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DO NOT MISS……… Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, New Year’s Eve

December 21st, 2014

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad's new album, Steady, debuted this fall at #1 on the Billboard Reggae Chart, iTunes' Reggae Chart, and Amazon's Reggae Chart. [IMAGE: LivePanda.com]
By Mike Governale

Being called one of the most innovative reggae bands out there today external link, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad is rocketing into 2015 with momentum. The group’s previous album In These Times earned a spot on iTunes “Best of 2012” list. And their new album, Steady debuted this fall at #1 on the Billboard Reggae Chart, iTunes’ Reggae Chart, and Amazon’s Reggae Chart. Cider Magazine called it, “one of the best reggae albums ever made.”

Without a doubt, Giant Panda has become one of Rochester’s hottest musical exports…

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (GPGDS) was formed in 2001 in Rochester, NY. From left to right: Dan Keller, Chris O'Brian, James Searl, Tony Gallicchio, Dylan Savage. [PHOTO: NewFrontierTouring.com]
Described by many as “psychedelic”, I’d also say Giant Panda’s sound is uplifting and relentlessly energizing. Their explosive live shows have also received widespread acclaim. And on Wednesday, December 31 external link you can dance your way into the new year along with Giant Panda at Rochester’s historic German House. Details are posted at the end of this story. But first, a little background.

The sound of GPGDS has been described by many as
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (GPGDS) was formed in 2001 in Rochester, NY by brothers Matthew & Christopher O’Brian, and mutual friend James Searl. Their web site external link calls Rochester “a mysteriously fertile area for developing the U.S. reggae scene” and goes on to explain:

…the city has ties going back to 1981 when Lee “Scratch” Perry recruited his entire backing band from Rochester. The Upstate NY region became early supporters of GPGDS, while its members were in high school and beginning college, playing weekly gigs to cut their teeth. In these formative years, Giant Panda began to explore their songs with an experimental approach that is stylistically akin to the Grateful Dead, while keeping their roots firmly planted in reggae rhythms and lyrical content. Around 2005 tapers began to notice and soon after one of the band’s first Colorado shows received homepage placement on the popular taper website Archive.org. Almost overnight GPGDS became a mainstay on the jamband festival circuit.
From 2005 – 2013 GPGDS’s three original members (drummer Chris O’Brian, guitarist-singer Dylan Savage, and bassist-singer James Searl) began a touring schedule averaging over 100 shows a year and performing throughout the U.S., Canada, and Jamaica… Giant Panda’s continuous time on the road hardened the players into monster instrumentalists. Their attention to the studio in later years, along with a unique blending of reggae and rural American music solidified GPGDS as one of the region’s most beloved bands. Like their hometown, they manage to unify an intellectual and creative culture with a hard-working blue-collar past.



Giant Panda celebrated the release of its new album with a sold-out hometown show at Zeppa Auditorium on October 4. [PHOTO: Facebook.com/giantpandadub]
The release its fourth studio album, Steady external link, on September 30, marks the first time this Rochester, NY-based quintet has reached the #1 spot. 

Giant Panda celebrated the release of its new album with a sold-out hometown show at Zeppa Auditorium on October 4. The album’s title track Steady is currently in heavy rotation on SiriusXM’s Jam ON.


The bulk of the songs on Steady were recorded in 2013 with Craig Welsch of 10 Ft. Ganja Plant co-producing. Two other tracks were recorded after those sessions and added to the sequence – the title track was co-produced by Danny Kalb (The Green, Ben Harper), while live show favorite “Mr. Cop” was recorded with Matt Saccuccimorano (John Brown’s Body). A few of the other tracks are longtime staples of the band’s heralded live sets, like “.45” and “Solution,” but neither has had satisfactory studio versions until now.

GPGDS is known for a very jamband-influenced approach to reggae, taking compositions in unexpected directions. In addition, the band also performs acoustic Americana music, as in their well-received Country external link album from 2012. Steady captures these disparate vibes with different styles, excellent instrumentation and arrangements contributing to the overall sound of the record, yet it is unmistakably a groundbreaking reggae album.

“This is without a doubt the best sounding record we’ve ever made,” says singer-bassist James Searl. “But it’s also the most consistently solid set of songwriting we’ve done to date.”

The band's last reggae record, In These Times (2012), was picked as a Top 10 reggae album by iTunes. [IMAGE: LivePanda.com]
This despite the fact that the band’s last reggae record, In These Times external link (2012), was picked as a Top 10 reggae album by iTunes. The band’s three primary singer-songwriters (Searl, singer-guitarist Dylan Savage, and singer-guitarist-banjo player Dan Keller) are each represented throughout the record.

Savage, who tends to write classic-sounding reggae anthems in a ’70s vein (Solution, Whatever Cost, Not The Fool), is balanced by the often more experimental Searl (Hurt Up Your Brother, Wolf At The Door, Favorite Song) and the more romantic/pop elements of Keller’s writing (Move, Home). Drummer Chris O’Brian continues to add amazing percussion and harmony vocals, while keyboardist Aaron Lipp shines in some of his final sessions with the band (he has since been replaced by Tony Gallicchio).

Steady will be followed in 2015 by a sequel to Country called Bright Days, which will take the band’s Americana acoustic persona even further than before. This is also due to come out on Easy Star, along with a vinyl version of Steady. In the meantime, fans both old and new can revel in the startlingly good Steady.

• • •

Giant Panda
New Year’s Eve Festival

Giant Panda 
New Year's Eve Festival

Details:

Date: Wednesday, 12/31/2014
Time: Doors open @ 7pm, Show starts @ 8pm
Location: German House [map it external link]
Tickets: $20 advance external link or $30 at the door

Notes:

  • No closing time
  • Upstairs / Downstairs party throughout the venue
  • Live dancers
  • Three Heads Brewing beer tasting
  • Guest performances by The Cabin Killers, Axis Armada, and Extended Family

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This entry was posted on Sunday, December 21st, 2014 at 11:01 pm and is filed under Art + Culture, Events, Rochester News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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