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Pen Pals

Burnside pack a mailbox for upcoming tour

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Professionally, Evan Wiig is an advocate for family farming in the North Bay as executive director of the Farmers Guild. In his free time, he plays music.

So it's no surprise when Wiig says his eclectic rock band, Burnside, began on a farm, where he and others first jammed under the name Whiskey & Circumstance.

When half of the band's members moved north to start their own farm, Wiig reorganized and started anew as Burnside, named for the road he lives on west of Sebastopol.

"It was the place we practiced in my living room," Wiig says. "This new manifestation came about, and now it's a five-person rock and roll band."

With Wiig on vocals and guitars, the band includes guitarist Nash Weber, bassist Andros Howes, drummer Jason Berkman and newly added vocalist Jeanna Collet.

The band boasts a wide variety of styles, with a dance-inducing assortment of funk, blues, soul and more at their disposal. "We're omnivores when it comes to music," says Wiig. "It's hard to narrow it down."

That diversity is highlighted on Burnside's newly released album, Perseids, which alternates between funky grooves and roots-rock through its seven up-tempo tracks.

"We play such a variety of venues, and we mix up our set list every time," says Wiig. "For this album, we wanted to showcase that."

This weekend, Burnside embark on a national tour to support the record with a show on April 28 at the Arlene Francis Center. But this isn't any tour, as the band is packing a mailbox alongside the music gear for a letter-writing adventure they're calling "Letters to the Heartland."

"Right now, we have so many different avenues for communication, yet it's really hard to hear one another," says Wiig.

As Facebook commodifies data and Twitter fractures discourse at 280 characters a time, Wiig envisions this tour as a chance for thoughtful dialogue among Americans.

On April 28, Burnside will bring postcards, paper and envelopes for attendees to write a letter to a stranger. Throughout the tour, the band will invite those they meet to take a letter and leave a letter. When Burnside return to play the Railroad Square Music Festival on June 10, they will share those letters from the tour.

"When you sit down to write a letter, you have to take some time and think about it," Wiig says. "Letter writing is one of the more pure, intimate opportunities to connect with another human being that exists today."

Burnside kicks off the 'Letters to the Heartland' tour on Saturday, April 28, at the Arlene Francis Center, 99 Sixth St., Santa Rosa. 6pm. $10. burnsidetheband.com.

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