By Gladys Vargas
Everyone knows that when you’re looking to party, you head on down to New Orleans. But if you were anywhere near the Royale this past Sunday night you might’ve heard the low beat of a bass guitar and heavy drums spilling out the doors, and you might have mistaken it for the ambiance of the Big Easy. Tank and the Bangas are loud and proud of their origins, making sure you know right off the bat what they’re about.
Their opener, Pell, is just as proud as he opens the show by beckoning the crowd to “show some love for New Orleans!” They’re antsy to get the show started, and vocal throughout. One woman calls out for Pell to repeat his instagram, and he says it again for her, telling everyone, “She knows it now” and to her, “ thank you love.”
In case you’re curious, his instagram is @pellyeah, which he turns into a call-and-response to engage the crowd, shouting “Pell Yeah?” before the crowd screams it back. With lyric delivery as cool as ice yet sparking with energy, Pell’s bright yellow jumpsuit leapt and bound and danced around the stage like lightning. At one point the cord disconnects from his mic, but his voice doesn’t falter in the heat of the beat.
Before Pell leaves, his energy simmers to thank the staff of the Royale, the DJ, and his family in the corner. And as soon as he leaves, the stage is teeming with crewmembers who busy themselves switching the faulty cord and making adjustments to the setup. Soon enough, invisible wires lift and turn white tarps into suspended clouds that glow green, delighting the crowd. As green balloons fall into the audience, the announcer voices one, “last question: y’all ever been to New Orleans before?” And Pell actually bounces back onto the stage to lead us in a quick stretch until the voice from before booms again: “Tank…and the Bangas!”
The crowd cheers as the band members enter the stage one by one, calmly standing with their instruments. Without Tank yet onstage, the song starts off with a suspense-building rhythm and low notes. The buildup gives us time to process the fantastic array of clothing onstage. Bassist Norman Spence is dressed in a red silk kimono, gracefully fingering next to a lavender jumpsuit and bandana-donned Albert Allenback, who plays the flute. To his left is Merell Burkett in a floral jacket. Across the stage the backup singers, including Angelika Joseph, stand statuesque in body-hugging black and leopard print outfits.
The lights flash as the guitarist rocks out, until all sounds comes to a standstill and Tank enters the stage. Upon her entrance, the crowd roars and all the music starts back up, swinging. After rocking out for a minute, the keyboardist plays a cutesy, quick beat to which Tank starts singing, “Money…look at all my money…” in a small cartoonish voice.
Tank and the Bangas, while rooted in true New Orleans Jazz, bring their own stylizations to the party every time they perform. Not only are the songs on their album impossible to place into a genre, ranging from poetic to a classic rock sound and soulful vocalizations, but getting them together to play live brings out their improvisational skills. It’s clear from the fun looks they give each other and how quickly they adjust to each other’s sound that this band is a tight-knit musical family.
With little help from the gentle waving gestures of her rainbow acrylics, the song has the crowd swinging side to side and happily singing along. Once this intro finishes she welcomes us, in a deep and resonant voice, “to the Green Balloon,” and tells us to “enjoy the show!” before launching into a rap.
The show is filled to the brim with dialogue as the crowd is not hesitant to engage with the artists, and it’s clear that everyone in the room is out to have a good time: dancing in a friendly crowd, and jamming to ridiculously fun music.
Hot Air Balloon