AVENUE

Live review – Win Win Winter

By Brian Tucker

(originally published in Performer Magazine)

September 21, 2008 – The Soapbox – Wilmington, NC

WIN WIN WINTER

Tommy Simms and Brian Schanck, The Soapbox, 2008 – photo Brian Tucker

Sundays may be the wrong part of the weekend to have a rock and roll show but that doesn’t mean Sunday night is wrong for a blistering set of music. Just a few weeks after hurricanes threatened the eastern coastline, Florida’s Win Win Winter landed in Wilmington, N.C. to perform their version of southern rock and jubilant soul.

Front doors to The Soapbox were open due to a sudden, cool change of weather and it lent an appropriate vibe to the sometimes boisterous yet easy going nature of the band’s music. Launching into their set, they dealt with sound problems by laying things on thick with their first song “We Came from Stereos.”

The band played material from current release A Brief History of… but kept the set list loose, playing both new and older material. Lead singer Tommy Simms stood close to the microphone, his jet black hair looked as if it were bleeding down his face. He deftly straddled the fence between soulful harmonies and pained vocals, scorching his lyrics with earnest intensity. Bassist Brian Schanck bounded around, espousing energy on the small stage in between Simms and guitarist Nate Oliver who added much with lead guitar playing, notably slide guitar.

The band interplayed like brothers on a school yard – smiling, leaning in on one another. Schanck sang along though devoid of a microphone. He was focused – a furrowed brow constantly outshined by a wicked smile bursting from under a black beard. It was a joyous set of music, like a family band at a town square performance. Simms poured on his large voice, like a raspier Kevin Kinney or throatier John Bell. When Simms let loose his vocals could be both powerful and achingly meaningful.

The night was additionally eventful; it was drummer Matt Bennett’s birthday and Simms announced midway into the set as the hour crept past midnight. But it was on the finale, a new song called “Horseshoes and Hand Grenades” that the band really shined, taking a lengthy song and making it a sonic experience, given extra life by Josh Greenburg’s carnivale-sque keyboard playing.

Most noteworthy about the night’s performance was that their songs took on a new energy compared to how they sound on the album. Songs jumped to life, sonically different in sound and feel. It was more ambitious, like a new shade of a familiar color. Some songs built to a blistering climax and others ended in exquisite collapse. It was a welcome surprise, like getting two desserts instead of one.

 

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