Spacebar's dish of free earplugs came in handy when a trio of the city's best - and loudest - bands took over the Old North venue for a concert on a recent Friday night.

By Andy Downing

Spacebar’s dish of free earplugs came in handy when a trio of the city’s best — and loudest — bands took over the Old North venue for a concert on a recent Friday night.

The lineup included heavy hitters Beggars, The Black Antler and Lo-Pan (Prize the Doubt also performed, but I arrived too late to catch the duo’s opening turn), each of which wielded volume like a weapon.

Beggars kicked off the pyrotechnics with a slashing set built on swashbuckling guitars and throat-shredding vocals, many of which appeared to center on the types of imagery favored by metal bands and leather-clad motorcycle crews alike (namely reapers).

If listening to Beggars felt like getting sliced and diced by a skilled swordsman, exposure to the Black Antler was akin to getting bludgeoned to death by a hammer. The trio, which recently started streaming its long-in-the-works 100 Wolves EP — a proper release show is scheduled for Spacebar in late February — favored the dark both aesthetically (much of the onstage light emanated from the delightfully evil red bulbs positioned beneath drummer Alex Weinhardt’s kit) and sonically, ripping through a host of sinkhole-black tunes built on body-blow drums, guttural vocals and guitar riffs that hit with battering-ram force.

This punishing attitude was perhaps best encapsulated in the visage of bassist/bellower Ryan Moya, who shared vocal duties with guitarist Adam Lowe. Shirtless, bearded, and with his dark hair slicked back with sweat, he appeared less a human than a Dothraki soldier letting loose a primal battle cry.

Lo-Pan, in contrast, charted a comparatively melodic, if no less powerful course. The quartet constructed vivid, shape-shifting cuts around the elastic vocals of frontman Jeff Martin, whose voice glided water bug-like above the machine-crunch of “Regulus,” and the forceful kit-work of drummer Jesse Bartz, who was positioned center stage and drove spikes on punishing road-graders like “Marathon Man.”

Recently, the band adopted replacement guitarist Adrian Zambrano (Brujas del Sol), who was playing his first local show with the quartet and third overall following gigs in Dayton and Cleveland. Not that anyone could have guessed he was a newcomer. Strapped to a Flying V guitar, Zambrano ably swung from balled-fist riffage to spiraling passages that threatened to broach the atmosphere before plunging perilously back to earth. It’ll be exhilarating to see what form the music takes once the new bandmates establish a real sense of familiarity.