Live Review: High on Fire, Goatwhore, Primate and Lo-Pan in Philly, 11.29.12

Posted in Reviews on December 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Here’s a quick metaphor for how I feel about the city of Philadelphia. I was on my way down to Philly from my office, wanting to get to Union Transfer early to see High on Fire, Goatwhore, Primate and Lo-Pan. And I’m doing my usual not-there-yet stress thing. I’d never been to Union Transfer before, so what if there’s no parking anywhere, what if I can’t find it, what if I drive off the edge of a cliff — all that ultra-reasonable anxiety that sometimes is enough to keep me at home but generally accompanies me one way or another everywhere I go.

Parking space right outside the venue. Maybe 50 feet from the door. Street parking, free because it was after 6:30PM. Once more, Philly, your hospitality astonishes.

It was chilly waiting for the door to open, but I’d listened to enough NPR en route and the cold did me some good. My understanding is Union Transfer is a relatively recent advent, show-wise, and if it was actually a train station at one point, it makes a decent club. The room was sizable and the stage can be moved either forward or back to allow for more space on the floor. It was pretty far up. Apparently advance sales for the Thursday night show weren’t great, so the balcony was also closed, which was a bummer because that’s probably where I’d have been otherwise.

I grabbed a beer early (it would be my only one of the night) and waited about an hour for Lo-Pan to go on, sitting at one of the side tables killing time to the best of my ability. Gradually I made my way toward the floor and then up front. Though the room wasn’t nearly as full as it would be later, there were already a bunch of people there and I figured better safe than taking pictures of the back of some dude’s head.

Of the four bands on the bill, I really only had more than nominal interest in two: Lo-Pan and High on Fire, the bookends on the bill. That said, I hardly suffered through either Primate or Goatwhore‘s sets. It went down like so:

Lo-Pan

I was especially looking forward to seeing Lo-Pan on this tour, it being the hardworking Columbus, Ohio, natives’ biggest yet. They lined up toward the front of the stage, all in a row, from bassist Scott Thompson on down through drummer Jesse Bartz, vocalist Jeff Martin and guitarist Brian Fristoe. Martin, who’s usually in the back while Bartz is out front — at least that’s how it’s been at every Lo-Pan show I’ve seen and I don’t mind saying I’ve seen a few at this point — was up there with everyone else and held his position well, projecting his powerful, soulful voice upward into the mic in front of him. Pipes for days. They played “Colossus” and “Eastern Seas,” the two new songs they had included in their set at the Small Stone Records showcase in Boston at the start of the month (review here), and though the one right after the other threw me for a bit, the driving “Chichen Itza” from Salvador was a highlight and “Dragline” from 2009′s Sasquanaut was something of a surprise. They intended to close with it but were granted some extra time and made the most of it with one more song. It wasn’t the most comfortable I’ve ever seen them, but as the openers, I imagine they’ve made a positive first impression on a lot of heads throughout this tour. They were more than worth showing up early for, and I hope they continue to tour at this level, because they’ve proven that they’re more than ready to carry the flag for heavy rock to a wider audience that won’t know what hit it.

Primate

Seems like the appeal of Atlanta-based grinders Primate was rooted in the fact that the band features Brutal Truth vocalist Kevin Sharp and Mastodon guitarist Bill Kelliher in the lineup. For a more Philly-specific angle, second guitarist Mike Brennan once slung for Philly dirt thrashers Javelina. Whatever the status of that band, his contributions to Primate were in line with the band’s general modus: Play fast, be angry. The barefoot Sharp has nothing to prove as a frontman, and his vocals remained consistently intense throughout the tightly-delivered set. Likewise, Kelliher‘s resume doesn’t exactly need padding at this point either. He made playing fast look like playing slow, hardly breaking a sweat as they went on. A straight-up hardcore punk persisted, and Primate only confirmed their intent with a cover of Black Flag‘s “Rise Above,” which the young dude standing next to me went — pun most definitely intended — apeshit for. He was not alone by any means. Theirs was a different kind of heavy from what I’m used to seeing, but hell man, I’ve done my time with extremity of sound and I can get down with that if need be. Their stuff was pummeling and precise in kind, and when that’s the case, even if it’s not what I’m interested in hearing on a given night, I have a hard time not appreciating it on its own level.

Goatwhore


I’d have to go back and check the archives to be sure, but I think Goatwhore might be the fastest band I’ve ever taken pictures of. Maybe that’s not saying much, considering the context, but still, it was a new experience for me. It’s been more than half a decade since I even really vaguely paid attention to what they had going on, but it didn’t seem at Union Transfer that I’d missed all that much. Frontman Ben Falgoust still had his strangely effective hand gestures and every time I looked at guitarist Sammy Duet, I still just thought to myself, “Wow, he’s the dude from Acid Bath.” So it went. They were pro, though, and made the fine line between metal and capital-h Heavy seem much thicker than it has at other times. Duet spit on the stage at one point and I caught some ricochet, but other than that, it wasn’t unpleasant in the slightest. Despite all the time that’s passed since I heard one of their records, I recognized the breakdown in “Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult,” and that was as much landmark as I really needed. The crowd I guess wasn’t as into it as Falgoust was hoping for, since at one point he reminded from the stage that, “It’s cool to like metal again.” I didn’t know it was ever cool to like metal. Someone better tell Shakira to get on that shit, lest she lose her pop relevance. Either way, when they were done, they broke down their own gear, and for a band who’ve been around as long as they have and toured as much as they have, I found that admirable.

