Tank and The Bangas
by Ellie Brzezenski
Often times when introducing someone to new music, we have to describe the sound in comparison to something already established. We say, They sound like a psychedelic X or A stripped-down Y or maybe even, If Z and W had a baby and let it choose its own name and fed it only organic produce for 18 years. You know, those type of conversations. The ones that firmly ground you in your musical reality yet give our mind some room to imagine what you’re about to listen to. The problem with Tank and the Bangas, however, is that they lack comparison. When it comes to describing their sound, there is no X, Y, Z or W to correlate them to. They’re completely all their own entity.
I recently had the pleasure of seeing Tank twice in the span of a week. The first time was the Sunday morning of Bonnaroo. Opening the fest for the day at sunny 12:45pm, Hannah and I trekked, half-awake and already fully sweaty, into Centeroo to watch their performance. As soon as they took the stage in their all-neon-everything attire, in synch with one another, leading the chorus is call-and-repeats, I was completely absorbed. Call it the incredible vocals, the tangible onstage chemistry, or my lack of sleep and proper nutrition for the previous 72 hours, but I so into it, I almost got emotional.
Tank had a way directing the crowd and entertaining en masse yet she performed as if she was speaking directly to me. Her charisma and personality were palpable, reaching out into the crowd like invisible tentacles, zapping us with good vibes. The band’s excitement only amplified this experience, their array of instruments and impressive cross-genre talent pridefully yet earnestly repping their hometown of New Orleans. When their set ended, I wasn’t just happy– I was soaring. And any band that can have that effect on me after 4 days camping in the Tennessee summer heat– because sleep is my favorite hobby– is truly one of miracle workers.
The second time I saw Tank–just 7 days later–was at home in Chicago. The venue was polar opposite from the setting of my first experience– small, dark, inside– and so was their performance to match. Gone were the neon duds and gospel inspired sing-alongs, now replaced with cool, laidback, sometimes jazzy, showing.Though the songs were the same, they reached the crowd differently. Though I recognized lyrics and melodies, the performance carried a different weight and feeling that the weekend prior. It was, to totally lean into this, the difference between Frenchmen Street than Bourbon Street: both are tied to the identity and soul of New Orleans, yet both present something totally different to their prospective visitors.
And this, I believe, is the beauty of Tank and the Bangas. They’re able to balance all this energy and expressions of themselves and deliver a sound unique to the moment. Their music is constantly searching for and playing with opposites:
Simple metaphors and heavy truths.
Humor and real talk.
Falsetto and full-belly breath.
Cinematic drama and soulful contemplation.
To a continuously prismatic performance.
The band describes themselves as a “great gumbo” of music–pretty apt for a band of friends who originally came together at an open mic night in NOLA. From the warmth of Tank’s stage presence and the nurturing gospel influences, to the zesty, whimsical spoken word, the catching insight and charming point-of-view and the fresh sprig of whimsy–It all melds together in a performance that’s energizing, heartwarming and uniquely it’s own thing.
Even within the songs themselves lies so much variety. One track has the potential to contain hints of gospel, soul, funk, spoken word and whatever else the band feels like incorporating that night.Open up the proverbial lid and you’ll find so much to savor. My only advice: See them twice. At least.