On the song “Rollercoasters,” Tank and the Bangas frontwoman Tarriona “Tank” Ball compares riding a rollercoaster to facing one’s fears, the void of having never been in love, of “feeling your heart roam through your body.” She sings, “There are nothing but tears, freedom, and fear in your right hand now, time to throw it in the sky now, time to drown in your own thrill, riding a rollercoaster is like losing your breath and finding it in your will.” It’s about allowing yourself to face truths, dig deep, and feel…which is exactly what one comes to terms with during the band’s live performance.
At a recent show at The Wall Street Theater in Norwalk, Conn., the 10-piece band’s set stacked beats upon beats, infusing each song with grooving saxophones (two of ’em!), flourishing synths, and pulsating bass lines. The show’s carefully crafted slow-build watered seeds of anticipation in the crowd which spanned all ages and races, yet was one of the most unified audiences I’ve been a part of. To follow Tank’s own example, the show unfolded like the very first moments of a rollercoaster ride; you have to slowly build to the top (click-click-click), wrestling your demons and nerves on the way up until you’re peeking over the top and ready to take the plunge. From there, there’s no looking back.
Hailing from New Orleans, Tank and the Bangas deliver a lively fusion of hip-hop, funk, soul, rock, jazz, and spoken word. Tank herself received early accolades as a slam poet. Now, she serves as the Bangas beaming ball of energy, a beacon of light that led the band through cuts off 2013’s Think Tank and the recently released Green Balloon, the album that contains the viral bop “Smoke.Netflix.Chill.” and single “Nice Things” (both of which were interestingly placed mid-set, which I dug). The band cruised and crooned through sultry jams that flawlessly segued into funkier offerings, leaning more heavily on the horns as they carried on, and building up and up until there was absolutely no exiting the ride. Attendees were strapped in as (green) balloons of all sizes flooded the room while purple and yellow lights added ambiance to the sound and scenery.
Tank’s poetry, whether spoken or sung, cuts deep, complementing her effervescence and creating a festival-like feel among fans. “It’s about elevating yourself and giving the audience a different experience. So you always want to inspire them in some way and let them know we’re growing together,” she once told Louisiana Weekly. And growing together we were like one, connected somehow by just standing near each other, witnessing the show, soaking in Tank’s lightness, radiant spirit, and message. You don’t just see and hear Tank and the Bangas play, you feel it. If only every show was that magical.