High on Fire

Near as I can tell from the small sample I’ve seen, here’s the difference between watching Matt Pike sober now and Matt Pike not at all sober before: Earlier in his career, he came out on stage like he was swinging a double-sided battle axe and conquered the stage, claiming the heads of any and all who opposed him as though anyone would be foolish enough to attempt such a thing. He was a shirtless madman. That’s enjoyable but hardly sustainable for a career. Now when Matt Pike comes out on stage, it’s not even a question whose stage it is. The battle axe need not apply. He just owns it. That’s not to say High on Fire were in any way lacking their trademark sonic fury, just that it had direction, knew where it was headed and the band — Pike, bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensell — were smarter with the tools of their trade. They fucking killed. Most of the set came from this year’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), set opener “Serums of Laio” even more riotous on stage than it is starting off the record. “Last” and especially “10,000 Years” from the recently-reissued The Art of Self-Defense were highlights, and the moments of slower groove on “DII” or “Madness of an Architect” came as welcome changes of pace from the ripping likes of “Spiritual Rites,” “Fury Whip” or “Devilution.” High on Fire have a catalog of five strong albums to draw from — “Speedwolf” represented 2002′s Surrounded by Thieves — but it was the title-track to 2010′s Snakes for the Divine that did the closing duties, and with its grandiose lead work, it seemed suited to the task. By then I’d long since moved to the back of Union Transfer to extricate myself from the violence up front, but wherever you were, there was no getting away from the fact that High on Fire have pushed themselves forward and that watching them now, there’s no doubt who the headliners are. Pike was more subdued in his stage persona, as one would have to expect, but he still played to the crowd, as did Matz, and Kensell was so buried in his kit you could only really see the top of his head, so if High on Fire have a rock star aura about them, it’s certainly one cast in their own image. However derailed they may have seemed or whatever hit their momentum may have taken earlier this year by their ducking out on the commercial exposure Mayhem fest would’ve brought, they’re back rolling hard and they seem clear-headed and ready for whatever could be coming their way. The stage looked small around them.

I’d taken Friday off from work, but a drive to Boston awaited in the morning and I had a two-hour trip home to my humble river valley, so I was out of there pretty quick once the house lights came on. Of course, it was Philly, so I had no trouble getting to where I was going, hit no traffic and made it home in record time. God damn I love that city.

Extra pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Lo-Pan Tour with High on Fire and Goatwhore Starts Tuesday

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 9th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

…Because really, if you’re going to start the biggest tour of your career to date, you don’t want to do it on a Monday. Lo-Pan head out beginning Nov. 13, this coming Tuesday, to meet up with High on Fire and Goatwhore in Austin. From there, the three bands and periodically others like Mastodon/Brutal Truth-offshoot Primate and C.O.C. – whose Eye for an Eye reissue came out this week — will storm the countryside, and as if the tour wasn’t long enough, Lo-Pan have some off-dates booked as well.

If you have even a passing interest in American heavy rock, you probably don’t need me to tell you how crucial Lo-Pan is at this point. Just go to the show and make sure you get there early.

This from the PR wire:

LO-PAN: Ohio Road Burners To Kick Off North American Tour With High On Fire

Ohio road burners, LO-PAN, are readying for their next round of live assaults supporting heavy metal juggernauts High On Fire. The full North American takeover will commence on November 15 in Austin, Texas and is slated to run through December 22 in San Francisco, California. Additional support will come from Goatwhore as well as special guests Primate (featuring Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher and Kevin Sharp of Brutal Truth) and Corrosion of Conformity on select dates. Additionally, LO-PAN will be picking up a few off dates in surrounding cities. Check the full itinerary below.

Don’t miss LO-PAN on their final dates of 2012!

LO-PAN Tour Dates 2012:
11/13/2012 Buccaneer – Memphis, TN
11/14/2012 Downtown Music – Little Rock, AR
11/15/2012 Emo’s – Austin, TX w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
11/16/2012 Korova – San Antonio, TX w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
11/17/2012 Tree’s – Dallas, TX w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
11/18/2012 Happy Hippie – Lake Charles, LA w/ Large Marge
11/19/2012 One Eyed Jacks – New Orleans, LA w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
11/20/2012 Vinyl Music Hall – Pensacola, FL w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
11/21/2012 Jinx – Savannah, GA w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
11/23/2012 Rock & Roll Hotel – Washington, DC w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore, Primate
11/24/2012 Sinclair – Boston, MA w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore, Primate
11/25/2012 The Bug Jar – Rochester, NY w/ Primate
11/26/2012 Opera House – Toronto, ON w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore, Primate
11/27/2012 La Tulipe – Montreal, QC w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore, Primate
11/28/2012 Port Street Music Hall – Portland, MA w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore, Primate
11/29/2012 Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore, Primate
11/30/2012 Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore, Primate
12/01/2012 Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore, Primate
12/03/2012 Mohawk – Buffalo, NY w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
12/04/2012 Grog Shop – Cleveland, OH w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
12/05/2012 Aces of Cups – Columbus, OH w/ High Ow/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
12/06/2012 Firebird – St. Louis, MO w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
12/07/2012 Double Door – Chicago, IL w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
12/08/2012 Turf Club – Minneapolis, MN w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
12/09/2012 High Noon – Madison, WI w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
12/10/2012 The Riot Room – Kansas City, MO w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
12/11/2012 Bluebird – Denver, CO w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
12/12/2012 Burt’s Tiki Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT
12/13/2012 Nerolux – Boise, ID w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
12/14/2012 Neumos – Seattle, WA w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
12/15/2012 Dante’s – Portland, OR w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
12/16/2012 The Venue – Vancouver, BC w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore
12/18/2012 The Catalyst – Santa Cruz, CA w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore, C.O.C.
12/19/2012 Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore, C.O.C.
12/20/2012 Slidebar – Fullerton, CA Slidebar w/ Goatwhore
12/21/2012 Constellation Room – Santa Ana, CA w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore, C.O.C.
12/22/2012 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA w/ High On Fire, Goatwhore

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Congratulations to Lo-Pan on Touring with High on Fire

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 24th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Heartfelt congratulations, kudos and generic cop compliments to Ohio foursome Lo-Pan, who will tour all over the frickin’ place with High on Fire and Goatwhore starting Nov. 15. I can’t think of a band of their fuzzy ilk who’ve earned it more with the touring they’ve done and the fantastic records they’ve released, so well done, gentleman. Way to make all that hard work start to pay off. Now go do a bunch more hard work. Ha.

