There’s no one in music quite like Tank and The Bangas. The New Orleans R&B, funk and hip-hop ensemble impressed ACL with a stunning show at the Austin City Limits Music Festival a couple of years ago, so it was inevitable they would appear on the show. The band made their debut on the ACL stage in support of this year’s acclaimed major label LP Green Balloon, and their presence couldn’t have been any more appropriate – Tank and The Bangas’ joyful performance capped off our 45th taping season on a high note.
The Bangas took the stage to the delight of an already pumped audience – a perfect welcome for a band from the Big Easy. After a rumbling synth intro, singer/rapper/poet Tarriona “Tank” Ball arrived in a fur cape for “Spaceships,” displaying a variety of voices as she parodied hip-hoppers – or anyone, really – obsessed with the green. A classically-inclined piano intro from Norman Spence II brought on “Quick,” a roaring tune that featured two saxophones doubling power chords and ambiguous lyrics that also incorporated work from hip-hop producer extraordinaire 9th Wonder. After Tank enjoined the audience to “make some noise,” the band immediately launched into “Nice Things,” a slinky feast of soul. The ballad “Hot Air Balloon” followed, building to a fiery sax solo from Albert Allenback, before “Smoke.Netflix.Chill,” a sweet come-on if there ever was one.
A funky groove signaled the sardonic “Do Something,” a song that starts out as a riposte to empty platitudes, before becoming an anthem of personal empowerment. The party hit another level with “Boxes and Squares,” a beautifully volatile mix of funk, hip-hop and doubled jazz sax solos. The hard funk continued on “Nile, Den and Latah,” the band bringing their entire bag of tricks to bear on a tune that got the audience hopping. The crowd was able to catch their breath (barely) with “Ants,” which found Tank rapping over a smooth seventies R&B groove. The Bangas kept the music roiling and solos flying as Tank unleashed her powerful vocal chords on “Ripperton,” in tribute to the eponymous R&B favorite, first name Minnie. To say the audience went wild is an understatement.
All that energy had to go somewhere, and that was final song “Brady’s,” in which the band took the audience on a handclapping, swaying, hopping ride through its world: sweet harmonies, crashing drums, rock guitar, relentless groove, singalong “na-na’s” and Tank’s versatile, everywhere-at-once vocal stylings. “Bye!” said Tank, and the show was over, though from the crowd’s reaction they wanted more. It was a titanic way to end our milestone forty-fifth season of Austin City Limits, and we can’t wait for you to see it when this episode when it airs early next year on your local PBS station.