It's 5:45 on a perfect Saturday, Fall weather has just arrived, and I'm sitting outside listening to SaxKixAve, a new project from rapper Alfred Banks and Albert Allenback of Tank and the Bangas, live in a concert for the Band Room Backyard Concert series. Life is good, and the thirty other people seated six feet apart in lawn chairs and on blankets seem to agree.
Pandemic life has been difficult and when the Band Room: New Orleans book was finally finished, at first it seemed like poor timing. Local writer Emily Hingle has been working on the book for over 5 years as a labor of love, by meeting local bands in the rooms where they practice and documenting their lives, their spaces, their stories. And yet recently the bands have all been rendered unable to perform.
A concert series commemorating the book and the bands within it had long been planned, but COVID-19 obviously made a delay necessary. When Hingle first had the idea for the Band Room Backyard Concert series, it was out of necessity to comply with COVID regulations but ended up making perfect sense. Just as Band Room: New Orleans brings audiences right into the rehearsals and backgrounds of their favorite performers, the Band Room Backyard Concert series is as intimate as a coffee shop open mic and as laid back as a family picnic.
For SaxKixAve, this show marks their first officially together as a duo. The group was conceived as a product of perfect timing. Allenback and Banks had previously worked together, and a suggestion from their shared manager that they collaborate on more just seemed to make sense. When I asked them both about the group, separately, the music was important but the humor held equal weight. Coming out of such a dark time, a little humor is necessary- and both were eager to share their newfound perspective with a new breed of audiences. Throughout the entire show they cracked joke after joke-- at one point, Allenback started covering Britney Spears via sax-- much to Banks' chagrin, and the delight of the audience.
Although Banks might feign a lack of excitement about some "Hit me Baby One More Time", his emotions about the show were written all over his face. He claimed to be 90 percent excited and 10 percent nervous about the show, stating, "even though I've played for thousands of people, there is nothing like playing new material live for the first time," and to add to that, in such an intimate setting.
For Allenback, "the scene with 'people to people' is some of the best stuff. People control the prices, the artist gets more of the ticket, and it's more of a genuine interaction. It's so dope."
The pandemic has obviously been hard on everyone, and whether people laugh or cry, he points out that "it's an emotional release, and stuff gets shaken up and comes to the surface." As artists, he claims that "we're just like gases, we expand to fit the container that's been presented", and there's a wide open backyard for him to expand into here.
SaxKixAve is excited about this series, and even without the pandemic, they would be stoked to do a show like this in the future. They love that the Band Room Backyard Concert Series is allowing performers to hang out with the fans, and that it's bringing them to even broader audiences, and to people who can't necessarily afford a full priced ticket at a more elaborate venue.
The book Band Room: New Orleans is in stores now or available online. Locally, you can find it at Blue Cypress Books, Sisters in Christ Records, and More Fun Comics with more stores on the way.
To purchase Band Room: New Orleans online and for more about the Band Room Backyard Concert Series visit www.culturecreep.com. Future scheduled performances include Natalie Mae + Gina Leslie (Saturday, November 21), Vivaz (Saturday, November 28), Tonya Boyd-Cannon (Saturday, December 5), and The Unnaturals Celebrate Kramp-ivus (Saturday, December 12).