Kind of a wild bill, but heavy is heavy and I’ve no doubt Lo-Pan will make a lot of new friends on the road. Once again, congrats.

Here’s the news from High on Fire‘s point of view:

HIGH ON FIRE Announces North American Headlining Tour

California Power Trio to Storm Stages Across the Continent this Fall!

Oakland, CA heavy metal juggernaut HIGH ON FIRE has announced a full North American tour in support of its new album De Vermis Mysteriis. The eagerly anticipated run — the band’s first since the release of the new LP — will kick off on November 15 in Austin, TX and is slated to run through December 22 in San Francisco, CA. Support on the HIGH ON FIRE headlining tour will come from Goatwhore and Lo Pan with special guests Primate (featuring Mastodon‘s Bill Kelliher and Kevin Sharp of Brutal Truth) joining the trek from November 23 to December 1 and Corrosion of Conformity hopping on the caravan from December 18-21. Simply put, HIGH ON FIRE will hit the road with all guns blazing for what will undoubtedly be one of 2012′s best heavy music tours!

On December 20 at the Mayan in Los Angeles, HIGH ON FIRE will headline a special “Power of the Riff” show that will also feature COC and SunnO)))). For more details, visit this location.

HIGH ON FIRE fall North American tour:
(all dates include Goatwhore & Lo Pan)
(Nov. 23 – Dec. 1 also includes Primate)
(December 18-21 also includes COC)
November 15 Austin, TX Emo’s
November 16 San Antonio, TX Korova
November 17 Dallas, TX Tree’s
November 19 New Orleans, LA One Eyed Jacks
November 20 Pensacola, FL Vinyl Music Hall
November 21 Savannah, GA Jinx
November 23 Washington, DC Rock & Roll Hotel
November 24 Boston, MA Sinclair
November 26 Toronto, ON Opera House
November 27 Montreal, QC La Tulipe
November 28 Portland, ME Port City Music Hall
November 29 Philadelphia, PA Union Transfer
November 30 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom
December 1 Brooklyn, NY Music Hall of Williamsburg
December 3 Buffalo, NY Mohawk
December 4 Cleveland, OH Grog Shop
December 5 Columbus, OH Ace Of Clubs
December 6 St. Louis, MO Firebird
December 7 Chicago, IL Double Door
December 8 Minneapolis, MN Turf Club
December 9 Madison, WI High Noon
December 10 Kansas City, MO The Riot Room
December 11 Denver, CO Bluebird
December 13 Boise, ID Neurolux
December 14 Seattle, WA Neumos
December 15 Portland, OR Dante’s
December 16 Vancouver, BC Venue
December 18 Santa Cruz, CA The Catalyst
December 19 San Diego, CA Brick By Brick
December 20 Los Angeles, CA Mayan (* Power of the Riff w/ COC, Sunn O))) )
December 21 Santa Ana, CA Observatory
December 22 San Francisco, CA Slims

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Lo-Pan Premiere New Video for Chichen Itza; New Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Whathaveyou on March 22nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I don’t know if it counts as a quote from the PR wire when you’re the one who wrote the press release, but here goes anyway:

You couldn’t stop Lo-Pan if you wanted to, and you don’t. Fresh off their March tour that included a stop at Small Stone Records’ annual SXSW showcase, Ohio’s finest in fuzz have just unveiled their first official video, for the track “Chichen Itza.”

The song comes off Lo-Pan’s 2011 landmark outing, Salvador, and the video, directed by Joe Fortunato, shows the band doing what they do best: Multi-tasking. Robe-clad frontman Jeff Martin soulfully belts out “Chichen Itza,” singing into his spatula as he cooks morning breakfast. Grapefruits are hoisted in metallic paean, peppers are chopped, bacon is slabbed, and like everything Lo-Pan does, it’s an absolute blast.

Check out “Chichen Itza” here:

Never ones to rest (ever), Lo-Pan will embark on a weekend jaunt with West Virginian instrumental heavy legends Karma to Burn starting tonight, March 22, before heading out on a Midwest run with fellow Ohioans, Mockingbird.

Lo-Pan with Karma to Burn:
03/22 Kent, OH The Outpost w/ Karma to Burn
03/23 Charleston, WV The Sound Factory w/ Karma to Burn
03/24 Morgantown, WV 123 Pleasant St. w/ Karma to Burn

Lo-Pan with Mockingbird:
04/05 Akron, OH Annabells w/ Mockingbird
04/06 Cleveland, OH Now That’s Class w/ Mockingbird
04/07 Detroit, MI Corktown Tavern w/ Mockingbird, Knife
04/08 Chicago, IL Ultra Lounge w/ Mockingbird, Heaving Mass
04/09 Indianapolis, IN Indy’s Jukebox w/ Mockingbird
04/11 Huntington, WV The V Club w/ Mockingbird
04/12 Dayton, OH Blind Bob’s w/ Mockingbird
04/13 Morgantown, WV The Cue w/ Mockingbird. West by God, Hovel
04/14 Pittsburgh, PA Bloomfield Bridge Tavern w/ Mockingbird, Sistered
04/15 Columbus, OH Ruby Tuesday w/ Mockingbird, BeforeTheEyeWall

http://lopandemic.com
http://smallstone.com
http://lechuzabooking.com

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audiObelisk: EYE Premiere Closing Track From Center of the Sun

Posted in audiObelisk on March 8th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Columbus, Ohio, heavy psych four-piece EYE will make their debut on Kemado with the LP/download Center of the Sun on April 3. The band, who were previously On the Radar-ized at the recommendation of Jesse Bartz of Lo-Pan, boasts former and current members of The Pretty Weapons, Deadsea and Teeth of the Hydra, but functions on a different wavelength than any of those bands, melding mellotron-era King Crimson with space-bound Pink Floyd cosmic exploration and beefing up warm, live-sounding tones with the occasional freakout or weighted jam. Listening to the four-song full-length, one doesn’t get the sense that EYE feel like they need to be heavy at any given moment, but neither do they shy away from it.

