My Spilt Milk readers voted for the best of 2015, and Tank, The Deslondes, and Big Freedia were among the winners.

tank and the bangas photo by patrick ainsworth for my spilt milk
Taririona "Tank" Ball accepts a My Spilt Milk Award, by Patrick Ainsworth

Tank and the Bangas closed the inaugural My Spilt Milk Awards Thursday with a powerful set that illustrated why they were the night’s big winners. The presence of Tarriona “Tank” Bell is imposing, but the band was musically her equal—just as funky, personal, and idiosyncratic. Because the band’s songs have poetry at their core, arrangements move in unexpected directions to accommodate the kinetic relationship between the words in the lyrics and the syncopation they make possible. As a result, Tank and the Bangas felt familiar in the way that funk is like home cooking in New Orleans, but they also were fresh, finding exciting new life in an established sound.

Since the My Spilt Milk Awards honored musical accomplishment in 2015 with an eye toward who matters now, it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate two-time winner. Readers voted and the band won two awards—Mover of the Year and People’s Choice, the latter of which simply asked voters who they wanted to see win an award. It’s a blunt measurement, but it’s a gauge of who people connect to and want to see recognized. At the end of the night, it was official—people really like Tank and the Bangas.

My Spilt Milk Awards winners
Year of the Year: Big Freedia
Song of the Year: “Ollie North” by Donovan Wolfington
Veteran of the Year: Jon Cleary
New Orleanian of the Year: Galactic
Mover of the Year: Tank and the Bangas
Best Debut Album: The Deslondes
Vision of the Year: Dee-1
Rising Star Award: Alexis and the Samurai
People’s Choice Award: Tank and the Bangas

andrew polk my spilt milk awards photo by patrick ainsworth Andrew Polk at the My Spilt Milk Awards, by Patrick Ainsworth

Andrew Polk hosted the show, and the comedian took a jaundiced eye to transient bands in the French Quarter, noticing that the person who plays the scrub board is often the one who needs it most. The night also included a hip-hop-oriented set from The Soul Rebels, an urgent performance from The Breton Sound, and cool grooves from AF the Naysayer throughout the night. 

The evening took an unpredictable turn when GIVERS’ Tiffany Lamson told members of Rotary Downs to sit down and get comfortable when she took to the stage to remember her time as a member of Rotary Downs and help honor the recipients of My Spilt Milk’s first Carton of Honor. The band members did as they were told as she remembered how welcoming and accepting they were to the ideas of young woman joining a band that was then almost a decade old. 

Afterwards, Rotary Downs showed why they merited the recognition with a hypnotic set that nodded to heavy rock, bubblegum pop, the Velvet Underground and the Grateful Dead while remaining steadfastly itself.

rotary downs at my spilt milk awards by patrick ainsworth James Marler and Rotary Downs perform at the My Spilt Milk Awards, by Patrick Ainsworth

Mover of the Year recognized bands that changed their status in 2015—bands that played better days of the week, bigger venues, and better time slots. Tank and the Bangas certainly did that in New Orleans, playing Jazz Fest and the Essence Music Festival last year, as well as performing in England.

“It feels like four years ago to me,” says the band's sax player, Albert Allenback. As validating as the festivals were, the band’s performance at the Brixton Splash reggae festival made a particularly strong impression. The show had a long lineup of artists, each scheduled to play 10-12 minutes before they gave way for the next act. They opened “Crazy” with a rap by Tarriona “Tank” Bell, and “these people lost their minds,” Allenback recalls. Bell was amazed that as short as the sets were, organizers tried to shorten theirs further in the face of the crowd’s enthusiasm, as the audience chanted One More Song! 

“I feel like the music can be anywhere,” Bell says. “I have so many songs that if you weren’t touched by one of them with all the types of songs we have, you just weren’t touched.”

the deslondes my spilt milk awards by patrick ainsworth Riley Downing of The Deslondes accepts the band's My Spilt Milk Award, by Patrick Ainsworth

Thanks to the people who hand-crafted this year's My Spilt Milk awards--Inge Fink, Erika Goldring, Nancy Dixon, Bill Lavender, and Jeremy Yuslum, all of whom hand-make or customize objects for Mardi Gras parades. The spirit, personality and craft behind their creations during Carnival are also hallmarks of ths music we honored this year. 

awards by patrick ainsworth Handmade My Spilt Milk Awards on the drum riser, by Patrick Ainsworth

Thanks again to our sponsors: Fest Cola, the Gulf Restoration Network, Conversations Social Media Consulting, Gasparian Immigration, and VL Group. We'd also like to thank The Howlin' Wolf for its help, not only making the night possible but for making it run as well as it did. 

If you missed it, don't let it happen again. We finished the night with ideas for next year, and after a nap we'll get back to work.

Sam Craft photo by Patrick Ainsworth Sam Craft of Alexis and the Samurai accepts his hand-crafted award, by Patrick Ainsworth

breton sound photo by patrick ainsworth Jonathan Pretus of The Breton Sound at the My Spilt Milk Awards, by Patrick Ainsworth

soul rebels at my spilt milk awards photo by patrick ainsworth Julian Gosin of The Soul Rebels at the My Spilt Milk Awards, by Patrick Ainsworth

my spilt milk award photo by patrick ainsworth By Patrick Ainsworth