Rochester Reggae Roots Rockers, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad

Editor’s Note: Originally published in April 2018

If you consider yourself a connoisseur of the modern-day roots rock reggae and/or jam band scene, you should be well acquainted with the masterful talents of Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad.

Formed in 2001 in Rochester, New York, Giant Panda started what would become a consistently innovative and evolving sound, with live shows that notoriously melted faces and minds alike. The band delivers with a most authentic reggae structure, salt and peppered with elements of funk, roots rock, and soul.

Brothers Matt and Chris O’ Brian teamed up with bass player James Searl and guitar player Dylan Savage to form the core four of Giant Panda in their developing years. While the first several years were spent playing shows largely between Rochester and Ithaca, by 2004 they were earning their chops and filling clubs and venues all over Western New York and beyond.

In 2006, the band recorded their first album, “Slow Down,” which was produced at Pyramid Sound Studios in Ithaca, New York by the band and acclaimed producer Alex Perialas. Fan favorites such as “Creation,” “Seasons Change,” and “Missing You More” were all released on this album.

The years that followed brought about an ever-growing and dedicated fan base, with the band being mainstays nearly every July at the Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance in Trumansburg, New York. They also made appearances at Warren Haynes’ Mountain Jam, Gathering of the Vibes, and All Good Music Festival.

In 2010, founding member Matt O’ Brian left the band, and shortly thereafter started his own band, Thunder Body. Keyboard player Rachel Orke also took her talents in a new musical direction. This undoubtedly devastated a portion of their loyal fan base, but they soon found a silky smooth replacement in guitar player and vocalist Dan Keller. Tony Gallicchio ended up taking the reigns as the band’s keyboard player later on in 2013.

The band released two albums less than four months apart from each other via record label Controlled Substance Sound Labs out of California in the early part of 2012. The first, “Country,” was a lyrically driven Americana album, while the second, “In These Times,” delivered a more psychedelic-roots sound they were more known for playing. Shortly before both albums were released, the band found success with NPR’s “All Things Considered” airing their music.

Following the achievements of those albums came “Steady,”(2014) “Bright Days,” (2015) and “Make It Better” (2016). “Steady” and “Make It Better” both hit number one on the Billboard Reggae Album Charts, while “Make It Better” landed number one on the iTunes Reggae Chart as well.

The band is still going strong today, and continues to churn out some of the most heavy-hitting roots rock reggae tunes around. From May to September the band will be playing a string of shows lined up in Buffalo, Scranton, Portland, Seattle, and several places in between. You can learn more and listen to their music HERE.

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