Dead Winter Carpenters say so long to Brian Huston

Dead Winter Carpenters

The Dead Winter Carpenters say so long to drummer Brian Huston during the May 20 Winter’s Dead show at Crystal Bay.

In a show that included collaboration, unusual circumstances and an emotional farewell, Lake Tahoe’s own Dead Winter Carpenters completed their fifth-annual Winter’s Dead Weekend on Saturday night at Crystal Bay Casino.

Terrapin Crossroads fixtures Scott Law and Ross James’ Cosmic Twang, who also shared the stage the previous evening at Slim’s in San Francisco, provided a ripping opening set.

Upon taking the stage, the Dead Winter Carpenters started their journey with the apropos “Tahoe Gal” from 2012’s “Ain’t it Strange.” It would soon become abundantly clear to all in the room that this show would indeed be a little strange for devoted DWC fans.

Right from the get go, Jenni Charles (fiddle/vocals) let the room know that she was under the weather and unable to lend her vocal talents on lead and harmonies, despite the various remedies delivered to her onstage by fans and crew. While some in the upbeat and ready-to-party crowd were initially disappointed, Charles got a little help from her supporters on the floor for her vocal parts, and channeled what energies she had in the tank to her fiddle playing, particularly in the last third of the show, which featured high-speed, head-banging solos.

Another strange circumstance was drummer Brian Huston’s farewell to the Crystal Bay as a member of Dead Winter Carpenters, which was announced early on for those who hadn’t already known. (Huston will play one last time with the band at Tuesday’s show in Chico.) A few songs after bassist and after-party host band leader Sam Ravenna joined for “Find Your Home,” Huston even took a turn on lead vocals on “Twenty Miles” before handing the main vocal reigns back to the steady and soothing Jesse Dunn (acoustic and electric guitar/vocals). The energetic Dave Lockhart (upright and electric bass/harmonica/vocals) also gave the band’s fronting style a little mule-kick on a handful of songs.

Scott Law joins Jenni Charles and the Dead Winter Carpenters in Tahoe onstage.

Midway through the 20-song celebration, Scott Law would reappear to guest on two songs, playing a romping jam session opposite Charles on the first, and an edgy give-and-take rock collaboration with Nick Swimley (lead guitar/vocals) on The Dead’s “I Know You Rider,” much to the revelers’ delight. The aptly named new tune “Roller Coaster” followed Law’s exit, after which Swimley and the band cranked up the jam intensity for the rest of the evening. They began with “Holy Moses” as the lead guitarist took his tack sharp-toned 1951 replica Nocaster on a frenetic finger-picking ride up and down the fretboard.

The set closed with the reminder of Huston’s departure and the introduction to the Crown Room crowd of their new kit man, Brendan Smith, who will officially join the after Huston’s last show in Chico on Tuesday. With their new drummer assuming his position behind them, their exiting bandmate moved front and center to lead the whole crew on a cover of The Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line” before hugs and a full-band bow. DWC returned for two more roaring tunes before officially declaring that our epic Tahoe winter is indeed (and finally) dead.

-Michael Smyth

Click to see all of Larry Sabo’s photos from the show.

Tahoe Onstage

Nick Swimley plays his Nocaster while Jenni Charles puts the bow to her fiddle.

Tahoe Onstage

Brian Huston plays drums during his last Tahoe show with Dead Winter Carpenters.

Tahoe Onstage

A concertgoer captures the drummer on her phone.

About Michael Smyth

Michael Smyth moved to Reno in 2007 after living more than 40 years in the Bay Area. In addition to going to live shows, he enjoys golf, skiing and fly-fishing. Check out his website

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