Upstate, NY: GPGDS & Easy Star Allstars

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad & The Easy Star Allstars
The Wescott Theatre
Friday May 7th, 2010

Article & Photos By J-man

I pulled up to the Westcott Theatre in Syracuse, just around 10pm on Friday. The show was being billed as a "Disco Biscuits After Party", so I looked forward to the potential antics to come. As I entered the venue I felt a definite Bisco presence as I noticed flatbrims and glowsticks immediately. Upon entering the main room I was surprised at how diverse the crowd was; from gangsta wooks, to frat-bros, to straight up teenagers and senior citizens. Interesting, I thought...

*Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad*

The heavy dubbed-out bass line hit me in the chest, the clav dropped into a funky dub rhythm, while the drums and guitar followed suit. Right away it was clear that what they were doing was fairly simple, yet it sounded really good. The processing and effects were tight and the Westcott was moving. The tunes, went from catchy semi-pop, to straight dub, to classic reggae from song to song. The vocals were fairly standard, though consistent and reminiscent of Sublime.

My attention was diverted by a handful of hoopers to my right... It seems to have become almost expected that there will be hoopers at the Westcott for any and all "scene" related shows. As I always say; there is a time and place for hooping and it's not a crowded indoor venue. I have seen the same girl at the last three shows, clutching about ten hoops with her hand sporting a giant "X". At least it gives some of the young kids something to do.

... My attention was drawn back to the stage for the first of the evenings peaks, and man, it was a good one. They brought it down and abruptly dropped it back to some straight dub. For the first time that evening, I was moving. The medium-sized crowd seemed to be enjoying the show, while they wandered around, mingled, bro'd-out; as the wooks naturally; wooked. The end of the set got a little bit dark and extremely jammy. At times, they ventured into the trance/jamtronica realm. As I glanced to my left I noticed a steady stream of wookies pouring into the venue.

For some reason at the end of their set they sought permission to do a couple of quiet tracks. "If you don't like it, throw shit at us..." I thought that was a hazardous thing to say to a crowd of potential spunions. The song was slow and very folk/country. I personally thought it was a horrible choice to derail the momentum of their set. "This is what I call a Disco Biscuits After Party... A little country!" came from the stage reflecting the band's knowledge of the contrast of their choice. They went into another and the talking began as the band became background noise.

Around midnight, one hour and forty five minutes after they took the stage; they laid their instruments down. I noticed that Easy Star had been wandering around, digging on GPGDS.

I thought Giant Panda was an enjoyable opener. I may even consider checking out one of their shows at some point. Though they played a long enough set to be the closer. I wandered to the door to get some fresh air when I heard the final of the ten "Syracuse" shout-outs for their set. It's those kind of cheap tactics that can turn me off to a band. One or two is lame yet forgivable, but the way they were being handed out that night was just sad.

Thunder roared in the night as the sky strobed with electricity. Behind me I noticed a steady flow out of the venue as the patrons were greeted by a massive storm and a downpour of rain. From the comfort of my Jeep, I could see people quickly scattering everywhere in an attempt to keep dry. As I comtenplated starting my car and driving off, I remember how much I enjoy Easy Star's studio work. I took the keys out of the ignition and made a dash for the door.

With the rest of the loitering crowd I stood and enjoyed the Dub music being played over the house speakers. I glanced down at my phone; it was midnight. A few members of Easy Star took the stage and began setting up, arranging gear and sound checking lazily. It was at this point that I realized the due to time constraints the headlining band would be playing a shorter set than the opener. The members of the band left the stage and headed back upstairs. The crowd was once again left waiting...

*Easy Star Allstars*

A flashlight shined through the crowd and the Easy Star Allstars made their way to the stage. By this time it was already 12:30. The set began, with what sounded clean enough to be a studio track. It was the reggae/dub that I had expected. What stood out to me was the sheer diversity of the band. Several cultures, nationalities and ethnicity's were represented within' the band as well as different age groups and general styles. It almost appeared to me that the band was an "assembled" project. I later found out that my suspicion was correct as it is a rotating cast of musicians.

As they played song by song sounded good musically, but I was turned off to the cheesy approach they take to their shows. This is a band that I feel is capitalizing on the nostalgia of other bands of legendary status, who have paved the way for modern music. It was one cheesy cover after another, with the young kids in the crowd going nuts as if they didn't expect them to play a Beatles song.

Nothing stood out about the music to me, besides it's clean studio sound. Their were no exciting solos that I saw or any over the top display of talent. Then came their second lead singer, a gentleman who sounded as if he was from Jamaica. To me he was too much, hopping around the stage with more energy than the rest of the theatre combined. He would come on and off stage frequently, stealing the show as he did.

The highlight of what I saw from Easy Star was when the gentleman from Jamaica had the crowd light their lighters. As I looked out over the crowd it appeared as if almost everyone had a lighter. The Westcott flickered with the most energy of the evening for that brief moment. Following that moment, I reached a point when I decided I had enough and with that, I exited the Westcott.

Every show is not going to be amazing. The show was what I expected it to be...


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