Photo Courtesy of The Band
My first time at The Hamilton redefined what an “intimate” concert venue was to me. The space is comprised of tiered restaurant seating, and a small standing section in front of the stage that is maybe 10 people long from front to back. I can’t possibly think of a better show to have seen for my first experience here than Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, who kicked off the first night of their Fall Steady tour with The Simpkin Project on Thursday the 22nd.
The Simpkin Project played to a scattered crowd to start, but as their set went on, the energy in the room noticeably brightened and everyone’s full attention was on the stage. Every member’s musical talent seemed to explode onto their instruments, which resulted in nothing else but passionate and invigorating reggae-rock and roll. Lead singer Phil Simpkin showed no shame in mercilessly shredding his guitar, and the audience asked for no apology. As they came around to playing “Check Yourself,” arguably one of the catchiest tracks from their 2011 release Everything You Want, the crowd really made all of Simpkin Project feel welcome as they broke out the dance moves and swayed to the steady rhythm. This may have been The Simpkin Project’s first time here in the District, but I am certainly not the only one who will be supporting their return in the near future.
The audience was primed for a fantastic show, and Giant Panda and delivered a performance nothing short of stellar. They went above and beyond just playing a setlist – the audience was immersed in a non-stop musical experience. Highlights of the set included the freestyle jams that interrupted or stemmed from many of the songs they played, which made the audience feel included in the creative process as it unfolded. The transitions between songs kept the audience engaged and on their toes, and I was pleasantly surprised as the band moved flawlessly through roots reggae rhythms, psychedelic melodies, and upbeat rock that seemed to move people’s bodies for them. The emotion each band member emanated was enthralling, and I couldn’t seem to wipe a smile off my face the entire set. It was obvious that playing music is what these guys love to do more than anything, and it was an honor being in their presence and watching the show.