New Orleans’ Tank and the Bangas, a hyperkinetic ensemble that shakes up hip-hop, soul, jazz, funk, rock and Broadway in a Yahtzee cup and sees what falls out, took the stage at Austin City Limits Music Festival for an early set Sunday. First order of business: Get these firecrackers on a bigger stage at a better time slot. They made Zilker Park their backyard from the HomeAway stage at 11:45 a.m. Everyone was invited to the jam sesh, as long as they brought their hearts and their feet.
Here’s why you’ve gotta catch Tank and the Bangas at weekend two. Or on Youtube. Or buy their album. Or, really, seek them out however you can. Their magic cannot be missed.They’re award winners. The group famously hit it big when they nabbed the prize for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert contest. “We have been on the ride of our lives,” frontwoman Tarriona “Tank” Ball said. Luckily, they had plenty of passenger room. They’ve got moves. The bend-and-snap has never been utilized to greater effect. We’re talking shoulder rolls, morning stretch routines some “Proud Mary”-style shimmy-shakes. Saxophonist Albert Allenback ain’t no slouch, either. He’s the most athletic woodwind player I’ve ever seen live, wielding his horn like a marching baton and getting just as low (maybe) as Tank herself. They speak their own language, but you won’t need a Rosetta Stone tape. I mean, Tank literally had a conversation Joshua Johnson’s drums. The easy comparison for what she does vocally is Nicki Minaj, but it really doesn’t feel accurate. Ball is a cartoon come to life one minute, serving you quick-fire flow by way of the Looney Tunes on “Quick,” then roaring so her testimony gets the back pew rolling in the spirit on the same song. At one point, Tank feigned a fainting spell from Jonathan Johnson’s tasty bass licks before erupting into Orville Redenbacher popcorn giggles. They’re good for the soul. Ball is a slam poet who grew up in the shadow of Jazz Land. The band’s numbers meander, expand and contract as the music takes them where it wants to. That skill with verse made for a few folks likely smiling through their tears on “Rollercoaster.” Tank, playing pastor and best girlfriend, gave a spoken-word ode to the thrill of love and being free. It became an exhortation to find the one whose heart skips a beat for you.
“I make this thing look easy,” went a lyric Ball sang at one point. Testify.
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