Black top revelation

Lo-Pan bring colossal riffs to Blind Bob’s

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Lo-Pan will perform at Blind Bob’s Dec. 26

Good music that comes out of Ohio should be a no-brainer. Whether we are talking about Bootsy Collins, Devo or Guided By Voices, Ohio has earned its stripes in the world of daring, original and sometimes groundbreaking or trendsetting music in a variety of genres. When analyzing the history of music that has been born and bred in the Buckeye State, it appears the capital city of Columbus isn’t as well represented in the annals of rock history as Cleveland, Cincinnati or Dayton. And while Columbus quartet Lo-Pan isn’t quite on the level of rock star status just yet, the group has been working hard for almost a decade now and has been creating some of the most striking and satisfying music in the world of contemporary metal. With publications such as The Obelisk proclaiming they “could easily stand as one of the most important bands of their generation in the genre,” it’s obvious that people have begun to take notice.

Part of Lo-Pan’s success is probably because of the band’s stunning work ethic. The band has zig-zagged all over North America and beyond in the past several years, touring relentlessly with bands such as Weedeater, High on Fire and Goatwhore, and playing on stages big and small to anybody with a curious ear as to what this fearsome foursome has to offer in the live setting. Apparently, the band’s tighter-than-a-noose-around-the-neck live performance has impressed many a concertgoer.

“Live, it probably sounds like we play and rehearse a lot because we do – a lot!” Lo-Pan drummer Jesse Bartz said. “Fifteen thousand-plus miles in 38 days on the last tour [alone].”

One thing that immediately catches your attention when the band plays live is the fact that their vocalist Jeff Martin chooses to stand behind drummer Bartz, guitarist Adrian Zambrano and bassist Skot Thompson, perhaps to put the emphasis on the musicians and music coming through the club P.A.

And if the band’s unusual stage set-up hadn’t gotten your attention yet, the moment the music hits your ears will definitely come alive. Some bands’ music takes a minute to grow on you. Others’ hit you almost immediately, like a bug meeting its fast, untimely death as it collides with a car’s windshield. This analogy is apt when describing Lo-Pan’s musical attack – it hits you square in the brain from the first minute: heavy, but catchy metallic riffs and thunderous drums hammer their way past your ear dums and into your subconscious in a way that you can seem to recall any guitar lick or drum beat as if it was your own phone number. But then there’s another element that sets them apart from much contemporary metal music – this band grooves. At first, Thompson’s bass work might just sound like a typical lumbering monolith of low end, but when it’s added in with the other instrumentation, the bass lines seem to create this thick groove out of everything else that’s going on, and you can’t help but nod your head in time to the rhythm and maybe sway a little to it, if you’re not too self-conscious. Something else that will grab your attention right away is the singing. No grunting, shrieking or death growls here – just straight singing by vocalist Jeff Martin who has quite a set of pipes on him. That adds a whole extra element of melody, making those Lo-Pan songs that much more memorable.

“We play original rock,” Bartz explained simply. “It is loud distortion-driven riffs over precise shifting rhythm – strong soaring vocals with a sense of crafted melody. We all listen to a lot of different music so our influences are all over the place.”

Some of the influences noted on the band’s Facebook page include bands like Tool, Torche, Kyuss, Black Sabbath and Helmet, and their influences are recognizable in the songs and sound of Lo-Pan – especially Tool, as has been noted by this writer and by many who have heard Lo-Pan previously.

“I guess of all the comparisons to Tool would be on the positive side,” Bartz said. “They are great band, can play their instruments, and Maynard’s certainly an incredible singer.”

Readers can decide for themselves, should they decide to attend Lo-Pan’s return to the stage at Blind Bob’s in downtown Dayton, a venue Lo-Pan enjoys rockin’ with other like-minded and like-sounding groups, before they embark on their first European tour in early 2015 where they will play club gigs and prestigious festivals such as Roadburn and DesertFest. One thing everyone who witnesses Lo-Pan live will agree on is that Lo-Pan will be loud, heavy and, for lack of a better word, groovy.

“We enjoy Dayton a lot,” Bartz said. “The crew at Blind Bob’s has always been the best to work with. It seems like Dayton has some of the best bands every time we play there.”

Lo-Pan will perform Friday, Dec. 26 at Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth St. Maharaja and Hanging Witch are also on the bill. Admission is $5 for patrons 21 and over. For more information, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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