That only makes Center of the Sun feel more spontaneous, adding to one of the record’s great strengths. Another that works in similar regard is the sense of movement, and for that, I’m glad to be able to host the premiere stream of album closer “Rik Rite,” which brings forth some of EYE‘s best linear work. Jazzy snare fills underscore a space rock build that pays off twice, first fast, then slow, never losing its sense of melody or control. It’s a more than satisfying conclusion to Center of the Sun, with lyrical talk of interstellar harmonies and cosmic winds sounding not at all out of place amid just a touch of Om-esque ritual. It’s a gorgeous track from a gorgeous record and I hope you enjoy it on the player below:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

EYE‘s Center of the Sun was recorded and mixed at Columbus Discount Recording and Backroads Recording in Columbus, OH, and features cover art by Anthony Yankovic. The album is due out April 3 through Kemado Records. More info is available through the band’s Thee Facebooks page or the label’s website.

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This is Me, Urging You to See Lo-Pan…

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 30th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

…And if you don’t know why, click here. Or here. Or here. Or here. Yeah, that’s right. I broke out the Lo-Pan links. No better way to let you know the Ohioan fuzz titans mean business. Doubtless that’ll also be the case as they head down to sunny Austin, Texas, to take part in this year’s recently-announced Small Stone showcase at SXSW. Here’s the poster with the dates — click to enlarge as you see fit:

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On the Radar: Eye

Posted in On the Radar on November 7th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

The recommendation to check out heavy space rock trio Eye came from Lo-Pan‘s Jesse Bartz, and man, was he right. On their self-released Center of the Sun debut, Eye — nearly impossible to locate via Googular means — blend half-speed low-end Hawkwind with organ-era Clutch and are partial to the occasional excursion into minimal drone worship, harmonized vocal or military march — and seriously, that’s just on the 19-minute opening title-track, which has a scope that even that all-over-the-place description only touches the surface of. It’s exciting to know people are doing this kind of stuff.

Guitarist/vocalist Matt Auxier and drummer/vocalist Brandon Smith both come from the Columbus psych outfit The Pretty Weapons, and bassist Matt Bailey was a member of post-Mastodon crushers Teeth of the Hydra, who released their Greenland album on Tee Pee in 2006, so the combination was bound to result in something interesting. As Eye, the three-piece indulge in extended, blinding washes of thickened psychedelics. The songs feel born of jams but not unstructured, even as the languid plod of “Usurpers” gives way to the frantic guitar jabs of “Restorers,” there’s a cohesiveness and a plan at work behind the madness. They can and do go anywhere, and there’s an underlying intensity that keeps hold of the attention however far out Eye might be spiraling.

Plus: mellotron. Well utilized mellotron, at that. Where it shows up as contributed by Adam “Smitty” Smith (who also engineered the record), it gives Eye that feeling of being the life-changing obscure 1974 vinyl you pick up at a garage sale and soon quit your job to worship. Center of the Sun is blown out where it needs to be, but not afraid of being classy either, and the jazzy shuffle of “Restorers” in its latter half proves it, Auxier‘s killer wailing solo included. As closer “Rik Rite” moves from blues rock classicism to epic cosmic proclamations, the journey feels like coming through a wormhole. In an instant you’re somewhere else, you have no idea how you got there, and any sense of time you had has been evaporated.

Much thanks to Bartz for the recommendation. If you want to check out Eye — and you do — feel free to hit them up on Thee Facebooks. They’ve also got Center of the Sun for sale as a pay-what-you-want download on their Bandcamp, the proceeds from which they’re hoping to use to press a limited CD run. A band after my own heart. Here’s the album for streaming goodness:

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Live Review: Suplecs, Lo-Pan and The Brought Low in Brooklyn, 09.20.11

Posted in Reviews on September 21st, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

The carton from which Lo-Pan frontman Jeff Martin is drinking in the candid picture above reads “Boxed Water is Better.” There’s a life lesson in there somewhere, but mark my words, I have no clue what it might be.

After bolting from a school obligation in Newark and stopping only to grab sushi takeout on my way to Brooklyn for the BrooklynVegan/The Obelisk-presented gig at Union Pool with The Brought Low, Lo-Pan and Suplecs. I was excited to see the bands and glad it had stopped raining from earlier in the day, but more than either of those, I was just in a hurry to get there.

Being involved in booking and promoting shows is nerve-wracking work, and to those who do it on a regular basis — and that includes Fred from BrooklynVegan, who invited me to be a part of the show out of the blue and the kindness of his heart — much respect. I can’t imagine being responsible for making people show up somewhere, trying to draw a crowd. I have a hard enough time getting my own ass off the couch, let alone anyone else’s.

That said, if e’er a rock bill in Brooklyn was going to do it, it was this one. With the two-day Small Stone Records showcase in Philadelphia this weekend featuring all three of these bands (and many others), I was thinking of the show as an unofficial warm-up, a kind of unofficial mini-showcase — but really, however you phrase it, it was a killer night. The Brought Low went on at 9:30, and if you looked back from there, you wasted your time.

I don’t know how many times I’ve said it at this point, but every time I see them affirms my opinion that The Brought Low are the best rock band in New York. They played a set that felt short, but pulled probably the night’s biggest crowd. The two faster cuts from their recent Coextinction Recordings EP, “Army of Soldiers” and “Black River” — on which bassist Bob Russell took lead vocals from guitarist Ben Smith — sounded great, and the material from last year’s Third Record was no less thrilling than when I heard it the last time I saw them in December. Nick Heller‘s drumming behind Smith‘s come-a-creepin’ guitar line on “My Favorite Waste of Time” gave me a newly-revitalized appreciation for that song.

