Saturday night, Dennis and Traci Fick opened the doors of DAT Bar in welcoming national touring artists 20 Watt Tombstone based out of Wausau and international touring artists Left Lane Cruiser based out of Fort Wayne, IN.
As Dennis explains, he had been pursuing booking the bands for over two years.
“They are amazing! They are the Devils Blues, Rock & Roll Personified!” he adds with a laugh. “Tom Jordan from 20 Watt Tombstone and Tim Moat, an old friend of mine turned me on to ‘Left Lane a few years ago. Then I went and seen them at other locations and was completely blown away! I couldn’t believe all that sound was pouring out of two guys! I met Joe Evans from Left Lane Cruiser between acts a couple years back and realized he was as genuine as he was talented. The people behind the music are important to me as well and everyone involved from both bands are total class acts.”
Formed in 2004, Left Lane Cruiser consists of vocalist/slide guitarist Frederick “Joe” Evans, bassist Joe Bent and drummer Pete Dio.
Unfortunately, Dio was unable to make the Merrill show due to injuries sustained in a recent motorcycle accident. Fortunately, due to Bent’s versatility he was able to switch over to the drum kit and fill in for his fallen band-mate.
The band signed with Alive Records in 2007 with their debut album and departed on their first European tour the following fall.
Since then, the trio have released six additional albums are currently touring in support of their most recent album, “Dirty Spiff Blues.”
20 Watt Tombstone, consisting of guitarist/vocalist Tom Jordan and drummer Mitch Ostrowski, was formed in 2011. For marketing purposes, they recently changed the name of the band.
“Having a new name has almost been like filing for bankruptcy.” Jordan says with a chuckle. “Everything we invested was lost with the name change. It was a whole new start for us.”
In deciding on their new title, Jordan and Ostrowski organized a name contest based on social media and 20 Watt Tombstone was the fan favorite.
The duo fondly refer to their style as “Devil’s Blues” based upon Ostrowski’s heavy-hitting drum style in combination with Jordan’s deep throaty vocals and bluesy guitar chords.
“We have been doing this for a while but it’s all still a little new to me,” Ostrowski adds. “I’ve always hit hard and heavy. I come from a metal/thrash metal background so when Tom and I got together it was all new. But I love it, we have a blast doing what we do.”
Prior to Saturday’s show, the duo entered the recording studio with Left Lane Cruiser in working on a split-album due to be released in the near future.
“When usually end up getting together when Left Lane is touring up here,” Jordan said. “We come as a package deal and Dennis had been bugging me for over two years to bring Left Lane to Merrill.” he adds with a chuckle.
“I’m glad we were finally able to make it happen.”
“Dennis and Traci are good friends of ours,” Ostrowski adds. “We have all known each other a long time and DAT is always a fun place to play. We have a great time when we come here, and we are well received. The turnout is always great.”
In the beginning of May the duo departed on their first national tour, embarking on a grueling tour schedule consisting of 23 shows in 24 days.
The tour led them on trek through the upper Midwest, into Tennessee and Kentucky before heading into the deep south with dates in Georgia, Florida and then back up the east coast of the Carolinas.
“It was a crazy, great experience,” Orstrowski says. “Being away from home for that long of a stretch was new for us, something we had never done before. But it was so much fun. We are definitely looking forward to touring again.”
“Smelly,” Jordan adds with a grin, “the tour was definitely smelly.”
“Like Mitch said though, we had a great time with minimal bad luck. We did end up getting a hole in our gas tank in South Carolina which wasn’t all that great, but it could have been worse. We were able to get it fixed and get back on the road without losing a whole lot of time.”
The duo agrees the outdoor “Steel in Motion” hot rod festival in Union, South Carolina was their most memorable stop on the tour.
Following Saturday’s show, the pair will have a week-long break before they hit the road again on Friday bound for Louisville, Kentucky and then Pekin, IL on Friday.
As for Left Lane Cruiser, they have a pair of tour dates in Ohio and Pennsylvania in early October before hitting the international tour path once again as they are due to play several dates in the UK starting on Wednesday Oct. 21, before heading on to France and Belgium in early and mid November.
Dennis and Traci are already preparing to host their next international touring artist on Nov. 13 when they welcome back Dave Arcari, another Devils Blues artist from Glasgow, Scotland with opening act Douglas “Buckshot” Bredleu and the New Ditchrunners, based out of Stevens Point.