Being called one of the most innovative reggae bands out there today , 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…
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 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.
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 calls Rochester “a mysteriously fertile area for developing the U.S. reggae scene” and goes on to explain:
The release its fourth studio album, Steady , 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 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.”
This despite the fact that the band’s last reggae record, In These Times (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.
New Year’s Eve Festival
- 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
Tags: .45, Amazon, Ben Harper, Billboard, Chris O'Brian, concert, Craig Welsch, Dan Keller, Danny Kalb, Dylan Savage, event, Favorite Song, German House, Giant Pand Guerilla Dub Squad, Home, Hurt Up Your Brother, In These Times, iTunes, Jam ON, James Searl, John Brown's Body, Matt Saccuccimorano, Move, Mr. Cop, music, New Year's Eve, Not the Fool, Reggae, SiriusXM, Solution, Steady, The Green, Tony Gallicchio, Whatever Cost, Wolf At The Door, Zeppa Auditorium
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