Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad
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Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad

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"Rochester's ray of light, and a little 'History' lesson"

Slow Down, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad — Frosty Rochester is just about the last place on Earth you'd expect Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad to hail from. In fact, most would probably guess a different planet entirely before Rochester.

It's just difficult to believe that such authentic, sun-soaked reggae and dub can come from a place that sees three months of sun per year. But there they are. And here's the Squad's debut album, Slow Down, which practices what it preaches.

The album's 12 cuts work on a nearly physiological level to calm you down and cheer you up, all the while featuring head-bobbing beats and sing-along vocals that are equal parts Sublime and Marley.

Doctors may soon be prescribing this album for high blood pressure. And for rhythm deficiency.

Catch the release party at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 10, at Tilt, 444 Central Ave.
- Insider:Rochester Remixed

"Giant Panda in Knoxville, June 07"

The mellow grooves make it easy to find serenity, even if you happen to be the most uptight, stuff-shirt ever to work in a tiny cubicle. This is some of the most intense roots reggae we've ever heard, where worries are abandoned, just for a moment. At the same time, no matter how well these guys (and gal) throw down their smooth vibrations, they'll always be willing to tackle the most experimental dub, always putting heavy emphasis on pristine bass worship. Then there's the toasters, the placid, alliterative rhymes that remind us that it's OK to just take it all in. Say goodbye to your sober days, and come to the World Grotto on Saturday, June 9, at 10 p.m. (K.C.) - Metro-Pulse (Knoxville TN) 6.7.07

"Funkier Than Funk: Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad drops the one-drop"


Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad drops the one-drop

By Frank De Blase

A young girl seductively swings her hips between two zip codes while a long-haired cat does an interpretive dance that looks like he's swatting mosquitoes or driving a bus. A bar back does the camel walk weaving in and out of pockets of people undulating in unison, diggin' and dancin' to Giant Panda Guerilla Dub

It's just another night on the town searchin' for thrills, and you stroll
into Tonic with a mild rhythm jones. And sure enough, you soon find it near impossible to stand still. Yup, you're dancing. I'm not just talking the standard too cool/too awkward thumbs in belt loops, head bobbing --- you're actually dancing.

Every Thursday for the past few months this young quartet (and multiple guests) hasplayed a residency gig at Tonic --- for the Tonic crowd and beyond. It
is truly a mix of ages, cultures, and callings. Young kids, old kids, guys that shave it all, and girls that don't shave at all, they are all there groovin' on the one-drop.

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad has spent the summer on the East Avenue nightclub's
outdoor deck overlooking Rochester's meager skyline. And they've
consistently packed the joint. They play reggae that's pure in its musicality and fresh in its originality. Though they'll break out the occasional cover, the band is
incredibly creative.

And when they do give their treatment to tunes by the masters like Jimmy Cliff,
Peter Tosh, or Bob Marley, they do it their own way. No phony "yah mahn"Jamaican accents or white-boy dreads (see John Brown's Body). The music does the talking as it bounces warmly off the neighboring outdoor walls.

"It's the catchiness," says singer-guitarist Matt O'Brian. "It's like soul
music, Motown music but it's got, like, a heavier groove. People say 'funkier than funk' about the one-drop."

The name's pretty funky, too.
"In Tom Robbins's Another Roadside Attraction there's a band called Giant Panda Gypsy Blues Band," says O'Brian. "It's like a play on that."

"We used to be called Bomb Squad," says bassist James Searl. "But there's like four other Bomb Squads."

The members grewup in Brighton, but the group officially kicked off in Ithaca, where Searl went to school. This lineup"bounced around Ithaca for two years, playing every club" before returning to
Rochester where it got the Tonic gig by chance.

Roots-reggae purveyors Bear Bones had held the slot during the spring. GPGDS's O'Brian and Searl had both taken lessons from Bear Bones guitarist Tony Cavagnaro. And when
Bear Bones went on vacation, Cavagnaro suggested his protégés fill in. GPGDS drew a huge crowd and rocked the joint, permanently landing the gig.


was this big thing 'we don't wanna take
the gig, man,'" says O'Brian.

wasn't like gig stealing," insists his brother, drummer Chris O'Brian.

But Cavagnaro didn't mind. He frequently sits in with the band and twiddles the sound knobs when he isn't rolling cigarettes. He harbors no grudge and feels their attention is well deserved.

"They're awesome," he says.

So GPGDS won the club's attention, crowd approval, and Cavagnaro's blessing. Sure, they're nice guys who attract an enthusiastic audience, but it's the music that makes them
legit and undeniable.