That was about as subdued as they got. The rest of their time was devoted to energetic, upbeat songs like “Blues for Cubby” off of 2006′s Right on Time, which was another highlight. They were probably the perfect way to kick off the show, and set a high bar for Lo-Pan, who I don’t even know how many times I’ve seen this year at this point (another to come Friday in Philly). Union Pool‘s sound suited them well as they ran through tracks from the instantly classic Salvador, released earlier this year.

Guitarist Brian Fristoe played probably the best and most engaged set I’ve seen from him — Lo-Pan‘s stage configuration puts the instruments out front and the aforementioned Jeff Martin in the rear, and Fristoe is usually pretty subdued compared to drummer Jesse Bartz and bassist Skot Thompson, seemingly preferring to let the fuzz and the riffs do the talking — but it didn’t wind up doing him any favors. Late in the set, he broke a string and the considerable momentum Lo-Pan had built coming off “Bird of Prey” took a substantial hit.

It didn’t stop them. Jokes were tossed back and forth in the break while Fristoe changed out the string, and Lo-Pan was tight enough that when they picked back up and closed out with “Generations,” I didn’t hear another word about the string. In talking to the band before and after they played, they said they were well rested, and they played like it. Comparing it to a few weeks back at Stoner Hands of Doom XI, they were pretty great then, but better last night. Clearly just a band at the top of their game making the most of their time on the road. It’s exciting to watch them.

And what to say about Suplecs? The New Orleans trio’s bassist Danny Nick mentioned from the stage that it was the band’s first time in Brooklyn since opening for Clutch and The Hidden Hand at L’Amour in 2004. Last time I saw them was right around then as well, at South by Southwest that year. So seven years and two albums later, they loaded onto the Union Pool stage and let loose with songs from across their discography. I missed the start, but came back in shortly thereafter in time for the anthemic punk chorus of “Stand Alone” from 2011′s Mad Oak Redux, which carried even more heft live, Nick and guitarist Durel Yates sharing vocal duties and driving the rhythms nailed down by the stellar drumming of Andrew Preen.

“White Devil” from 2001′s Sad Songs… Better Days made my night, plain and simple. And that Suplecs followed it up with their take on The Beatles “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” which was included on the same album tacked to the more shuffling “Unstable” was even more righteous, but what was most striking about their performance wasn’t even how tight the band was — 15 years of a solid lineup will do that — but just how much diversity there is in their material.

Maybe it’s harder to hear on their records (though I would and have argued that their studio stuff has much to offer in terms of personality), but throughout the course of their time, it occurred to me just how many different roads Suplecs was taking the audience, from the hardcore punk of “Stand Alone” to the ultra-stonerly riffing of “White Devil” and “Dope Fu,” to the extended jams and solos they fused into the latter half of their set, to the off-the-cuff take on early Metallica — I think it was “Four Horsemen” — they threw into their finale. Yates, Nick and Preen made all these changes and shifts work, so that if you weren’t paying attention, you hardly even noticed the movement from one to the next.

On a night of impressive feats, that of Suplecs was as appropriate a finish as The Brought Low‘s was a start, and for that, and for the utterly transcendent fuzz of Lo-Pan in between (yeah, yeah, I know, I’m a nerd for Lo-Pan), the show was perfect. The crowd was filled with good people, Union Pool‘s sound is killer, and I even managed to make it back to my foggy river valley in New Jersey without running out of gas. I couldn’t possibly have asked more from the show than I got.

And for that, I owe Fred from BrooklynVegan thanks. I’m no promoter, and I don’t know squat about putting on shows, but Fred was cool enough to ask me if I wanted to be involved and it was hugely appreciated. Thanks too to everyone who came out and made it as special as it was. If I needed another reason to be stoked for Philly this weekend (I didn’t), this was it.

Extra pics after the jump, as always.

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Lo-Pan Fall Tour Starts Tomorrow

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 14th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Fresh off their third Dude Locker fest in their native Columbus, Ohio, fuzz rock champions Lo-Pan are set to kick off their latest tour tomorrow, Sept. 15. In case you’ve forgotten, this run of shows will not only take them through both upcoming Small Stone Records showcases (Philly and then Chicago), but also will find them hitting the Sept. 20 show at Union Pool in Brooklyn with labelmates Suplecs and The Brought Low that’s being presented by BrooklynVegan and The Obelisk together.

More info on that show — which I hope you’ll attend — is here. The event page on Thee Facebooks is here, and please, consider yourself invited for a throwdown like none you’ll see this or any other year.

Joining Lo-Pan for most of the tour will be regular tour/labelmates Backwoods Payback, who also do more than their fair share of ass kicking. Here’s the info:

There’s no rest for the Ohio road dogs known as Lo-Pan. Having recently completed the successful Let Freedom Ding tour (allegedly named for the many bells that mysteriously occupy the dashboard of the band’s van), the band will set out on another trek through the Northeast and Midwest alongside Small Stone labelmates Suplecs and Backwoods Payback. The journey will include two separate Small Stone showcases in Philadelphia on Sept. 23 and Chicago on Oct. 1.

Lo-Pan Fall Tour 2011:
09/15 The Empty Glass Charleston, WV

09/16 The Jewish Mother Virginia Beach, VA w/ Freedom Hawk, Crimson Electric
09/17 DIVEBar Raleigh, NC w/ Suplecs
09/18 The Velvet Lounge Washington, DC w/ Suplecs, Weed is Weed, Nitroseed
09/19 Mojo 13 Wilmington, DE w/ Suplecs
09/20 Union Pool Brooklyn, NY *BrooklynVegan and The Obelisk Present* w/ Suplecs, The Brought Low
09/21 AS220 Providence, RI
09/22 Church Boston, MA w/ Gozu, Gunslinger, Planetoid
09/23 The M-Room Philadelphia, PA Small Stone Showcase w/ Suplecs, Backwoods Payback, Freedom Hawk, Infernal Overdrive
09/24 31st Street Pub Pittsburgh, PA w/ Suplecs, Backwoods Payback
09/25 Ace of Cups Columbus, OH w/ Suplecs, Backwoods Payback, Freedom Hawk
09/26 The Mockbee Cincinnati, OH w/ Suplecs, Backwoods Payback
09/27 Now That’s Class Cleveland, OH w/ Suplecs, Backwoods Payback
09/28 Mac’s Lansing, MI w/ Supecs, Backwoods Payback
09/29 Corktown Tavern Detroit, MI w/ Suplecs, Backwoods Payback, Freedom Hawk
09/30 The Intersection Grand Rapids, MI Prospecto Showcase
10/01 Double Door Chicago, IL Small Stone Showcase w/ Sasquatch, Suplecs, Gozu, Backwoods Payback, Freedom Hawk

