Whimsical, sweet, funny and charismatic. That’s how Tarriona “Tank” Ball describes her music.
“Like a person, honestly. A person that is kind and sweet and sneaky and likes to pop — likes to pop her booty,” Ball said with an irresistible giggle.
And it’s a fitting description of the artist herself.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Ball is the ebullient front woman for Tank and the Bangas, a band that earned global attention after winning NPR’s 2017 Tiny Desk Contest, beating out more than 6,000 competitors.
“This band combines R&B with hip-hop’s poetry and rollercoaster storytelling, with a flair and alchemy that could only come from New Orleans,” wrote Bob Boilen, host of NPR’s “All Songs Considered.”
A slam poetry champion from a family of pastors, Ball, 29, met many of the musicians that make up the band at open mics.
“It was magic. It was different from jamming with anybody else, and we decided to take it on the road to see if it wasn’t just New Orleans that made us feel this way,” Ball said.
It wasn’t. The band has taken its unique blend of R&B, hip hop, funk, jazz, soul and spoken word around the world and is currently touring the USA.
They’re playing at Jazz Fest at home in New Orleans on May 4, and they’ve been working on a new album. On April 20, they released the timely new single “Smoke.Netflix.Chill.”
Since the band formed in 2012, they’ve played all over New Orleans. CNN Travel asked Ball to share some of her favorite local music clubs:
Tank and the Bangas recorded their 2014 live album “The Big Bang Theory” at Gasa Gasa on Freret Street in Uptown New Orleans.
“It was one of the wildest concerts we did. I had on a huge tutu, crazy Frankenstein-type hair. Man, I had a good time,” Ball said. Big Freedia, the queen of New Orleans bounce music, also performed that night.
Open from noon until late (with happy hour specials until 7 p.m.), the intimate 18-and-up club has hosted acts from Sylvan Esso to Mykki Blanco and features genres from bluegrass to hardcore punk.
“It’s standing room only, so you don’t have to force nobody to get up outta their seat and dance with you because they’re already standing,” Ball said.
Murals line the club’s enclosed patio and the street-facing wall features arresting work by French graffiti artist MTO, painted in exchange for a month’s stay on club owner Micah Burns’ couch.
Gasa Gasa, 4920 Freret St, New Orleans, LA 70115
Operating since 1977, Tipitina’s is a New Orleans institution. And playing there is a big deal.
“You have to work, show yourself proven, show yourself that you can bring in a crowd. I remember the first time we even had a chance to get Tipitina’s in New Orleans, we were passing out flyers all night,” Ball said.
“My hairdresser put a humongous bow in my head made of hair, and I walked around the city passing out my flyers.”
Located Uptown at Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas, the venerable club changed hands in the late ’90s and a foundation was created in 2003 to support New Orleans’ rich music community.
“Tipitina’s is the figurative kitchen table where the family of New Orleans musicians gathers in the morning to have coffee and catch up,” wrote Mike Griffith in New Orleans Magazine.
Upcoming acts include Dumpstaphunk and Dweezil Zappa. Tank and the Bangas played here as Jazz Fest kicked off on April 27.
Tipitina’s, 501 Napoleon Ave, New Orleans, LA 70115
One Eyed Jacks
One Eyed Jacks, on Toulouse Street in the French Quarter, hosts a range of acts and events — from Alabama Shakes and Joan Baez to a weekly Thursday night ’80s dance party and a Wednesday night Vixens & Vinyl burlesque dance party.
“It’s right in the heart of all the chaos that goes on in New Orleans,” Ball said. “It’s kind of dark, too. It’s kind of sexy.”
With a capacity of about 500, the plush club has three bars and is decked out in rich red damask wallpaper and gilt fixtures.
One Eyed Jacks also hosts comedy, circus acrobats, movie screenings and more.
One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Housed in an 1832 building that was later home to Frenchmen Street’s first music club, the Dream Palace, today’s Blue Nile hosts live music six days a week.
Kermit Ruffins has a regular Friday night gig, and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Jon Batiste played here as teenagers. Blue Nile focuses on New Orleans artists playing funk, R&B, upbeat jazz, boogaloo and brass band music. National acts also come through periodically.
On the weekends the blue-and-gold performance venue downstairs isn’t the only prime spot. The upstairs Balcony Room, a fine perch above Frenchmen Street, also hosts bands and late-night DJs.
“I like downstairs because of the music and upstairs because of the DJ,” Ball said.
She likes to go when DJ Black Pearl is spinning (Fridays and Saturdays starting at 1 a.m.).
“Eventually, you just start dancing with random strangers and you have a good night. New Orleans is that place — it’s that place.”
Blue Nile, 532 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116