Rock and Roll Trifecta Will Bring Together Legendary Local Bands
Writer / Aimee MacArthur
Ball State alumni Christopher Shaffer, lead singer and guitar player for The Why Store, and Mike Milligan, lead singer and guitarist for Mike Milligan and Steam Shovel, will be in Muncie with their respective bands on February 18 to perform at the historic Cornerstone Center for the Arts. They will be joined by Pushing Daisy’s Band.
This is a rare opportunity to see two legendary bands perform in Muncie, where it all began for them over 30 years ago.
Muncie holds good memories for Shaffer. His successful jam and rock band formed in Muncie in the late 1980s and gained popularity there. The band started under the name Emerald City. They changed the name to The Why Store, an actual store in Muncie that was being torn down and renovated. Shaffer’s songs have a lot of introspection, and the new band name seemed perfect to Shaffer. “I really liked it because a lot of my songs have a lot of questioning,” he says.
The band moved to Indianapolis, but Shaffer never forgot Muncie. His love for Muncie remains. “We always came back there,” Shaffer says. “It’s always been like a secondary home to me for friends and great people, and a great place to play. We love playing there.”
The Why Store found success with the 1996 hit “Lack of Water.” They are also known for the songs “Father” and “When You’re High.” Shaffer’s commanding stage presence, deep, powerful voice, and catchy songs like fan favorite “When You’re High,” brought them a devoted fan base and national recognition. The band toured with Indiana legend John Mellencamp, which was a dream come true for Shaffer. They played with some of the most popular and respected musicians in the industry including BoDeans, Ben Harper and Ziggy Marley.
Shaffer went solo for a time, and in 2007 decided to get the band back together. He started with a new lineup including Troy Seele on lead guitar, Dan Hunt on bass guitar and Jerome Rieskamp on drums.
The Why Store’s current lineup includes Shaffer, original member and drummer Charlie Bushor, Seele on lead guitar and Hunt on bass guitar. “I’m so appreciative of my band members Charlie, Dan and Troy, and what they’ve brought to my career,” Shaffer says.
He credits his longevity in the music business to inner confidence and tenacity. “If you can believe in yourself, and enjoy and love what you’re doing and you stick with it, all these other acts are going to give up,” he says. “It’s a really hard, tough business – if you can just stay true to yourself, be strong, focus and stay with it.”
Shaffer is a serious singer-songwriter who has written close to 200 songs. He says the pandemic was hard, but he took advantage of the break from touring to perform a few livestream shows from the comfort of his living room.
Shaffer did not realize how much the livestream shows would resonate with fans. “The outpouring of love and support was just overwhelming, from Australia to Canada to Great Britain to Finland,” he says. “It showed me how much support we really have as a brand, as The Why Store.”
The fans mean everything to Shaffer. “I’m so appreciative of the fans,” he says. “I’ve been so overwhelmed by the generosity of the fans and friends, and it’s a huge part of why we are still around and doing what we do. I’m really blessed and lucky that I’ve had people like my fiancée and my band members, and my family and friends. Just the support has been amazing. I’m truly appreciative and grateful for it all.” Shaffer is thankful for fans who have become friends, like promoter Andy Stokes.
The Why Store’s last album was 2016’s “Live at the Slippery Noodle.” The band is currently working on their next album.
* * *
Music is in the genes for Mike Milligan, lead vocalist and guitar player for Mike Milligan and Steam Shovel. His father is a musician who toured and traveled with R&B and soul band The Drifters. Milligan remembers riding on the tour bus in the 1970s with his family and seeing his dad perform.
Milligan started playing guitar as a small child. He would listen to his dad’s band practices at home. Milligan was clearly developing an interest in listening to music. “I was always going through my dad’s record collection,” he says.
Milligan, a Ball State alumnus, has good memories of living and playing music in Muncie. “I performed all over the Ball State campus and still do when I can,” he says. Milligan says the band performed at every event in the Village and at the Flying Tomato. “It was a rowdy, fun time,” he says.
The blues and soul band is celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2023, and Milligan sees fans who have been following the band since the beginning. Milligan creates all of the band’s graphic design elements for items like albums, posters and T-shirts. He still sees fans at shows wearing T-shirts he designed in 1994.
The band’s played with a number of famous musicians including Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Los Lonely Boys, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Duke Tumatoe. Milligan says his career highlight was opening for blues legend B.B. King several years ago. “Opening the show for B.B. King was probably the feather in our cap,” Milligan says. “We’d been fans for so long.”
Milligan believes his stubbornness and ability to adapt to changes helped him maintain a long and thriving career in music. He received a lot of rejection in the early days and it did not faze him. He was even told to pursue a career outside of music. Milligan was determined to prove naysayers wrong. “That makes me work even harder, to defy that,” he says.
The band did not slow down during the pandemic and continued to play for their fans. “We did a lot of private parties,” Milligan says. “We did a lot of traveling and a lot of backyard barbecues.” They also played at outdoor festivals. The soulful, captivating song “Lucky Man” is a fan favorite.
Milligan’s hard work, determination and ability to keep up with the ever-changing music industry paid off. The band is celebrating their seventh album, “Kokomo Honey.” The band includes bass player and Milligan’s brother, Shaun Milligan, and drummer Robert “Tiny” Cook. Milligan’s father plays on some of their albums as well.
Milligan has received a lot of positive reviews for the new album. His soulful voice and skilled guitar playing draw fans in and keep them entertained. Milligan is a songwriter who is proud of his songs. He is always pleased when fans come up to him at shows and share how much they have enjoyed a song, what a song meant to them or how it has helped them in their life.
Milligan is thrilled to be playing in Muncie again. “I’m looking forward to performing for all of the Muncie fans,” he says. Milligan encourages fans and music lovers to go to the February 18 show. “It would be great for people from all over Indiana to converge on Muncie that day and pack that place,” he says. “You will not see the three [bands] together on the same stage like this. It’s never happened and it may never happen again.”
The February 18 event is an all-ages show, and Milligan believes it will be a perfect opportunity to bring kids to the show so they can see professional musicians who have been entertaining crowds for over 30 years. He believes some kids who see the show may be inspired to become musicians themselves, and see that a musician can have a long and successful career.
Shaffer and Milligan are thrilled to be working musicians playing with other talented musicians, doing what they love and sharing music with their fans.
Rock and Roll Trifecta will be held on Saturday, February 18 at Cornerstone Center for the Arts, located at 520 East Main Street in Muncie. To learn more, call 765-281-9503 or visit cornerstonearts.org. Doors open at 5 p.m., and the all-ages show begins at 6 p.m. Seating is general admission, and tickets are $15 in advance and $20 on the day of the show. For advance tickets, call 765-208-0325 or purchase through Venmo @rockandrolltrifecta.