Turkuaz & Giant Panda, Water Street Music Hall, Rochester, March 29th

On Friday, March 29th, Turkuaz and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad jump-started the weekend playing at The Water Street Music Hall in Rochester. While the doors were said to open at 8 with a prompt show starting at 9, we found ourselves still waiting in a long stagnant line at 945. By the time it struck 10 an explosion of sound echoed through the venue as Turkuaz kicked off the night with “Chatte Lunatic”, a song from their new album Zerbert. The crowd danced their way inside and those there for Giant Panda were pleasantly surprised by an upbeat crowd-moving funk band with colorful jumpsuits and a boisterous sound.

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I have only been afforded the opportunity to see Turkuaz twice before, once at Strangecreek in a late night cabin and once at Red Square in Albany, so seeing them in a venue this size did them much justice. The crowd exploded as guitarist Craig Brodhead went into an impressive jiving guitar solo during “Lookin’ Good Feelin’ Tough” which was equally matched by Michelangelo Crubba with a loud Bonham-strong drum solo.

The set included some noteworthy covers such as Joe Crocker’s “Feelin’ Alright” sang by saxophonist Josh Schwartz whose soulful voice and killer moves encouraged many of the audience members to sing along, and “Trampled Underfoot” by Led Zepplin which was lead by vocalist Geneva Williams whose golden locks and bright yellow jumpsuit created a picturesque vision of soulful 70’s and keyboardist Stephen Malinowski wrapped it up and brought it home with an equally epic solo.

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The crowd applauded as Giant Panda took the stage, playing for the last time with keyboardist Aaron Lipp in their hometown. The energy shifted from upright funk to a low smooth reggae with a hard undertone and an untouchable beat. There was an emotional feel to the night as Giant Panda played crowd favorites such as “Missing You More”, “Undermove” and “Seasons Change”. Mixes of trance jam and low tempo groove carried the night away and the audience was dancing alongside of them every step of the way.

As the band came back from the encore, guitarist James Searl referenced Aaron Lipp’s departure and they touched back to their acoustic routes and played a song from their newest album Country. Switching back, Giant Panda threw down another long set carrying the crowd into a sea of smooth beats and funky bass lines and ended the night of truly dance worthy music.