Pensacola, Florida
Saturday May 25th 2019

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Tank You for Being a Friend

By Jennifer Leigh

Chances are you became a fan of Tank and the Bangas when you caught their 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Contest video submission.

Filmed inside a school classroom, the band quickly got together to film a lively performance of their song “Quick.” It was an impromptu decision, said saxophone player Albert Allenback.

“We kind of dragged our feet with it,” he said over the phone during a stop on tour, which will come to Pensacola on Thursday, March 7. “And then (someone) just said, ‘Be at this school and this classroom.’ We filmed in between school bells.”

To date, that video has more than a million views on YouTube. And out of 6,000 video submissions that year, the New Orleans-based band was named the winner of NPR’s annual contest.

Prior to that, the band had some regional recognition and a 2013 debut album, “Think Tank.” But winning the NPR Tiny Desk Concert was “like Christmas,” Allenback said.

“When (NPR host) Bob Boilen called to tell us we won, I just laid down on my floor. I knew how big this was,” he added.

While the Tank and the Bangas mission is still the same, there’s been an obvious shift for the band. The venues are bigger and fuller. They released an official music video for the song “Spaceships,” which will appear on an upcoming album later this year. And before they land in Pensacola, they will have finished several shows around Europe.

“Nora Jones texts her (Tank) ‘Happy Birthday,’” Allenback said with a laugh. Chances are that wasn’t a regular thing before 2017.

While New Orleans is rich with talented musicians, they didn’t have trouble finding a fan base even before their Tiny Desk victory.

“The New Orleans scene has ridiculously amazing musicians, and it can be hard to stand out,” Allenback said. “But we have Tank.”

Lead vocalist and songwriter Tarriona “Tank” Ball is the charismatic frontwoman of the group. Her background includes singing in the choir with her sisters and performing slam poetry. She even won the National Poetry Slam Championship two years in a row.

In 2011, Tank and the Bangas was formed after an open mic session. The Bangas include Allenback, Norman Spence on synth keys and bass, Merell Burkett on keyboards and Joshua Johnson on drums.

In case you’ve somehow missed it, strong females are currently having a moment in music. Cardi B was the first woman to win Best Rap Album last month at the Grammys. Janelle Monáe has received nothing but praise for her 2018 concept album “Dirty Computer.” And Ariana Grande’s new album, “thank u, next,” set all kinds of records when it dropped in early February, including streaming milestones and debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Allenback said Ball fits right into this trend and is on the “forefront” of women making their mark in music.

As a band, Allenback says performing is euphoric. Even after non-stop touring, it hasn’t gotten old.

“The groove we get into…the experience feels so good it’s like the feeling you get from drugs or meditation,” he said. “There’s nothing like it.”

Now with more fans and exposure, there can sometimes be more pressure to keep cranking out new music. Instead, Allenback said the band is focused on being present.

“We’re learning and growing, and we’ve learned to deal with the pressure,” he said. “We know we have a purpose. We want to do this to take care of ourselves and our family. We want to continue to make music for the rest of our lives.”

The purpose right now is bringing their high energy to their live shows. This will be the band’s first performance in Pensacola, although not their first time visiting. Allenback himself is from Montgomery, Ala., and his sister lives in Pensacola.

Whether you’re seeing Tank and the Bangas for the first time or you’re a longtime fan, Allenback has very specific expectations for the show.

“Hopefully it’s like George Clinton directed a Disney movie and Metallica scored it,” he said. “We go to a lot of different places. We’ve never done shows the same way.”

TANK AND THE BANGAS
WHAT: Tank and the Bangas with Maggie Koerner and Alfred Banks
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, March 7
WHERE: Vinyl Music Hall, 2 S. Palafox.
COST: $20
DETAILS: tankandthebangas.com or vinylmusichall.com