NEW YEARS EVE : FOREVER PARTY, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, Easy Star All-Stars, The Saplings

NEW YEARS EVE : FOREVER PARTY

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad

Easy Star All-Stars

The Saplings

Sun 31 Dec

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

$30.00 - $40.00

This event is all ages

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad doesn’t obscure the message in Make it Better. In fact, the jam band and reggae crowds are already on board with the Rochester band’s beautiful, brilliant, brand-new release, which debuted this week at No. 1 on the Billboard magazine reggae chart.

“This album was influenced by the pressures of the world around us,” the Pandas write in the CD booklet, “as well as the creative fires that burn within. We hope that the outcome of expression will help make it better.”

That mix of artistic expression and desultory subject matter – a planet sorely in need of healing – has given us a wonderfully upbeat sixth studio album from lead singer and bassist James Searl, singer and drummer Chris O’Brian, keyboardist Tony Gallicchio and Dylan Savage and Dan Keller on vocals and guitars. And they do not go this road alone, with a hefty group of accompanists on percussion, horns, reeds and additional guitar.

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad tends to roam the sonic landscape, with recent releases drifting toward country, even. Very good Americana, by the way. But Make It Better veers back strongly to reggae.

Rochester's Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad.
Rochester's Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad. (Photo: Josue Rivas)
The opening title track with its persistent horns is lyrically simple, allowing the sentiment to be loud and clear: “Don’t make it bad, go make it better.” How? “Live and Travel” the Pandas advise on track two. Experience a wider world, “drink from the water.”

That wider world is also expressed iun the cover art by Iranian-born artists Icy and Sot. Searl became familiar with the duo when they worked on Rochester’s Wall Therapy project, creating outdoor art in the city.

Make it Better is consistently strong throughout its 10 tracks, both musically and in its insistence that activism is found in even the subtlest of actions. While adhering to reggae’s syncopated beat, Make it Better loads up on rock flourishes and unusual keyboard sounds, as evident in the love song “Really True.” The urgent “Walk Right Talk Right” advises, “Concentrate on insight, learn to hold your cards tight, and if you walk right, you’re gonna talk right or you’re gonna die trying.”

Midway through, the band asks tougher questions. “What kind of world are we living in?” the Pandas want to know. “Under the sun, some living plenty, while many hungry, pockets are empty,” punctuated at the end by a crazed guitar hoedown.

It’s followed by “Gotta Make a Living,” a powerful, wide-ranging, intense indictment of artists at work in a country whose attention is misdirected. “Keep em’ hooked on the bomb. Keep em’ running round running round like a clown.” A society willingly blind to those in need, “Homeless on the street living life in a toilet, while you pay for your own fence.”

That message continues with “Trouble Deep.” The fact that these guys are from Rochester and not Kingston, Jamaica, and borrowing its syntax and Yoda-like sentence structures such as “So many people, they’re in trouble deep” doesn’t disqualify the words.

But the overwhelming tone is optimism and hope. Is “Greatest of Days” written from the viewpoint of a newborn child? “First days just trying to lift my head up off the bed, next thing you know I’m off and running.” And there’s the closing “Gone,” a whimsical, philosophical ballad. “Time, I take all I can but I don’t believe when it’s gone.”

Now could be the Pandas’ time. It’s sharing the Billboard reggae chart with established stars such as Beenie Man (whose Unstoppable debuted this week at No. 5) and albums by two of Bob Marley’s sons, Ziggy and Stephen. An album debuting at No. 1 is a testimonial to the power of social media, the value of building a diverse audience, and a band that’s done the roadwork to earn the honor.

JSPEVAK@gannett.com
Easy Star All-Stars
Easy Star All-Stars
Venue Information:
Anthology
336 East Avenue
Rochester, NY, 14604
http://anthologylive.com/