I’ve seen Nashville-based grunge outfit Bully a handful of times, but never at their own headline show in Los Angeles, and almost always in situations where the sound isn’t optimal.
I’ve seen them play small stages at various festivals (Hangout 2016, Governors Ball 2016, Cal Jam 17) and they’ve passed the live equivalent of the car test — where you play a band’s music on a shitty car stereo and see if it sounds good. But on Thursday night, the band played the Teragram Ballroom in DTLA, one of the best sounding rooms in the city, and holy shit it elevated their performance that much more.
Alicia Bognanno is the powerful voice and songwriter behind Bully and it was fun to see her alternate between shouting gritty and raw lyrics over distorted guitars to not having any idea what to say between songs. I’ve always classified her sound as if Sheryl Crow decided to front a grunge band, though when Bognanno screams she sounds more like Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain intertwined. It’s no surprise that she’s an artist on the Sub Pop label.
This is no clearly than on “Focused” — a slow builder from their excellent 2017 sophomore album Losing. She ends by screaming into the microphone “I am trying to stay focused” over and over. Even more impressive is she never seemed to strain when stretching her vocal chords to the limit for these gravelly screams, like she’s summoning it with incredible ease.
Another standout from the set is “Running” — a great song about having trouble being back in an old town, especially when around a certain person. It opens with a riff that sounds right out of the blink-182 Tom DeLonge riff handbook.
Bognanno’s lyrics seemed to resonate with everyone in the audience. “It’s magic how you make me feel like trash / I know that I am not a child / This is unacceptable and the only news I have for you / Is you can’t write a book about what you don’t know” she sings on “Trash”, and at this point so many fists went into the air in solidarity.
The crowd was a rowdy one. Between songs, people were shouting all sorts of shit at Bognanno and her band. “WILL YOU LISTEN TO MY EP? YOU’RE LIKE A HUGE INFLUENCE” one dude shouted between songs. “Sure, I don’t have any shit to do except sit on a bus for eight hours,” Bognanno quipped back. Then I think I heard the guy say something about a download code and everyone laughed.
“This is a cover, so don’t come up to me and tell me it’s your favorite song after the show — it always fucking happens,” Bognanno said before tearing into their rendition of “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” by mclusky. It was a perfect way to wrap up a fun and raucous evening and I can’t wait to catch this band again at SXSW in a few weeks.
Photos by Tim Aarons