10/02 Fubar St. Louis, MO w/ Suplecs, Backwoods Payback
10/03 Hi-Tone Memphis, TN w/ Suplecs, Backwoods Payback
10/04 TBA Nashville, TN w/ Backwoods Payback
10/05 TBA Lexington, KY w/ Backwoods Payback
10/06 V Club Huntington, WV w/ Backwoods Payback
10/07 The Bluestone Columbus, OH *Columbus Alive Rocktober Show*
10/08 The Stone Tavern Kent, OH w/ Backwoods Payback

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Lo-Pan Announce “Let Freedom Ding” Tour; Vinyl Out Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 26th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Admittedly, it’s kind of cheap for me to post this press release, since I wrote it, but what the hell, it’s Lo-Pan. The fuzzsome foursome are headed out on the road again, this time hitting the Midwest with some killer bands — when, oh when, will Bloodcow put out a new album? — and they’ll be bringing the new vinyl edition of Salvador with them.

To be fair, it did come in on the PR wire. Here goes:

Ohio rockers Lo-Pan have unveiled their latest slew of tour dates in support of their Small Stone Records debut, Salvador. After scores of shows across the country with the likes of Truckfighters, Dixie Witch, Gypsyhawk and Fight Amp, Lo-Pan’s “Let Freedom Ding” tour – allegedly named for the many bells that mysteriously occupy the dashboard of the band’s van – will find the outfit bringing their fuzzed-out soul rock bliss to the Midwest alongside heavy hitters like Chapstick, Bloodcow and Droids Attack.

In addition, Small Stone’s 180-gram vinyl pressing of Salvador is available now in white and red/blue clear swirl. Whatever flavor you choose, it’s delicious, and available now at smallstone.com/store. The band will also have copies with them on the road, and they take credit cards. Seriously.

Lo-Pan‘s “Let Freedom Ding” Tour:
08/17 Iowa City, IA The Mill w/ Snow Demon
08/18 Omaha, NE The Waiting Room w/ Bloodcow
08/19 Denver, CO Tennyson’s Tap w/ Low Gravity, Black Lamb
08/20 Salt Lake City, UT Burt’s Tiki Lounge w/ Muckraker, Dwellers, Top Dead Celebrity
08/23 Fargo, ND The Aquarium
08/24 Minneapolis, MN Triple Rock Social Club w/ Droids Attack
08/25 Lacross, WI JB’s Speakeasy w/ Droids Attack
08/26 Madison, WI Club Inferno w/ Droids Attack
08/27 Chicago, IL Red Line Tap – w/ Heaving Mass, Droids Attack
08/28 Detroit, MI Small’s w/ Chapstick, Knife

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Top Five of the First Half of 2011, #1: Lo-Pan, Salvador

Posted in Features on June 30th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

At this point, between the review, the interview, live review, tour posts (there’s a couple), and sundry other rants, I’m not sure how many other ways there are for me to say it. I fucking love this album. Ohio rockers Lo-Pan‘s third full-length, Salvador, is the best record I’ve heard in the first half of this year, and listening to it now to write this post, I’m just as excited to hear it as I was the first time I did.

The only difference? Now I know the songs. I can follow Brian Fristoe‘s riffs, Skot Thompson and Jesse Bartz‘s bass and drums. I can ape singing along (having neither the range nor the capability to actually keep up with him) to Jeff Martin‘s vocals. These tracks, from “El Dorado” on down through “Seed,” “Chichen Itza,” and “Struck Match,” are amped-up stoner rock classics, and even when Lo-Pan hit the brakes and deliver moodier pieces like “Bird of Prey” or “Solo,” they seem to lose none of the immediacy or directness in the material.

The thing about it, really, is you can just hear the time these guys have put in on the road. It bleeds through the songs — all of the songs — in how tight they are, how together, and of all the albums I’ve heard so far into 2011, Salvador is the one I feel I’m most likely to keep with me long after this year is over. It’s the one record I can put on at any time, regardless of mood or any external factors, and enjoy. If that’s not a number one album, I don’t know what is.

Whatever Lo-Pan does from here, between Salvador and 2009′s Sasquanaut — the reissue of which was their first release on Small Stone — they have two excellent albums under their belt (the preceding self-titled isn’t half bad either, but I think even the band will tell you they hit a different level with the second and third offerings), and have emerged as one of this generation’s most essential American heavy rock bands. All you have to do is hear it and you know.

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Lo-Pan Interview with Jesse Bartz: “As long as it’s emotionally connecting to us, it’s good music.”

Posted in Features on May 26th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

It happens rarely these days that there’s an album I can’t put down, but since I first heard the tracks that would become Lo-Pan‘s Small Stone Records debut, Salvador, that’s basically been the case. Of all the records I’ve managed to hear this year (and as we border on June, it’s been a few), Salvador has been a constant — anticipated since the issue of the remixed version of Sasquanaut, its predecessor and no letdown whatsoever from that album’s level of excellence. With Salvador, the Columbus, Ohio, four-piece thrust themselves into the upper echelon of next-gen American stoner rock.

