Crystal Bay comeback: Dead Winter Carpenters nail it!

Dead Winter Carpenters Nick Swimley and Jenni Charles rock the Crystal Bay Casino’s Crown Room on Friday, May 13. Tahoe Onstage photos by Larry Sabo

A band that made an album entitled “Ain’t It Strange” made — what would be in normal times — the oddest of comeback shows.

The Dead Winter Carpenters performed Saturday, April 30, in the Crystal Bay Casino, which is undeniably the hometown band’s most beloved venue. The near sellout performance was DWC’s first Crown Room show in four years, which is exceedingly strange if not for the pandemic.

“Extremely excited would be an understatement about this show and to get back on that stage,” said Jesse Dunn, who founded the band with Jenni Charles in 2010. “We aspired to play the Crystal Bay Club as the paramount, the ultimate goal. And once we finally got our foot in the door we tried to stay there, and fortunately we’ve had years and years’ worth of great shows there.”

February 2018 was the last time Dead Winter Carpenters appeared in the Crown Room, which has since removed booths that lined the wall and relocated the sound board to the back of the room adjacent to the new entrance. The changes were made to expand the capacity to 750.

The live-show lockdown affected everyone in the music industry.

“We had a new EP (‘Sinners ‘N’ Freaks’) and the first single was released March 13, 2020, the day the whole world shut down,” Dunn said. “We had a big tour and festivals on the docket. But we went forward with the release.”

Among the canceled shows was an April date at the CBC.

A second song which Dunn wrote in honor of his mother raised awareness of — and $2,200 for — the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance.

Residents of Tahoe’s West Shore town Tahoma, Dunn and Charles livestreamed songs on Sundays, “Stay at Homa.”

The Dead Winter Carpenters include bassist Jeremy Plog and guitarist Nick Swimley, who also play with Golden Cadillacs. And there is a new yet familiar man at the drum kit. Drummer Brendan Smith is moving Back East, and in his place is Brian Huston, who played with DWC from 2013-2017.

“I made one call and Brian said he was back on board,” Dunn said. “It was about as seamless as it could be. He spent some golden years and some big touring years for us. He knows the lion’s share of the repertoire. It’s not like starting fresh. He’s a family member already. This will be his big hometown, jumping-back-in party.”

The Crystal Bay show opened with a band that has headlined the venue multiple times, Achilles Wheel. Coincidentally, Achilles Wheel and Dead Winter Carpenters are slated to close out the June Lake Jam Fest on Sept. 11. The annual festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021.

“We have a lot of shows scheduled for this summer and just hoping they’ll stick,” Dunn said. “And we are looking forward to getting out and seeing people again.”

-Tim Parsons

Brian Huston has returned to the Dead Winter Carpenters. Tahoe Onstage photos by Larry Sabo
Pre-show portrait: Nick Swimley, Jeremy Plog, Jesse Dunn, Jenni Charles and Brian Huston. Larry Sabo / Tahoe Onstage
The table is set list, food and drinks.
Giants fan Jeremy Plog’s on bass. His son is a Dodgers fan. That’s a heck of a note.
Jonny Mojo of Achilles Wheel joins the fun.
Tall tales: Jesse Dunn used to play D-1 basketball.
Nick Swimley is a collector of vintage guitars.

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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