Guitarists Matt O'Brian and Dillon Savage offer an unusual twin wah-wah attack that sonically swirls and chops. Drummer Chris O'Brian effortlessly flips the beat
with syncopation, flourish, and a rock-steady drive. All members of the
group are proficient and innovative and pack a little biz-buzz in the
sh-show, but it's Searl's slow-motion whiplash hooks and deep grooves that lock the band in and fill the dance floor.

songs are built on a skeletal dynamics. They frequently start off
simply with O'Brian's plaintive voice and the trebly down-strokes of his guitar, then gradually build and climax. Other tunes set the precedent quick, the
rhythm section swinging with as much forceful allure as the Death Star's tractor beam.

But this is ethnic-based music; it's Jamaican. More often than not bands do it cheaply or wrong with excessive pop-punk acceleration, or in such a
watered-down hybrid fashion that the heart is all but gone. GPGDS
wanted to do it right and worked hard nailing reggae's reversed beat.

"It took us a while, getting the beat," says Chris.

"It was tough just not growing up with the music where people that are ethnically based grow up with it," says Matt. "The one-drop is hard. Part of the appeal
with the reggae is that it's different."

The group has worked in a handful of studios but hasn't recorded in any of
them.Either they haven't hit their stride or they are just perfectionists.

"A little of both," says Chris.

"The reggae we do, though, is weird," says Searl. "[The studio] is just not a place
where we've found that we can make really happenin' music."

So the band will release a recording of live tracks performed at Tonic.
They'll burn a limited amount of discs and Photoshop some sleeves.

Matt chuckles at the homegrown ethic.

"It'll be alright," he says. "They'll look nice."

The band will continue its Thursday night stint indoors as the weather gets cooler:the young, not so young, hip, hippy, and fly still need a place to dance.

Looking at four white boys from Brighton it's obvious --- they ain't Jamaican. Listening to their groove, it's hard to tell. Get yourself moving on the dance
floor, and it really doesn't matter.

- City Magazine: Rochesters Alternative Newsweelky

"Tattood in A Flat"

I Scene it:
Tattood in A Flat
by Frank DeBlase

First day of the year and I headed down to Water Street Music Hall to dig some first-class reggae with The Wailers and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. The bands covered two ends of the age spectrum at this sold-out happening, and GPGDS held up its end remarkably. Not a Jamaican to be seen, but the group lays it down rich and authentic. And the Wailers opened their set up with some groove-heavy extended jams and sounded awesome. However, the singer came off a little contrived. - City Magazine: Rochesters Alternative Newsweelky

"CD Baby Review"

With just the right amount of mainstream appeal (just enough to
bridge the gap between the pure roots style and more pop leaning
approaches), Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad creates some of the
freshest, most addictive reggae this side of Jamaica. With hints of
Bob Marley, Fela Kuti and even in places, Sting, Slow Down's twelve
songs are perfectly balanced in groove, melody, message and appeal.
For reggae fans, this is one special album that shouldn't be missed. - CD Baby

"Panda Pause"


...Yet the crowd was pulled into a trance by the way-cool vibes of up-and-coming reggae band, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, in a show that lasted well beyond the witching hour. The Pandas casually took the stage around 9 p.m. for an audience of nearly 200 20-somethings. The group, formed in Rochester in early 2006 with brothers Matthew and Christopher O'Brian, has a knack for focusing the loose feeling of reggae music that defies the endless watered-down riffs of Bob Marley's "Stir It Up" that so many reggae bands seem to write.

Instead, lead singer Matthew Obrian's John Lennon look and thematic lyrics imply there's some genuine planning that goes into the Pandas' groove, even if their song themes are less about revolution than having a good time. At H.O.P.S, the front man bounced the reggae sway while circling around the stage to keep tabs on his band mates with what seemed to be a set of hand signals a la baseball's first-base coaches. On a dime, the group was able to instantaneously pull itself out of seemingly amorphous instrumental jams, often to the shock of the entranced audience. Surely, that takes skill.

Not all the Panda's tunes are lighthearted romps through the syncopated rastafied genre. Sure, verse that gently nudges warnings about resisting the emotional effects of reefer proclaimed, "Don't let that paranoia get the best of you!" Yet other subtle political messages came through the haze: "I want to love you/ It's my country, too/ I can do anything I want to/ But it's hard when you're doing the things you do."

