Tank and the Bangas on Levitt’s Juneteenth celebration: ‘We’re going to have fun’

Grammy-nominated act happy to be performing again after pandemic



Tank and the Bangas made its name as a live act but quickly changed its focus after the coronavirus pandemic hit. When the Grammy-nominated R&B act performs at Levitt Pavilion in Dayton on Saturday, June 19, it will be one of its few concerts since the world turned upside down last March.

“We were on tour with the Revivalists at the time,” drummer Joshua Johnson said recently, speaking over the telephone from his home in New Orleans. “When we first heard about all the shutdowns, we were like, ‘We’re going to keep this going, man.’ Then, later that day, we were like, ‘We can at least make it until Friday.’ By that evening, it was like, ‘Here are your flights home.’ We were like, ‘OK, I guess this is for real.’

“We ended up at home in lockdown like everyone else, but we kind of pushed through it,” he continued. “We found another side of ourselves we didn’t get to use often, which was the studio side. We’d been on the road so long and we’d left a lot of that studio stuff to the side. Being at home for so long, we were able to pick that up again and find some motivation for ourselves.”

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Work mode

That motivation led to the EP, “Friend Goals,” which was released in November. It’s the follow-up to 2019′s “Green Balloon,” Tank and the Bangas’ major label debut for Verve Forecast. The group is currently working on material for a still-unannounced release.

“We’re finishing up some odds and ends in the studio,” Johnson said. “I’m very excited for what’s coming next but I don’t know if I should say it. I want people to be surprised. Everyone who is a fan should be very excited, and even the non-fans and people who don’t know yet should be excited, too.”

It has been a decade since Tank and the Bangas formed in New Orleans, but the group didn’t truly enter the mainstream consciousness until winning NPR’s “Tiny Desk Contest” in 2017. The band is fronted by singer Tarriona “Tank” Ball, who had her first book, “Vulnerable AF,” published on June 8. After working on a variety of projects over the past year, Johnson is happy to be focusing on the live show again with Ball and the other Bangas.

“We’re not doing too much in June,” he said. “We’re staying home so we can rehearse and get some of the kinks out. It’s been a minute since we’ve had to do a lot of live shows so we needed to knock the dust off. We’re getting back into the swing of things so I’m excited to come up there and have some fun with you guys.

“We’re coming back strong,” Johnson added. “We’re going to hit ya’ll with an open hand. We’re going to have fun with people. We’re just going to jam and I hope they’re jamming with us. I honestly can’t wait to get back out and play music. I love playing drums so I can’t wait to beat the drums for people again. I really miss that energy of playing in front of an audience.”



The fight for freedom

When Tank and the Bangas perform at Levitt Pavilion on Saturday, the group will be headlining a Juneteenth Commemoration, Celebration and Community Concert.

“For me, it’s very special to be able to work with Lisa Wagner and her team at Levitt Pavilion to bring the community together,” said event organizer Sierra Leone from OFP Theatre and Productions. “They are absolutely open-minded and willing to serve the community. It’s definitely going to be inclusive and we’re so excited about that. We plan to have the beautiful commemoration, a welcome, prayers, speeches, songs, dancing and libations.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

“It’s about looking at those who lived as property and really celebrating those who fought for their freedom,” Leone continued. “It wasn’t just given. They demanded freedom and they did not stop until they had it. We’ll have a great commemoration to honor African Americans and that journey to freedom.”

Tank and the Bangas will perform following the opening ceremonies, which are being held from 5 to 7 p.m.

“This is a very important day,” Leone said. “It’s a very sacred day for African Americans and their journey in America. We plan to fully celebrate and honor that and we’re so grateful as an organization that Tank and the Bangas were willing to answer the call to come here. They had a lot of other Juneteenth offers so that’s wonderful.

“They’re the perfect band for this because they’re OK with evolving and creating in the flow,” she added. “They’re so authentic and always morphing and growing and that’s exactly what African Americans have had to do as a people. They are a beautiful reflection of that.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at donthrasher100@gmail.com.


What: Juneteenth Commemoration, Celebration and Community Concert featuring Tank and the Bangas

Where: Levitt Pavilion, 134 S. Main St., Dayton

When: Opening ceremonies begin at 5 p.m. Concert begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 19

Cost: Free

More info: www.levittdayton.org

Artist info: www.tankandthebangas.com

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