Tank and the Bangas: Presented by AMP Concerts
Wednesday, Sep 25th
8:00 pm - 11:00 pm
Coming from New Orleans, Tank and the Bangas are surrounded by plenty of grand musical traditions. And the five-piece group has a rare knack for combining various musical styles—fiery soul, deft hip-hop, deep-groove R&B and subtle jazz—into one dazzling, cohesive whole that evokes the scope of New Orleans music while retaining a distinctive feel all its own.
“It’s music that can’t really be put in a box,” says singer and poet Tarriona “Tank” Ball. She fronts the band with vivid charisma that helped Tank and the Bangas win NPR’s 2017 Tiny Desk Concert Contest by unanimous acclaim, standing out among 6,000 entrants because of what Bob Boilen called “the depth of their lyricism and the versatility of their players.” Those same qualities also attracted the attention of Verve Records, which has signed the band.
Ball’s lyrical depth has been years in the making. She came up in the strong local slam poetry scene before meeting her bandmates: Merell Burkett on keyboards, Joshua Johnson on drums, Norman Spence on bass and synth keys and, eventually, Albert Allenback on alto sax and flute. “Growing up, I always could sing, but I wrote better than I sang, so I focused on writing,” she says. After her team won the National Poetry Slam Championship two years in a row, Ball turned her full attention to Tank and the Bangas.
What started as a loose collaboration at an open-mic night in 2011 has grown into a mesmerizing musical force that’s only picking up speed. After a featured set at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival early in the band’s career, the musicians built a reputation outside their hometown by grinding it out on the road, honing their live show and releasing the 2013 album Think Tank, all the while converting audiences into passionate fans and garnering critical acclaim, from the New Orleans Advocate to The New York Times. “It made us work hard,” Ball says of playing Jazz Fest. “It made us want to feel deserving of it.”
Their hard work is paying off: The Huffington Post says Tank and the Bangas defy description onstage, adding, “It’s music that you have to experience.” The experience is subject to change from one night to the next.
“One show will feel very electronic, or hip-hop, and another show will feel slow and vibe-y and jazzy, and then another show will just be poetry and off-the-cuff riffs,” says Johnson. “As a band, we don’t like to hear ourselves do the same thing for too long, so we might change a small thing here or there, and if we change enough small things, it seems like a big change.”
Tank and the Bangas won the Tiny Desk contest with “Quick,” a riotous single they released in 2017 (and soon accompanied with a cheeky, not entirely safe-for-work video). There’s more new music where that came from as the group works on the follow-up to Think Tank. “It’s going to be awesome,” Ball says. “It’s going to be fun, and a little vulnerable at the same time.”
The band’s ongoing evolution involves more than just music: Ball continues to grow and develop as a performer and writer. Even back in the open-mic days, she was a force of nature. “I don’t know if there’s such a thing as too free, but it was totally uninhibited. She was inspired,” Spence says, laughing at the memory. More recently, Ball has become less of a dervish onstage—“I was running around so much I didn’t have time to sing at all,” she say—while finding new ways of expressing herself as a writer.
“I don’t just think about myself when I write now,” she says. “Just being with my bandmates taught me to think more about other people. And when you have an audience of people ready to listen to you, you’re excited to connect with them, you really are.”
UnderDogCentral creator & emergent New Orleans rapper Alfred Banks has garnered acclaim from some of rap’s most esteemed publications. In addition to being named one of Complex’s 10 upcoming New Orleans MCs, Banks has been featured prominently on The Fader, HipHopDx, Okayplayer & on DJBooth’s list of Top Indie rappers from Louisiana. Having played at Voodoo Festival, Buku Festival, A3C Festival, and Austin’s SXSW, Banks has also made headway in Europe, Performing at the Reeperbahn Festival in Germany & starring in a Volkswagen ad campaign featuring his song “HomeComing”.In late 2016, BBC Russia interviewed Banks, extending his reach well beyond Europe. Most Recently, Alfred’s Song “UnderDogCentral” can be heard in the Netflix Movie “Burning Sands”, which was Executively Produced by Common.
Banks released his LP, The Beautiful. The Beautiful, Inspired by his brother’s struggle with mental illness and his eventual suicide, serves as his most successful to date with a Debut at #12 on iTunes’ “Rap/HipHop” Charts, #3 on Bandcamp’s “Rap” Charts & #79 on BillBoard’s “HeatSeeker” Charts. The album features a conceptual approach dealing with schizophrenia and the complexity of identity. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) & UnMaskNola both took notice of Banks’s music and its focus on mental-health awareness, and partnered with him on promotional efforts for The Beautiful.
Touring has become the bread & butter for Banks, having opened multiple tours for Established artists including Tank & The Bangas, Bounce Rapper Big Freedia, NerdCore Artist MegaRan, Former XXL Magazine Freshman Mickey Factz. & Several Headlining Tours of his own. More Major press came Alfred’s way by being named one of the Top 10 Finalist in Vans’ “Share the Stage” Competition. With that, came features on The Fader, Consequence of Sound & Placements on the Soundclound/Spotify Playlists curated by Vans. All of these accomplishments culminated in Alfred winning the “Best Rap/Hiphop” Artist” Award at the 2018 OffBeat Magazine “Best of the Beat” Awards show in his hometown of New Orleans. With all of this happening, it seems the future looks bright for Alfred. The UnderDog is becoming the Top Dog.