Maniacal Mondays: Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad are a Rochester, NY band taking the old school feel of classic reggae and unabashedly running with it. I initially heard about these guys through my brother Rick, who had seen them open for The Beat a few months back. I'll be honest-when he first told me about them I was doubtful as to whether or not they were as good as he claimed. Frankly, I've seen my fair share of white boy 'reggae' bands in bars that were laughable in their attempt to harness the power of a musical style that not only is about hardships faced but also the joy of making the best of the hand you're dealt. Listening to a song by Panda you get the influences of Bob Marley and Scratch Perry, without the group just trying to copy a tried and true formula. Yes, they owe a lot to the artists who blazed the trail before them (no pun intended), but they mix it up enough to stamp their own signature on it.
I have to take time to give props to Panda drummer Chris O'Brian. As mentioned above, bad reggae or ska can be a hard thing to sit through (let alone dance to). Often times blame can be placed squarely on the drummer, either from overplaying or having the curse of the lead foot that just bogs the whole band down. O'Brian swings (talking about his playing, not his sex life, although you'd have to ask him yourself about that), and when he does let loose it's a refreshing kick in the cajoles, as opposed to playing just for the sake of playing.
Giant Panda are all over the web, and you can find them on Twitter (@giantpandadub), iTunes, myspace, facebook, and their own band sites-the official page and one featuring live recordings of the group. The last two sites also have a link to a free four song download so you can get a little extra taste of Panda. It may be endangered, but it's sooooo delicious!
Now for the good stuff. The band performing the song '.45' earlier this year.