Lake Tahoe’s own Dead Winter Carpenters is about to embark on a summer of firsts after its a two-night run in front of hometown fans at the band’s favorite venue, Crystal Bay Casino’s Crown Room.
“I do think we’re spoiled to have such an incredible local venue,” DWC guitarist and front man Jesse Dunn said before the May 15-16 annual Winter’s Dead shows at the CBC. “Just amazing sound and an incredibly welcoming staff. The experience through and through is just second to none, as far as the hospitality, the sound, the professionalism, and then the boisterous hometown crowd. There’s nothing like it that I’ve seen.”
Dunn and band mates Jenni Charles (fiddle, vocals), Dave Lockhart (upright and electric bass, vocals), Bryan Daines (lead guitar, vocals) and Brian Huston (drums, vocals) have seen a fair bit in their few years together.
Dead Winter Carpenters came together on Tahoe’s North Shore in 2010, initially to open for a Yonder Mountain String Band show at Crystal Bay. The group rapidly gained traction among local music fans with its habit-forming blend of bluegrass, folk, rock, country and more. Before long, DWC was on the road on increasingly extended tours around the country, appearing everywhere from back alley honky-tonks to major festivals.
The band underwent a lineup change in 2013, with Daines and Huston signing on to replace two departed members. Two years later, the group has gelled immensely.
“It’s feeling very cohesive right now, we have a tight unit,” Dunn said. “Through thick and thin, whether that be onstage or on the road, we’ve got a tight knit unit going on and that feels good.”
One product of recent growth together is the ever-increasing amount of material that the group has been writing together and playing live of late.
“As far as songwriting, there have been contributions coming from every member,” Dunn said. “That’s been a joy to be a part of, just so much creativity flowing in every direction.”
DWC has made a point of staying true to its original formula, while embracing musical exploration in that vein.
“We’re constantly experimenting with different sounds,” Dunn said. “I feel like we have two flavors to what we’re doing; the Americana bluegrass folk side and then the more straightforward rock, kind of grunge rock, alt-country. That’s still where we’re drawing from mostly.
“We’re not straying too far from that but we’re working on taking different liberties in the studio, as to ways that you can present those two wells.”
Ever eager to get new tunes out to a growing fan base, DWC is preparing to record its next studio album this summer, following on the heels of 2012’s “Ain’t It Strange” and the 2014 EP “Dirt Nap.”
“As of right now we’re looking at maybe the beginning of July, or sometime this summer,” Dunn said. “We have a ton of material, really fresh stuff from the last couple of months. It’s been a couple years since we’ve done a full length. There are a number of songs that have become staples of our live repertoire that we really want to get down on tape.”
Beforehand though, DWC is getting ready for a five-week tour of the middle and eastern U.S., Maryland-bound for their first appearance at a hallmark event of the Americana music festival scene.
“We’re heading all the way back east to play Delfest, Del McCoury’s festival, for our first time,” Dunn said.
The tour will also see Dead Winter Carpenter’s first appearances in Nashville and in Florida, along with numerous shows along the East Coast and any number of states in between.
“It’s looking really busy; this is the high season for us, coming into festival season,” Dunn said.
It is appropriate that DWC’s headiest tour run to date started f with “Winters Dead,” the annual two night run at Crystal Bay. The group has been playing this event for several years, and always has fun surprises in store for its fans.
“We always do themes at Crystal Bay Club, so we’re doing themes each night,” Dunn said. “We’re learning covers specific to those themes that we’re stoked about. Friday is ‘Nineties Night,’ and then Saturday we’re calling it ‘Headtwangers Ball,’ whatever that means to you; like (MTV’s) ‘Headbangers Ball’ with a little more twang.”
Here are a dozen of our favorite shots from the two nights: