Peace in the Middle East: ILL Mic Show American Troops Love in the Middle of a War Zone

Jill Schlachter
The Signal Online

“It’s just me and my M-16. Trying to bring about my American dream.” With lyrics like these you can see how fitting it was for local band ILL MIC (IM) to be hand picked to perform for our troops overseas.

Since Sept. 11th, most everyone in some way felt the need to help and support our country , shape, or form. IM felt the same and had the utmost pleasure in supporting our troops in a way that they could best: personally visiting the troops overseas touring for Armed Forces Entertainment (AFE).

IM has been together with its current members for about two years. The band started out with Tim Collins (bass), Joel Adams (guitar), and Mike Bailey (drums) in 1998. Shon, the lead singer, found the band through a musician website on the Internet. After Shon’s audition in 1999, the band was complete. They decided on the name “illiterate mic.”

In mid-1999, Bailey left the band. Lori Collins, Tim’s wife, who first met Tim when she was 14 while receiving drum lessons from him, stepped in as the new drummer.

“I never thought I’d be a drummer”, says Lori. “I was just filling in for awhile.”

The band began playing around Atlanta. In 2000, Andy Cannon replaced Joel Adams on guitar, they shortened their name to ILL MIC, and the rest is history.

After joining the Recording Academy in 2001, they were networking at a Christmas party and met DJ Bridger from Big Ben Entertainment.

Bridger submitted IM to AFE and then they were selected to go the Middle East. Upon receiving the offer to go the Middle East, the bands exact words were “let’s get it on.”

In preparation for the trip, the band experienced a few minor setbacks. One of the major setbacks of the trip was an equipment restriction, which forced the band to purchase a lot of new equipment.

The band tried to obtain a sponsorship and held a fundraiser at Rio Bravo in Dunwoody, but in the end, they had to assume the cost of about $8,000.00.

The cost was all well worth it to the band. The things they saw, the people they met, and the gratitude they received made the cost seem like nothing.

“To sum it all up”, says Tim, “most people have to write letters, but we were able to go over there and tell them to their faces that we greatly appreciated the sacrifices they make in giving up their freedom for us.”

Lori concurs saying, “they give up their freedom, so we can have ours.”

Urbanite You know I’m into the music because my eyes are closed.
The band left Atlanta, Ga., on June 30th at about 8 p.m.; they didn’t arrive in Bahrain until July 2nd at 1 a.m.

“The hardest part was getting out of Atlanta”, said Tim. “It felt like it took a month. It was supposed to be 18 hours.”

As far as their safety while they were there, the band never had any concerns.

“I always felt very safe, ” recalls Lori.

In the Middle East the temperature reached as high of 130 degrees Farenheit with up to 90% humidity. Most shows were at 7 p.m., at which they performed for about an hour and a half. Even after the sun went down, it was still 110 degrees.

Contrary to what the band had been told, there was no dry heat. It was just like Atlanta, but 20 times worse.

The band was there for a month and played a total of 13 shows. Their largest crowd was about 5,000, aboard the JFK battleship. In comparison, when they played on the bases the audiences were smaller, with the smallest crowd being about 60-70 people.

“No matter when we played,” said Tim, “half the base was working.”

In Bahrain, there were 100 Marines who were leaving the very next day to go the front lines in Afghanistan.

“They put the Marines in full gear in trailers with no air for training on what they were about to experience in Afghanistan,” said Lori.

Despite the situation and the conditions there, the band gained as much enjoyment from the soldiers as the soldiers gained from the band.

“The whole time people are thanking us,” said Shon. “We signed their knives. They signed our shirts.”

One of the Marines that stuck out the most to Shon during their performance was named Dominic. Due to fact the troops were leaving the very next day, they had to be in full uniform. For those that don’t know, we’re talking about 60 extra pounds of gear. Despite all the wretched conditions the Marines, specifically Dominic, had to endure, the soldier still had the spirit to enjoy the performance in an inspired manner.

“He was right up front the whole time, acting a fool, while we were playing,” Shon said.

They also met a former Marine who is now with the Air Force police. To show his appreciation for them coming over there, he gave them a coin that you receive after becoming a Marine. The coin is used to identify yourself no matter where you are. It is almost a crime to be caught without it. It’s a crime Shon doesn’t plan on committing. He now proudly carries the coin wherever he goes.

While the band mostly traveled from one base to another, occasionally they did get to stop in a few cities. In some off time, they were able to visit a pool in Kuwait. Some of the kids thought Shon was Lenny Kravitz. Although Shon is a little smaller in build, it is easy to identify with the qualities that led the kids to confuse Shon with Mr. Kravitz. One kid told Shon it was seeing familiar faces again.

The fact that they are so diverse worries them that they might scare away a label. But after seeing one of their shows and experiencing their stage presence, it will have you longing for the next show.

This is a band that doesn’t allow you to go to the bar for another drink during their set. You’ll miss something and something inside tells you that you don’t want to miss it.

At the Aug. 1st show they had some technical difficulties, due to some of the damage to their equipment from the heat overseas. While the band was getting things fixed, Shon took control of the audience by belting into his own solo version of “Sun Freak.”

The appearances of the band members are also unlike your habitual format. Shon is a lengthy black man who can make anyone laugh, Tim is a hard- rocking fool, Lori is a sweet, innocent, drum- beating chick, while Andy, “the shy guy”, busts out of his shell and gives you a performance worthy of all your attention.

In closing, Tim said, “You can’t bake a cake without flour in it.’ He was referring to the fans, but it’s important for us to realize we can’t make it without out our own flour either.

The band will be performing this week on Aug 24th at Breakers in Jonesboro. For further info visit When you visit, check out some of the pictures from their time in the Middle East.