Giant Panda and the Big Takeover Take On the Theatre

Mike Bonanni, Staff Writer

After past weekends of an energetic metal show and funky jam band show, the Oneonta Theatre has mellowed out with some reggae that felt like a breath of summer air in the face of fierce winter weather. The Big Takeover teamed up with Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad to drop some beats while clouds were dropping flurries. Amazingly, this change in weather from the unusually spring-like climate we’ve been having didn’t keep the crowd away. The dance floor was packed and the bands definitely deserved the great turnout.
For The Big Takeover, this weather was nothing compared to their last Oneonta visit during Hurricane Irene. They definitely seemed to be on their A game as lead singer Nee Nee Rushie pushed out some crazy good vocals. It was never a dull moment throughout the entire set; the band was dancing and one of the audience members got a chance to join them as an honorary percussionist. It was an impressive kinetic showing by The Big Takeover, who also has quite the guitarist. “Dude, the guitarist totally shreds” said one satisfied concert goer. It was almost a tiring experience as there was little slowing down or stopping, yet the crowd showed no signs of fatigue.
This New Paltz-based band consists of Rushie on vocals, Billy Trimarchi on guitar, Sam Tritto on drums, Rob Kissner on bass, Lara Cohan on the keys, Chas Montrose on sax and Andy Vogt on the trombone. Despite their different backgrounds in bluegrass, jazz and blues they were united by their love for reggae. The Big Takeover is made up of everyday people living their dreams. “We all work day jobs,” says Rushie who works as a substitute teacher. They have a CD out, which they recorded themselves two summers ago and contains some experimental elements besides just ska or reggae. Another album is in the works and they may be planning a trip to California this summer. The biggest adventure the band has had was a two-week trip through North Carolina, but “we want to do something larger and further” says Rushie. For now, they will be doing weekend shows, including a Poughkeepsie show with The Slackers on March 30. The Big Takeover plans to come back to Oneonta in the spring.
As for Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (GPGDS), they certainly felt the energy of the crowd and later received cheers for an encore. It seems as though both The Big Takeover and GPGDS had experimental elements in their music, but it was more easily apparent with Giant Panda. There was an amazing display of effects from both the guitars and the organ. They may not have had horns, but they filled the room with ghostly whale sounds and spacey delays. The crowd was taken on a journey from moments of jam rock to some nice space rock. At one point, there was even some classic rock and roll which was a nice surprise.
GPGDS consists of bassist James Searl, drummer Chris O’Brian, guitarists Dylan Savage and Dan Keller, Aaron Lipp (who plays a multitude of instruments including the organ) and sound/dub engineer Joel Scanlon. Savage and Keller are the main driving vocals of the group but everyone in the band to provides a vocal contribution. Searl says the band has been together since 2004 with member changes here and there. They have quite the touring future ahead of them including trips to Boston, NYC and Penn State. On March 31, they’ll be playing in their hometown of Rochester. They have a CD from 2006 called “Slow Down,” and they just came out with a folk album simply called “Country.” There is more info on this available on the site This is Giant Panda’s first time back here since 2005 and Oneonta was more than welcome to have them back.

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