Also noteworthy is the group's oh-so-cute Fender Rhodes keyboardist Rachel Orke. As pig-tailed Orke flashed her doe eyes to the crowd and took it slow by gently grooving with the reggae rhythm, she also soloed on a few instrumentals, proving she has an ability to write neat, arpeggiated leads. Orke explained after the show that the reason she chose her axe has to do with the way the instrument feels under her fingers: "The pressure of the keys is something else. The first time I played one, I knew I had to have a Rhodes."

Bassist James Searl, a preppy player who just seems to fit with the band, aslo accopanied Aaron Lipp, the group's second keyboardist on Clavinet and a Rhodes of his own, and special percussionist Buddy Honeycutt, who added the pitter-patter of congas and the splash of tambourines to many of the band's songs. Perhaps the most striking thing about Giant Panda is that they actualize a socialist philosophy that many other bands are unable to match: No one person stands out as the clear star of the group and in the case of Giant Panda, that's a good thing.

Giant Panda had a pleasant experience last March when they journeyed to Jamaica for spring-break performances. Catching a buzz (no pun intended) from the ganja haven, Searl explains that they've since been able to book gigs throughout the country. Earlier this month they were expecting an audience of uninformed fans during a trip to Charleston, S.C.; instead, the gig was mobbed with hundreds of people. "They all said things like, 'I saw you in Jamaica,' and 'I saw you at State College,' and 'My friend who saw you at all these gigs told me to check you out," Searl says. "That's when it clicked what all our traveling meant." As a result, the group opened for legendary jammers Toots and the Maytals June 15 at the Rochester International Jazz Festival.

Yet Searl says his favorite gig is whenever the Pandas simply pack their gear and show up unexpectedly for a crowd to play for free. The group did just that when they arrived at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tenn. "We left directly after (the show with Toots) to drive down to Bonnaroo to set up guerilla-style," Searl says. "That's kind of where the 'guerilla' part of our name comes from."

-Matt Mumau - Syracuse New Times

"GPGDS @ The Met (NYC), Nov 07"

Over the past few years I’ve had many opportunities to catch the Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad in concert. GPGDS, as they’re often called, are a great Reggae/Dub band making their way all around the country. But their home base is right here in Rochester. Last night, while I happened to be in New York City, I caught the band perform at the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts.

A college night was being held there that filled the museum with over two thousand students (most dressed in costumes). Interesting dreamy lighting filled the large “Temple” room complementing the dub sounds bouncing off each and every wall. A large crowd gathered around the stage and slowly but surely began to dance, The dancers’ energy increased with every new song, peaking during the last song (“Easy”) when the loving crowd jumped up onto the stage (much to the dismay of security). But as security urged the fans down, the energetic music only bred a new dance, the dance between devoted fans and security.

I also caught the band performing in a bar in Boston a few months back. At this concert the young sextet was able to lift virtually everyone off their feet and to the dance floor, using their funky reggae and dub grooves. The band played with relentless energy and excitement, creating a buzz the crowd gladly inhaled and returned; forming what was clearly a mutual artistic and celebratory experience. Two ecstatic sets were performed, filled with both recognizable favorites (such as “Burkina Faso”) as well as long brave experimental improvisations, often featuring guitarist Dylan Savage.

The band was founded in Rochester, NY where they quickly created a following. That following is now being expanded all over the U. S. as the band tours the country bringing their music to well pleased audiences in music halls, schools, bar rooms, and basements. On MySpace, the band has received over ninety thousand views. They will be performing Wednesday, November 21 at Water Street Music Hall. Until then you can find their music at and - Freetime Magazine

"Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, "SLOW DOWN" (Self Produced)"


And now Denver Daily News has the pleasure and thrill of introducing Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad to the Denver Community. These boys (and girl) from Rochester N.Y., with connections to the lovely I-Town, properly referred to as Ithaca, N.Y, may quite simply be the best popular reggae band out there. We could be getting ourselves into trouble comparing them to Sublime, but it has to be done. They have a refreshing, grouded sound that does in some ways compare to Sublime. The message of "SLOW DOWN", is simple, slow the f@#$ down. We live in a world filled with speed and greed and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad simply try to transecend that with mellow moods throughout the albums 12 sexy tracks. Surely throw this one in if you're working on the intimate factor with a special someone in your life because Giant Panda has a miraculous way of getting the boody shaking and striking all the right notes. For more information or to get a copy of "SLOW DOWN" visit And look for the Squad to hit the streets of Denver in the coming months.

