Dead Man Winter plays it straight at First Avenue


Reading the interviews and reviews that surrounded the release of Dave Simonett’s solo project Dead Man Winter new album “Furnace” (check out a great one at City Pages) it’s clear that once again pain, struggles and deep emotions went into an album. The result is 10 songs that to me feel refined and raw at the same time. As Noisey put it ” It feels like the kind of album you would write if you went through a hell of a lot more than you initially thought you were in for.”
Needless to say, expectations were high for the long sold out start of Dead Man Winter’s tour at First Avenue Friday Night.

Erik Koskinen was up first. Koskinen is a staple of the Minneapolis, and I always seem to run into him playing for other artists, so I was excited to see his band. If ask to sum up his set in one word it would be “unpretentious”. There was no guitar tech running on stage to swap instruments, nothing was distracting from his music, and the music itself was straightforward. And it that approach laid its appeal. I for one enjoyed it.

Next on stage was Minneapolis’ The Pines. The trio of David Huckfelt, Benson Ramsey, and Alex Ramsey was augmented to a 6-piece band. Seated in chairs they let their multi layered sound take over First Avenue. The title of their current album “Above the Prairie” sums up their sound nicely. To me it’s the kind of music you hear in your head when looking up at a clear starry sky out in the plains. It has a dreamy quality without being cheesy or boring.
Set List: Hangin / Pale / Cry Cry / Spirit / Sleepy / Light Under / Something Wild / Rise Up / ??

First Avenue was packed by the time Dead Man Winter took to the stage. Simonett was supported by drummer JT Bates, guitarist Erik Koskinen, bassist Tim Saxhaug , and pianist Bryan Nichols. Opening with “Red Wing Blue Wing”, it did not take long for him to cast his spell on crowd. Again, there were no gimmicks or effects to hide behind. As someone who gets blasted by strobes, showered in confetti, or lost in smoke at least once a week, I appreciated the focus on the music. Dead Man Winter stands on its own – there were a couple of time where their sound went a bit Trampled by Turtles – but hey, that’s not a bad thing.
One of their songs (I think “Nicotine” – I lost count and was putting away my gear) started with strong percussion. Since that was drummer JT Bates third set of the night – kudos to him. Overall I was impressed by the performance and judging from the crowd reaction I was far from the only one in the house.
Set List: Red Wing / Danger / Same Town / Place / House / Wasteland / Nicotine / Long Cold Night / Weight / Breaking Down / Golden / Cardinal / Destroyer / Victory / Out of Control