Words & Images by: L. Paul Mann
Rebelution, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, and Orgone :: 04.03.11 :: Ventura Theater :: Ventura, CA
Santa Barbara's most successful reggae band returned to the tri-counties for two nights at the Ventura Theater as part of their mostly sold out national tour. The weekend concerts, April 2-3, drew a huge following of loyal local fans for the Wintergreen tour, which featured Rebelution, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and Orgone, and had a packed houseful of reggae fans dancing in the cavernous theater for nearly four hours.
|Orgone by L. Paul Mann|
Opening act Orgone is actually not a reggae band at all, but a classic funky soul and gospel band. The nine-piece core band features a funky rhythm section, a jazzy percussion section, a three-piece soulful horn section, and Sy Smith, a fiery soul singer. The band can also feature as many guest performers as there are members in the band, much like the rotating line up at a Thievery Corporation concert. The band tore through a fast, loud, classic 40-minute set of soulful music. Orgone, which takes its name from a mythical theory of organic energy developed in 1930s by psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, has been honing their own unique musical style for nearly a decade and seems poised to be one of the breakout bands of 2011.
East Coast-based reggae band Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad took the stage next. GPGDS, from Rochester, New York, has amassed a large fan base on the East Coast, and toured relentlessly over the last several years. The group, which plays roots reggae mixed with multiple levels of experimental dub sounds, may have more in common with jam bands than traditional reggae groups. GPGDS made a stop on their tour with Australia's The Beautiful Girls in Santa Barbara last year. Exhibiting their versatility, the band played a more traditional show during an afternoon slot at the West Beach Music Festival, but, in a club set in Soho later in the evening, the group indulged dub fans with an improvised, experimental set. GPGDS, which prides itself on never playing the same set twice, is fast becoming a star on the live reggae circuit. During their hour set Sunday night, the band exhibited the range of their skills, moving from traditional roots reggae beats to experimental jams, all engineered by their master sound technicians. The band's five masterful musicians weave layers of complex music within a reggae framework and may be one of the most diverse bands in the genre. All of the bands members sing but the bulk of lead vocals are passed between guitar player Dylan Savage and bass player James Searl. The fans responded loudly to the band’s different tempos, with cheering, clapping and dancing, even though most in the crowd seemed unfamiliar with the music.
Backstage, after their set, the band mixed with a small army of young female guests of Rebelution and other musicians in a sweet scented haze in their dressing room. The girls quickly retreated after the beer ran out and musicians from the three bands were able to talk shop. When Rebelution finally appeared onstage, a thunderous cheer echoed off the theater walls. The band, which began as an Isla Vista college party band seven years ago, has become one of the biggest reggae acts in the country, playing to huge sold out crowds from coast to coast. From the backstage view, a sea of hands and swaying bodies appeared in the crowd. The band had the crowd singing choruses from the first song as a sweaty explosion of reggae dancing took over the floor.
|Rebelution by L. Paul Mann|
Shortly into the set, Rebelution asked some of the members of Orgone to join them, adding another dimension to the music with horns and percussion. The band triumphantly played a loud and clear 90 minute set, encouraging sing-alongs throughout the night. Towards the end of the night, Rebelution asked James Searl of GPGDS, to join them for a song. Searl, sounding a lot like a young Sting, helped whip the crowd into an arm waving frenzy. Nearly four hours after the music began, Rebelution played an encore to a tumultuous crowd of sweaty reggae fans, none of whom seemed ready to go home.
Continue reading for pics of Orgone and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad...