20 Watt Tombstone’s blues rock rolls on

The Wausau blues rock outfit comes to Green Bay alongside touring Detroit act Edison Hollow

By John McCracken

Tom Jordan alongside drummer Mitch Ostrowski (left) and Tom Jordan (right) make up the Wausau death-blues duo 20 Watt Tombstone, set to play the Lyric on Oct. 15 alongside Detroit’s Edison Hollow and Green Bay’s Sons of Kong. Photo courtesy of 20 Watt Tombstone

It started as a joke.

The duo behind Wausau stoner rock band 20 Watt Tombstone started the group when they were playing in another band. Guitarist and vocalist Tom Jordan alongside drummer Mitch Ostrowski were both fans of two-piece acts and the stripped-down sound they
can produce.

Over ten years, numerous national and international tours later, the duo are far from joking.

20 Watt Tombstone head to Green Bay alongside Detroit blues-rock band Edison Hollow on Oct. 15 at Lyric Room. Local Green Bay rock outfit Sons of Kong will open the show.

Jordan acknowledged the deluge of genres the group has been associated with over the years—from psychedelic-rock to the continued death-blues moniker—but said they are straight “rock n’ roll.”

“There’s so many different pieces to what we do,” Jordan said, “it’s hard to call it one thing, but the death-blues thing kind of stuck.”

The blues element of 20 Watt Tombstone’s music is very present. Their 2014 album “Wisco Disco” is ripe with bellowing, fat guitar chords and slow-moving, groove focused drums. Jordan’s gruff vocals cut through the fuzz and lament about lost lovers, whiskey, pills, .45 caliber handguns and scenes pulled from the sticky floors of a hole-in-the-wall saloon.

Any sort of heavy or metal adjacent qualifier 20 Watt Tombstone emit can be found solely in the sonic wall their production and recordings create. Booming drums and fuzzed out guitar riff s fill their entire catalogue. Much like the metal genre the band dips their toes in, the duo delve into heavier, dark passages such as the Ostrowski’s punk drumming and yelling on the 2014 album closer “Goddamn.”

Jordan said they take their influence from everywhere. Anywhere from stoner rock mainstays Clutch to soul music and classic rock.

This genre coalescence is highlighted by touring act Edison Hollow, who hail from Detroit, Michigan. The quartet lean into songs with more hard-rock and stadium rock influences, with Mars Volta-esque vocals and soaring guitar solos found on their six-minute, 2020 ripper “Road Song” off their self-titled album.

Energy is often an overused term when thinking of a live performance. Music, scientifically speaking, is full of energy. 20 Watt Tombstone, however, live for the thrill of live music, something they have sorely missed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was incredibly tough,” Jordan said, “but we made it work. Merch and streaming and all that stuff reality helped us get through it, but ultimately nothing really replaced our need to play live.”

Employment changes, family problems and a global health crisis shifted 20 Watt Tombstone’s ability to practice and write new material. Jordan said their plan is to release a single by the end of the year and hopefully release the new album in 2022.

“We’ve kind of been at the mercy of what we’re able to do lately,” said Jordan.

Jordan said the uptick of COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant and vaccine hesitancy has made things more complicated, but for now they are playing it by ear for any future shows.

“Obviously we want to do what is safe for us and for the people that come to see us as well,” Jordan said. “And we don’t want to do anything that is going to be damaging to anyone, especially venues. We want these venues to stay open.”

John McCracken is the Editor of Green Bay City Pages. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @jmcjmc451

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2 thoughts on “20 Watt Tombstone’s blues rock rolls on”

  1. I can attest… the show was fantastic.
    The surprise of the night was Edison Hollow.
    Sons of Kong and 20 Watt are always a good time.

    I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to get to know and start a friendship with Tom. Here’s the part that is really to miss about him (or any other musician that walk the same path): the dude is ALWAYS doing whatever he can to improve or expand the music scene.

    Whether it be driving 4 hours to a gig, playing, and driving home in the same night, or producing a festival, or helping a first-time promoter land a solid first show, sharing riffs with some while recognizing a genuine love love for the music in a person.

    In a single word, Tom is “necessary”. He’s a man very much needed in the local music scene, and ALL local music scenes need people like Tom.

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