Concert Review: Bully @ The Anthem (8/2/18)

Bully
Alicia Bognanno of Bully (Photo Credit: Alysse Gafkjen)

Did you miss Bully at The Anthem? That was a mistake!

Bully is one of the current alternative rock, grungy bands you better be listening to.

If you enjoy a good fuzzed out guitar riff, a driving baseline, or a lead singer that can growl and croon all in the same song, that is. And a bit of the grunge sound you’d expect to find during the early 1990’s thrown in for good measure. I do.

Bully blasted into their opening set (for the headlining Father John Misty) with “I Remember” before the cavernous Anthem. It may be safe to assume that many in the crowd didn’t know about Bully*, but you could see people getting on board in a big way as they progressed through their epic 45 minute, 16 song set. Either way, it was a good opportunity to insert their rock tunes into fresh ears, not unlike an ear worm you don’t want to lose (but not a Ceti eel**).

The band is Alicia Bognanno on vocals, Clayton Parker on guitar, Reece Lazarus on bass and Wesley Mitchell on drums. They formed in 2013 in Nashville and are touring to support their second album, Losing (out via Sub Pop). The title refers to painful change and upheaval in the band’s personal lives. As all good music should.

Early they played “Sharktooth” from their first album about calling someone out to be accountable, which starts like a pop song before turning into a showcase for Alicia to wail over a sweet guitar hook.

Through the middle of the set they went heavy on songs from Losing, playing 8 of the 12 songs from that album.

If their theme was grunge, Bully came prepared, all sporting t-shirts and jeans and Alicia’s shock white hair with black roots.

With “Spiral”, where one ‘fuck up’ leads to a constant spiraling down of blame and holding grudges, again Clayton and Reece were killing it with the guitar and bass.

Alicia is the primary song writer for the band, and many of their songs are about the trials and tribulations of growing up and becoming better for the experience. She thanked the crowd for ‘coming early and tolerating us’, but the crowd wasn’t going to be dismissed that easily, they were enjoying themselves.

Near the end, someone yelled ‘play them all’ to which Alicia replied ‘We pretty much did!’ It was true, many of their songs are short so they gave the newly minted Anthem fans a jam-packed set from both of their albums.

With only a few songs left they played “Guess There” where the intro hinted a bit Soundgardenesque.

I like that. Sorry, not sorry. You should join me.

The second to last song was “Milkman” and with a syncopated shout, Alicia informed us she ‘got this this feelin’, makes me wanna run.’ And we loved it.

Give Losing a listen and make sure you catch Bully next time they come through DC. They did play at U Street Music Hall last November, so chances are good they’ll be back soon!

Setlist
I Remember
Brainfreeze (I think)
Sharktooth
Trying
Focused
Either Way
Spiral
Running
Feel the Same
Trash
Six
Guess There
Seeing It
Kills to Be Resistant
Milkman
(unknown)

* I say that because Father John Misty doesn’t seem like an obvious artist for them to open for. They are stylistically and musically different. That’s fine. Also, cool that Bully got to play in front of such a big crowd at The Anthem.

** Remember the ear scene in Wrath of Khan?

Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

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