Reviews

Early Day Miners + Archer Prewitt

Chris Bailey

Pick your poison: Something-core, post-whatever, or 'experimental'. Either way, those belt buckles are for real son....

Early Day Miners + Archer Prewitt

Early Day Miners + Archer Prewitt

City: Chicago
Venue: Empty Bottle
Date: 2005-02-05

Early Day Miners
Archer Prewitt
If you've got a favorite hometown band, odds are that at some point they'll get tagged. Whether it's by a writer at an alterna-arts rag or by a label press kit, it's gonna happen. And sooner rather than later. They'll be called something-core, post-whatever, or worst of all "experimental." After that, they'll be stuck. Every write-up that follows will use that same generic tag. This understandable impulse to categorize is what makes witnessing a band like Early Day Miners so difficult. There's no iBook on stage, so you can cross electro- off the list. The four guys who take the stage are unassuming: no gratuitously long hair, no post-ironic rockstar moves, no flashy thrift-store outfits. That's no help. And as they begin to play, it doesn't get any easier. In fact, nothing about Early Day Miners' music, or live show, is easy. First of all, they're very sad. Not sad in the way that so many of the artists of the current folk explosion are, that bullshit, I'm-smiling-through-my-tears, uplifted-through-affliction, Oprah's-book-club disposition. Yes, the elements of folk and country are clearly there: these boys are from Indiana and that belt-buckle ain't just part of a pose, son. But tonight that soft twang is electric, and vocalists/guitarists Joseph Brumley and Daniel Burton don't let their voices lilt. They keep it low and monotone, so Early Day Miners' sadness has more in common with the hate and resignation of early post-punk than anything else. But here's where this band throws you again; they'll match that movement's peculiar mixture of despair and dispassion without bringing along any of the silly art-school baggage. The Early Day Miners aren't just sturm und drang. Oh no, just as most of the crowd is ready to give up and paint their nails black, they get schooled with an old-fashioned, Chicago-style (post)rock out, toms poundin' and guitars dronin'. It's this element to the Early Day Miners that's most striking. Like any good band, they incorporate a mishmash of influences that shouldn't work together, but do. The Early Day Miners succeed in a classy, understated manner. No c-uh-razy frontman running around, trying to keep the crowd's attention, no melodramatic swelling in their song arrangements, just simple, well-thought-out rock music. The Early Day Miners were followed by Archer Prewitt who, these days, is omnipresent in the Chicago music scene. Prewitt is best known for his work with The Sea and Cake, though he's had a solid solo career and received some attention when his old insane art-punk-jazz band, The Coctails, reunited for a one-off show. It was as if the scene was paying him back on this night, as every musician in Chicago seemed to be on stage with him. I'm not joking; it was like a middle school band up there. Guitar, bass, drums, violin, trumpet, trombone, keys, and iBook are a lot of equipment on stage for someone supporting their new "solo" effort. During the first song, "Way of the Sun", he had a clapping section on stage, for crying out loud. While it may turn some people off for being all singer-songwritery, Prewitt's music is unique in that it seems both completely genuine and completely crafted. He appears to be pouring his heart out but a slow, sad song can turn loud and jubilant without warning, in a way that's calculated to whip you around emotionally. Prewitt worked this beautifully, carrying the crowd with him all the way. Even with the mini-Philharmonic blaring behind him (to great effect), Prewitt paradoxically manages to look like the iconic guy-and-guitar alone on stage.

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