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The Truth Behind The Vibe - A Backstage Salutation with Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad

I have a tendency to just just completely immerse myself in music that makes me feel. When I come across a sound that has pulled these varieties of feelings out of me, I just want to bathe myself in it until it has made its way into every pore in my body. When I started listening to Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad a few months back, that is exactly what happened. I was so struck by the vibe in their sound. It's not typical. It doesn't feel faked. It's not brooding or overly positive either. It's just hopeful. I was borderline obsessed with how it made me feel. I wrote about it.

Of course, then I start wondering how legit that sound is. There are more than a handful of bands peddling a positive sound that is completely artificial. I have fallen for it only to discover upon meeting the artist behind it that it's an act. As much as I get that concept, when it happens, I feel taken advantage of. The world right now is tumultuous and unsteady. Music is what some of us have to keep the boat afloat, so to speak. So many of us are seeking out that sound that lights up the darker parts of who we are. To get behind such an uplifting message that you later discover was manufactured crap for festival spots and pocket money feels disheartening. It's frustrating. It turns you off. It turns away fans. This has become a thorn in my side in recent months.

So was what I was feeling for real? I knew I needed to find out. I didn't know that I was going to be handed that opportunity a couple months later.

When I received my press list in regards to artist interviews from the fine folks at Disc Jam, I saw that most of the bands I was looking to write about were not taking any time for interviews with press folks. Understandable. However, I was delighted to see GPGDS was in fact on the list. I was told I would not be able to schedule anything with the band without arranging it with their management to which I gladly complied. This is not terribly unusual or new to me. I have done a good portion of my interviews via e-mail, Skype, or in quick beer runs at shows so when I get to do some scheduling it's actually a bit of a luxury. I was pretty much expecting this but I am new to the festival scene so I was not exactly sure how this would play out either.

The gentleman who reached out to me directed me to their drummer, Chris for specifics. So come Friday, that is what I did. Friday was going to be an incredible day at the festival with a great lineup of bands to see. Once we were settled and our campsite constructed, I sent Chris a message to see when the guys would have a few free minutes. He was kind enough to get back to me and let me know he would reach out when they arrived for a quick Q&A session.

I have said it before and I will say it again - I really hate normal interviews. Some music journalists get off on the idea of asking questions and probing for details about what a band is doing but for me, it feels sterile and irritating. Other writers might enjoy sitting down and asking a person obvious things, but I feel like an annoying fan girl and I am that in plenty of other aspect of my life. This blog is and will always remain something different. When I am seeking out an artist, I want to meet that artist for the vibe. I want to know what is behind what they are creating. I have no interest in regurgitating their words. Plenty of other people do that already. In this particular case, I was seeking the truth. I was seeking the story behind the vibe. You can Google what equipment a band uses. You can't Google a vibe.

As I have said numerous times, I am a huge fan of Giant Panda and admire greatly what they put forward in their music. The sense of hope in their vibe that they put out there is almost palpable. It creates an environment that surrounds you when you listen that engulfs you in something beyond yourself. They have a great way of reminding a listener that there is this whole world out there and as crazy as it all is, we are all in this mess together so let's try to be better about everything. Be kind to one another. Leave something great behind. I expanded on this whole concept in my my review of their album , Make It Better. I mean it when I say it, these guys are the message and the warmth. This album really tossed out a lot of what I thought was true about the jam scene and festivals. They were essential in orchestrating the removal of my blinders. Their vibe was also something I desperately needed in that moment when I found them.

I never really know for sure if artists I write about actually READ what I write. That's not nor has it ever been the reason I write about music. I do it to share the music and the vibes, but every author and journalist still wonders. You just do. It's something that rings in your mind as you put words down. Plenty of the folks I write about have shared my pieces on social media. They have reached out to thank me for writing it. Still, I don't know if they really read it. For the most part, I assume they don't and that's totally cool. When I first met Chris, he was incredibly welcoming to us. He introduced Eric and I to the rest of the guys in the band. It went something like, "Hey, remember that article about us by the ska girl who married the jam guy? This is her!"

Holy shit. They DID read my article!

Well, that just kicked the door wide open. Let me start by saying they are some of the most genuinely kind people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. These guys had just arrived to the festival. They were still unloading and getting settled and they still took the time to stop what they were doing to talk to us. I wasn't looking to pepper them with questions on how they become musicians or what songs were about. I wanted to get a feel for their vibe and who they are. 

We stood around for quite a while just shooting some basic breeze and trying to get a feel for what lies behind this incredible sound that GPGDS puts forward. Simply put, it's honesty. I feel that what they put forth in every song they write is pure. No bullshit. These guys exemplify the peace, the message of hope, and the straight get down of their music. These are not a bunch of aloof dudes with an artificial vibe that strips away like peeling wallpaper the moment they don't have an act to do. They really are what they put forth on the stage. It's real. I can't put forth how refreshing that was to really experience. We talked about other music, from the classic rocksteady masters like Ken Boothe to appreciations for modern alternative music. We talked about how crazy and wonderful it is to have kids.

I really tried to explain how their sound hits a listener. Each individual musician in the band is incredibly talented on their own. The vocals are some of the top in the scene. I had just watched them doing their acoustic set on the Sugar Shack Sessions and I asked if everyone in the band sang. Yes, except for key master Tony Gallicchio who I was told is a better singer than everyone else.


I feel like I was TELLING the band far more than I was asking, but I was really delighted at the opportunity to let them know that they really helped change my perceptions. My husband and I have been trying for a while to find that bridge between the scenes we came from - the ska/reggae scene vs the jam scene. We have determined that Giant Panda IS that bridge. Their sound encapsulates the jam scene and the reggae scene while still remaining true to itself as it's own thing. It contains no ego. That vibe of hope you feel as you are moving your body to songs like Make It Better and Greatest of Days is genuine. When the band hit the stage a short time later, I was almost hypnotized by that sound and that vibe. It was my first time seeing the band do what they do live and I was a little awe struck. At one point I realized I was standing front and center in front of the stage, happily watching each member of the band weave their individual sounds together to create the songs, and had drifted off somewhere in my own head. I didn't think their sound could get better, but knowing for sure that the message and the vibe was genuine raised it up so much higher.

In a matter of weeks, I will be seeing the band again in a festival setting when we set off for the Wild Woods Music and Arts Festival in Croydon, NH. I am so excited to get to experience another GPGDS set with some festival folk! It's my husband's birthday, and we are bringing our 2 year old daughter this time. She has become a huge Giant Panda fan and we can't wait to see her lose her mind when she sees those voices making those songs right in front of her. I strongly recommend heading there yourself! The festival runs from August 11th to the 13th and general admission tickets are still available. Its looking like its going to be a GREAT weekend, and the price is fantastic! Get yourself a weekend pass for $140 INCLUDING camping and parking (I mean, WHAT?!) over at http://wildwoodsfest.com/tickets/ and we can't wait to see you there!

Look for the banner and come say hi!

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