and Mike took it! We were all so psyched for him. He’d be joining a world-touring band with label support, a publicist… all that jazz.
I was already planning my escape to Los Angeles, so it was sad to be ending our studio situation, but honestly the timing just felt right. Mike took off on tour with Hey Mercedes while I packed up our place.
People would ask me, How’s Mike? How’s Hey Mercedes?
This was before smartphones and social media—even cellphones were pretty new—so I would shrug and say, I don’t know. I’m guessing Mike’s making the band rock really hard!
So there was a lot of anticipation about what this pro band with Mike on guitar would sound like, but none of us had heard them play.
Until August 23, 2002 when Hey Mercedes’ tour swung through the Cleveland Agora (the Agora Ballroom, actually) with Koufax and The Ghost. All of Mike’s friends, all of our recording studio clients—the super-talented cream-of-the-crop CLE musicians who Mike had helped birth countless albums and singles with—all gathered for a super sweaty (it was like 95º and no A/C!) and fun pre-party before we walked over en masse to the show.
There was a lot of camaraderie as we all enjoyed the show together, cheered Mike and the band on, and then hung out by the tour bus afterward. The gathered friends spanned my whole time in Cleveland—from WRUW to U.S. Rocker to Speak In Tongues to Java Jive coffee shop where I was working, saving up money for my move.
Enjoy these never-seen photos, online for the first time. I miss every one of you guys. Cheers.
More classic Cleveland from 2002:
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