By Peter Marcus
Denver Daily News - Denver Daily News

"Giant Panda in Colorado:Uplifting roots rock reggae band brings cool tunes from New York"

When someone believes in a message, believes in a cause, they will stop at nothing to see that the message is spread to the people.
That is the theme behind the fans and the band of Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad.
The Rochester, N.Y. -based reggae group recently moved to Fort Collins. The Denver Daily News caught these central New Yorker transplants at Quixote's True Blue on a Tuesday night. THey had the place shaking with rhythm on a day that usually means lounging after struggling past the hardest days of the work week.
Bass player James Searl spoke with the Denver Daily News yesterday while sitting at the base of a dam looking at the Rocky Mountains somewhere outside Fort. Collins.
"The goal for Colorado is to be here and do what we do", said Searl. "To meet people and be inspired."
The roots of Giant Panda formed in Rochester 10 years ago. Searl went to high school with two brothers, guitarist Matthew O'Brian and drummer Chris O'Brian. They formed a funk band, but throughout it was all reggae.
"without thinking we were listening to so much Bob Marley, he stayed there the whole time," said Searl.
Searl left for Africa on a soul searching mission shortly after he and the O'Brian's started writing reggae sonds. This was fiver years ago, Searl's sophmore year at Ithaca College. Before he left, the band had been playing for fun, entertaining friends at college house parties, but it was when Searl returned that he said, "it was on."
The reggae minstrels found themselves a weekly gig at a club called Tonic in Rochester. They developed a loyal following who couldn't care less that their famed bands name didn't quite roll off the tounge.
"More people love it than hate it," explained Searl about the band's name. "It's ridiculous that you have to have name to represent your music, but why not pick a name no one else has."
This came after the band's previous name, Bombsquad, a name everyone seemed to have. This time, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad turned to author Tom Robbins and his book, "Another Roadside Attraction," for advice. In the book was a traveling circus, the Indo-Tibetan Circus, and traveling witht he circus was a band, the Giant Panda Gypsy Blues Band.
"It was a description of the greatest band ever imagined," said Searl about how Robbins portrayed the band. "I imagined being in that band."
While Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad sure doesn't have the luxury of traveling with the Indo-Tibetan Circus, they have found themselves a short school bus to tour the country in and a bunch of psychedelic fun along the way. Each stop in each city is a new experience and a new trip.
"It's nice to sit and enjoy something new," said Searl. "Hopefully we're bringing something new here just like you're bringing something new to us--it's a communication thing."
Giant Panda does not shy away from embracing the fact that they are a primarily white reggae band. Searl admits that reggae was developed to annunciate the oppression being felt by the black poor of Jamaica.
"I think it's very important for everybody to know the story of Africans," said Searl. "But you need to relate that story to an even greater story --that happened to people all over the world, to every race, every culture -- rich people, poor people, they feel it on different levels, but that's why people like reggae, it's really identifiable."
These days, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad has developed into a band that also includes Rachel Orke, keys, and Buddy Honeycutt, percussion. The band also includes a rotating cast of members that brings a larger sound at random shows which even incorporates horns from time to time.
While its shows involved heavy dancing from start to finish, Giant Panda's message is really to slow down. That message is featured on its latest album, "Slow Down," produced independent record label started by the band.
"Every is obviously going incredibly too fast," said Searl. "Whether you're driving in your car, going out trying to get that money, or trying to make something of yourself, it goes from top to bottom, biggest to smallest, I think in everything we need to take it down a notch."
But please don't get the wrong idea --live there is nothing slow about this band. Hips shaking, feet swaying, fans just can't seem to get enough, never stopping, not even to get a drink from the bar. Boys and girls alike shuffled and twisted their way to the bar Tuesday night. They'd grab their drink then shuffle on back to the dance floor, suds spilling out the side of the pint glass -- no one seemed to care about anything but the music.
It's probably why fans are willing to get behind the band, promote the music, share it with their friends, family, and business partners. Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad becomes your friend less than a second into the show. And not just any friend, but your best friend. You know, the one you haven't seen in four years -- the friend you recieved a disorderly conduct ticket with while lighting fireworks off behind a sketchy bar in some random town you were forced to stay in after your car broke down.
"Our fans easily and quickly turn to family,"said Searl. "what we do is play music, we're not concentrating on too many other things...without the peole, without the dancers, without the people coming to feed the energy, the massive communication, it wouldnt work. Yea, our fans are one of the most important things, right alongside the existance of music.
"I think peoploe hear the music and dance to it and it makes them feel better," added Searl. "People feel excited that this music exists, I think that's why they want to push it. We give over thanks for that. It lets us know that they feel the same way we do.
----we love them.