The songs on Salvador — named for the artist Dali, as referenced in the Alexander von Wieding album art — are immediate and affecting. Tracks like “Bleeding Out,” “Deciduous,” “Bird of Prey” and “Struck Match” stay with you even after a first listen, and only grow in appeal with time. The soulfully delivered vocals of Jeff Martin make epics out of what in most hands would become mundane, and the riffs of guitarist Brian Fristoe fuzz out in markedly stoner fashion but have a distinguished sense about them, as though taking the best of what made Fu Manchu‘s earlier work so vibrant and unabashed and giving it a self-aware touch of progress. I could listen to the bridge of “Seed” (just before the solo after three minutes) every day for breakfast and still come out of it wanting more.

If you’ve heard the record, you know the part I’m talking about, where Jesse “JBartz” Bartz (not much of a mystery where the nickname came from) cut to half-time under Fristoe‘s intricate riffing, bassist Skot Thompson‘s running lines and Martin‘s formidable sass. It’s just one highlight moment among many on Salvador, and they come on in forms as varied and diverse as the music itself, which maintains its energy despite tempo and any sonic shift — seven-minute closer “Solo” being no comedown from “Generations” before it. With a vinyl release impending, there’s little doubt that Salvador will emerge from 2011 among the year’s best albums.

Lo-Pan have already taken to the road to support Salvador, which saw its official CD release this past Tuesday, May 24 (you can find a live review here), and it was mostly touring that was covered in my telephonular conversation with Bartz. In a scene where most everyone has day jobs and most acts rarely get on the road with the kind of ravenousness Lo-Pan have, it seemed the thing to talk about. Our chat was brief, at least by the standards of some of the features around here, but Bartz offered plenty of insight on Lo-Pan‘s writing and touring ethic, plans for European touring and much more.

The complete Q&A transcription is after the jump. Please enjoy.

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Live Review: Backwoods Payback, Lo-Pan and ChromeLord in Philly, 05.19.11

Posted in Reviews on May 20th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

I fucking love Philadelphia. Of the pitifully few major urban centers I’ve seen in this world, Philly is the one where I’ve always wanted to stay. Nonetheless, as Delaware trio ChromeLord took the stage last night at The M-Room and I flipped my camera’s “on” switch and realized the memory card was missing, I really could have used one of NYC‘s ubiquitous Duane Reades. I jumped into my car around the corner and phone navigated to a Drug Fair and bought not one, but two memory cards, I guess under the theory that I might want a second… in case… the first… didn’t work? I don’t really know. I was panicking by then.

But I got back to The M-Room, which is the kind of bar I dream of owning — townie joint on one side with good-looking food, small rock venue on the other side of a decently thick wall — in time to catch ChromeLord‘s last couple songs. They were stoner in the truest sense of the word, and by that I mean I think they were stoned. Some kinks to work out there, but the riffs were cool and dreamy in a half-speed Nebula or Dead Meadow kind of way, and the band had handmade stickers to give out, so they earned no shortage of points on charm. I wished I’d been able to see more, but as they’re friends with Clamfight (Andy and Sean came down for their set), I’m relatively sure our paths will cross again.

The reason I drove the two-plus hours to Philadelphia last night (and the two hours home) was to see Lo-Pan and Backwoods Payback play together. Somehow I’d got it into my head that the days of these two acts doing shows like this are numbered. Lo-Pan‘s album (Salvador) is incredible, and the rough versions I’ve heard of Backwoods Payback‘s forthcoming Small Stone debut kick considerable ass, and I’m not sure if it was thinking they’d be playing bigger places, or not touring together anymore or what, but when these shows were announced, it occurred to me that whatever happens with these two bands from here on out, it’ll never quite be like this again, and that years from now, I wanted the memory of seeing them at this time, together, enough to justify the trip.

They were clearly comfortable sharing the bill with each other. They’ve done tours and shows together before, and have the kind of camaraderie one might expect from two bands parking their vans outside the same places so often. Lo-Pan went on second. It was easily the tightest I’ve ever seen them play, and at this point I’ve seen them a few times (at least once with Backwoods Payback, come to think of it), but the chance to catch new material from Salvador wasn’t something I was about to miss. It was a short set, but “Chichen Itza” and “Bird of Prey” were highlights, along with “Kurtz” and “Dragline” from the Sasquanaut record, but even more, it was just refreshing to see a band so clearly firing on all the proverbial cylinders.

Lo-Pan‘s extensive touring has started to pay off. With bassist Skot Thompson, guitarist Brian Fristoe and drummer J.Bartz out front and singer Jeff Martin behind, it’s easy to think of them as two separate entities — the music and the vocals — but even in the small M-Room, everything meshed together excellently, and I was that much gladder for having driven to see it. I could have dealt with a few more songs, but I guess the porn on which the set list was scribbled could only hold so many titles. Maybe next time.

Time was getting on as Backwoods Payback started setting up their gear. I bought a book from frontman Mike Cummings before they started, and told myself I’d just stay for a couple songs, snap some pictures, then split, but I wound up there for the whole set and regretted not a minute of it. Like Lo-Pan, they’re really just getting to where they want to be in terms of their sound, but the interplay between bassist Jessica Baker and drummer Steve Curtiss was right on, and the guitars of Cummings and Rylan Caspar set a burly tone of riffs and grooves for the former to lay his soulful vocals on. True to every time I’ve seen them, they closed with “Mickey Morandini,” in which Cummings reminded the crowd once again — who didn’t seem to have forgotten, since they were singing along — that he’s a motherfucker. Good times were had.

I split out almost immediately after Backwoods Payback‘s set to begin the ride back north, which put me back in my river valley just a couple minutes before 2AM. Lo-Pan and Backwoods Payback are in Long Island tonight with John Wilkes Booth and Borgo Pass, which makes me more than a little jealous of all parties involved, but the tour rolls on. If they’re coming through your neck of the woods, either together on this run or separately, go, because what you’ll find at the show is some of the strongest American stoner rock being made right now. It’s exciting. Seriously.

