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Early Day Miners digging for a good time

| Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009

It will require a little digging to find live entertainment in Pittsburgh during the week of the G-20 summit.

Luckily, the Early Day Miners will be in town Friday, and specialize in just such a service.

The Indiana-based band makes slow-burning, cinematic rock music, conjuring images of empty, foreboding highways and endless rural expanses. It's not music that jumps out of the speakers and physically grabs you -- rather, it curls around you like smoke from a dwindling campfire or hidden cigarette. Before you know it, a surprisingly catchy chorus has worked its way into your head, and swelling, atmospheric guitars are all around you.

"I guess I would say we're somewhat inspired by film soundtrack music," explains Early Day Miners singer/multi-instrumentalist Dan Burton. "Sort of like 'The Breakfast Club' mixed with spaghetti Westerns.

"Also, lyrically, I've always been inspired by what I like to read -- typically Southern literature. People like William Faulkner, Flannery O'Conner -- they don't just come right out and tell you a story. It's kind of buried deeper in there. You have to kind of dig around for it."

Digging for meaning is an apt metaphor for the Early Day Miners, although the band's name comes from a more prosaic source.

"I was working in Yellowstone for the summer," Burton says. "There was a town north of it called Silver Gate. My friends and I were just hanging out in this restaurant, and there was this little brochure put together by the town's tourism commissioner. It was photocopied, and had a picture labeled 'Early Day Miners' and looked like a record cover. At the time, I said, 'I think this is going to be my next band's name.'"

Burton's previous band was called Ativin -- just your average two-guitars-and-drums trio playing experimental instrumental music in the vein of composer Steve Reich.

"The music was very regimented and minimalist," Burton says. "Early Day Miners was formed out of the desire to do something lush and musical and melodic. It was almost a reaction to being in that band."

Building a connection with the listener takes time, Burton says. The Early Day Miners prefer to do it in album-sized increments, rather than the current mania for MP3 singles.

"I love the idea of an album," he says. "I really do lean more toward the time when the full-length album was the dominant piece of music. You could really get into it and spend time with it. But it makes perfect sense now, with our short attention spans today, that the MP3 is the ultimate statement about a band. We are very much a full-length kind of band. We can make double-LPs until the cows come home, and that's not an ego statement."

At the moment, Early Day Miners still are digging away, touring the States and soon touring Europe. But in one respect, at least, they've hit pay dirt.

"Well, it's certainly not monetary," Burton says. "That's not realistic. I think success, in a rock band, is being able to play Pittsburgh on any night of the week and connecting with people -- and not being from there.

"That might sound hokey, but when you go to a hotel room that night and say, 'Wow, that was so much fun,' that, ultimately, is success. It's certainly not a (positive) blog review."

Additional Information:

Early Day Miners

With: Decibully, Horse or Cycle

When: 9 p.m. Friday

Admission: $8-$10

Where: Thunderbird Cafe, Lawrenceville

Details: 412-682-0177

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