What: Dub reggae that will get your hips moving and your spirit lifting
When: Saturday at 8pm
Where: Aggie Theatre 204 S. College ave, Fort Collins
Tickets: Free
Future: Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad will be in Colorado for the next couple of months. Visit, for a list of upcoming shows and information on how to purchase their merchandise.
- Denver Daily News

"JAZZ BLOG, Day 8: He could probably even play a kite (Rochester International Jazz Fest"

Peyroux sashayed out un-announced and launched into some Leonard Cohen before arriving at Bessie Smith. She sings so pretty, but I had to high tail outta there. Rumors were flying that Eric Clapton was going to sit in with Toots and the Maytals on the East and Alexander stage, but ol’ Slow Hand was a no-show-hand. Still, I got to dig the 63-year-old Toots bound around like a teenager. Ex-Majestic, ex-Bahama Mama, and Eastman Theatre stage manager Ron Stackman was beaming, exclaiming repeatedly “The hits just keep comin.’”

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (just back from Jamaica) opened up earlier in the blinding sun with a beautiful sunny groove. They draw the hippies for sure, but I don’t care who you are, you get in front of this band and your ass is gonna move, baby. - City Newspaper 6-17-07


SLOW DOWN (2006)

Many audience uploads of live shows available FREE at
(search "Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad")

Radio Airplay:
XM Radio - The Joint
WLUW 88.7 FM - Chicago, IL
WXPN 88.5 FM - Philadelphia, PA
KSCU 103.3 FM - Santa Clara, CA
WBER 90.5 FM - Rochester, NY
WIDR 89.1 FM - Kalamazoo, MI
WICB 91.7 FM - Ithaca, NY
KVNF 90.9 FM - Paonia, CO
WVUD 91.3 FM - Newark, DE
WDST 100.1 FM - Woodstock, NY
KUCI 88.9 FM - Irvine, CA
URH 1640 AM - Hilo, HI
WUTK 90.3 - Knoxville, TN
KWUF 106.3 - Pagosa Springs, CO
CJLY 93.5 FM - Nelson, BC Canada
Radio Mega 99.2 FM - France



Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad is relentless reggae sound. Roots reggae and experimental dub. North American International Body Music.

From New York City to Jamaica; throughout the entire continental United States - Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad is bringing heavy vibration to well pleased rooms. In music halls, schools, bar rooms, and basements... indoors & outdoors, night & day, GPGDS is performing original music for all to find ground in.

Giant Panda's explosive live show and impeccable musicianship are a force to be reckoned with. Consistently rewarding weekly events and endless touring have earned GPGDS a strong following.

Giant Panda played 180 shows in 2007, including a three-week stint in Jamaica. In November they completed a six-week national tour, including ten west coast dates.

Giant Panda is honored to have shared bills with reggae greats Toots & The Maytals, The Wailers, Lee Scratch Perry, Yellowman, Culture, Morgan Heritage, The Meditations, Don Carlos, Mad Professor, and Edi Fitzroy.
GPGDS has been joined on stage by members of Brazilian Girls, Thievery Corporation, John Brown's Body, Umphrey's McGee, and String Cheese Incident.

Giant Panda continues to put on concerts in their hometown of Rochester, NY featuring other modern American powerhouses such as Dub Trio, and Toubab Krewe.

The band's first album "Slow Down" was recorded at Ithaca, NY's legendary Pyramid Sound Studios. Featuring Nate Richardson (formerly of John Brown's Body, Sim Redmond Band) on keyboards, "The album's 12 cuts work on a nearly physiological level to calm you down and cheer you up" says Tim Karan of Rochester Insider.

GPGDS is receiving regular airplay on Sirius and XM Radio's reggae station "The Joint", as well as several college and indie stations all over the world.

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad is a fully growing independent unit of friends, family, and truth seekers - committed to connecting great people with great music. Roots & dub for your meditation.

"...heavy, air-tight dub and roots reggae pressure..."
- Fritz Hahn, Washington Post

"This is some of the most intense roots reggae we've ever heard..."
- Metro Pulse, Knoxville TN

"...reggae that's pure in its musicality and fresh in its originality."
- Frank DeBlase, City Newspaper

"...some of the freshest, most addictive reggae this side of Jamaica."
- CD Baby

Joseph McCaffrey

Publicity / Press Inquiries:
Herbivore Publicity

Booking information, please contact:

THE AGENCY GROUP (West coast) (East coast)