Extra pictures after the jump.

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Backwoods Payback and Lo-Pan Announce Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 16th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Recent kickass additions to the Small Stone roster, Backwoods Payback and Lo-Pan — no strangers to playing shows together — have announced a tour that will take both bands down to SXSW in Austin, Texas, next month. If you’ve yet to catch either band live, do so. End of argument.

The PR wire has dates:

Pennsylvania stoner/doom rockers Backwoods Payback are pleased to announced a 17-date US tour next month with labelmates Lo-Pan. The loudness will begin March 9 in Baltimore, Maryland, and will include two appearances as part of this year’s SXSW music conference in Austin, Texas. The band will be touring in support of their Small Stone Recordings debut, set for release later this spring

Comments guitarist/vocalist Mike Cummings of the new record and upcoming dates: “The new, as yet untitled, record is dark and ugly, but smooth in all the right places. I think live is where these songs are going to hit the hardest. We’ve been doing this for long enough that each stop on a tour isn’t just a show anymore. It’s a full-blown party; a gathering of friends old and new. This tour should be no different, save for the fact that now we are flying the Small Stone flag, and are stoked to be doing so!”

Backwoods Payback Tour 2011
w/ Lo-Pan
03/09 Golden West Café Baltimore, MD
03/10 Krug’s Place Frederick, MD
03/11 Slim’s Raleigh, NC
03/12 Highland Inn Ballroom Lounge Atlanta, GA
03/13 The Nick Birmingham, AL
03/14 Siberia New Orleans, LA
03/15 The Ten Eleven San Antonio, TX
03/17 The Conservatory Oklahoma City, OK w/ Tombs, Castevet
03/18 Headhunter’s (back patio) Austin, TX [SXSW date]
03/20 Headhunter’s Austin, TX [SXSW date]
03/20 Rudyard’s Houston, TX
03/21 The Hi Tone Memphis, TN
03/22 Fubar St. Louis, MO
03/23 The Melody Inn Indianapolis, IN
03/24 Reggie’s Chicago, IL
03/25 Corktown Tavern Detroit, MI
03/26 South Park Tavern Dayton, OH
03/27 Smiling Moose Pittsburgh, PA

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Lo-Pan’s Salvador Will Melt the Clock off Your Wall

Posted in Reviews on February 15th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

For nearly seven years, my measuring stick for Small Stone debuts has been the first, self-titled Sasquatch album, and each new band that’s come along on the label (there have been plenty) since then, I’ve said, “Well, okay, but is it as good as the Sasquatch?” Listening to Lo-Pan’s Salvador – which, admittedly, is their third album following a self-titled and the excellent Sasquanaut which Small Stone re-released late last year – I might have to revise my comparison point. I was fortunate enough to hear rough mixes of Salvador back in December, and even as rough as those tracks were compared to the finished product I’m reviewing now, it was clear that the Columbus, Ohio, band, the label, and anyone who would seek it out to listen, had something formidable on their hands. I don’t want to get lost in hyperbole or overestimate the appeal of the record, but Lo-Pan’s Salvador has all the makings of a classic in the genre.

The single-guitar four-piece present 11 tracks in just under 46 minutes, and nearly each one of them is perfectly memorable (I’m not counting “Intro,” though even the riff to that is catchy), varied in its approach and masterfully written. The guitars of Brian Fristoe are unrepentantly fuzzed out, and his riffs are heavy rock of the highest order, and Jeff Martin’s soulful, wonderfully melodic and inventive vocals cut through the thickness just right, followed by Skot Thompson’s running bass and the center-stage drums of J. Bartz. Having seen them live on more than one occasion, Lo-Pan is one of those bands where each element involved in the making of the songs just works so well, and on Salvador, not only are those elements working, but they’re working together. You can listen to any part of any song on this record and say, “That’s killer,” or you can listen to how the parts interact with each other and say the same thing. It comes down to this: if you’re not coming out of Salvador glad to have heard it, it’s your own fault.

Lo-Pan open uptempo with the duo of “El Dorado” and “Bleeding Out,” the two cuts together totaling a little over six minutes. “El Dorado” is the snap in your face to wake you up, and with “Bleeding Out,” the pattern is established; thick riffs, infectious choruses, soaring, confident vocals, tap-worthy snare. Both tracks stuff a surprising amount of groove into faster, hurried packages, which undercuts any rushed feeling that might otherwise take away from the material, and the five-minute “Seed” – the first of several Salvador high points; which is saying something considering the bar set here – brings the pace more to ground. Bartz underscores the verses with seamless tom runs while Martin’s vocals set up the chorus, and it seems almost like the song is split in two, as around the three-minute mark, Fristoe moves up a few frets and shows some excellent finger-work (Thompson not missing a beat in the process and giving one of the album’s best bass performances holding down the rhythm to complement a guitar solo). At 3:09, Bartz cuts to half-time on the drums, and it’s one of those “shiver up the spine” moments. Not to be missed.

“Bird of Prey” fades in on a quiet interlude – a moment to catch your breath listening. At 6:34, it’s shorter only than the closer, “Solo,” and a good show of diversity from Lo-Pan, who have up till this point showed only their latter two gears. Of course there’s a build, and the song gets more active than its subdued intro, but there’s still a change in vibe to something darker and more contemplative that “Bird of Prey” signifies, and I think what’s best about it is that it’s still essentially a rock song. The band is working within their stated framework and still managing to evoke a different atmosphere. They didn’t have to rely on any sonic tricks or radical changes; they just wrote a song in another mood. Doesn’t sound like much of a shift, but it’s really hard to do. Fristoe takes another ripping solo toward the end, and I like that when he does, he’s not backed by a second rhythm guitar track that wouldn’t be there in a live situation. Salvador is unquestionably a clean-sounding production – Benny Grotto at Mad Oak being Small Stone’s go-to man at this point – but there was clearly an emphasis on maintaining a natural, live feel as well, and that comes across just about anywhere you want to hear it.

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