A Whirlwind Ascendancy: Bully At Music Hall of Williamsburg
  • FRIDAY, OCTOBER 09, 2015

  • Posted by: Don Saas

I go to a lot of concerts. I average about two a week but, sometimes, it's as many as 4. And a lot of bands come through New York City. Honestly, if a band matters and they don't have some absurd grudge against this city, they play here on their tours. It's one of the real perks of living in the city. If you love a band and they're together and still on the road, they're coming here. And while some bands visit the city a bunch of times in a single year, I don't have a lot of time to see bands twice. But I've gone out of my way to see two bands twice this year, and I saw them both for the first time on the same night.

Way back in April, I trudged out to Baby's All Right, to watch Bully and Slothrust light Williamsburg ablaze with the sheer intensity of their fem-punk/alt-guitar rock passion. That night, I found two of my favorite breakthrough bands of the year. I got to catch Slothrust about a month and a half or so later at Brooklyn Bowl, and they stole the night, and just as I predicted in my initial piece about that evening in April, Bully quickly moved on to much bigger and better things than Baby's All Right, and when I found out they were going to be headlining Music Hall of Williamsburg, I smiled cause, for once, one of the good guys was winning.



If you don't know Bully, you've missed out one of the premier rock acts to emerge in 2015. Alicia Bognanno is a whirlwind of brutally honest self-assessment, howling vocals, and shredding guitars. From the moment I got sent their first singles after they took SXSW by storm, they immediately stood out from the pack, and their ability to connect is obvious because they've become one of the most discussed rock acts of the year. Alicia Bognanno sings about her sexuality, romance, confusion, doubt, and anger in unfiltered, draining (in the best sense of that word) and raw detail. The last woman to lay it all on the line with this much intensity and personal detail in rock might have been Kathleen Hanna or Shirley Manson. And if their set at the Music Hall last week is any indication, things are only going to keep going up for Bully.

When I caught Bully at Baby's All Right, Feels Like hadn't even been released yet. There were some singles and an EP on Spotify, but that was it. Bully won the crowd over from the opening note because of the sheer intensity of their playing, but nobody knew all the songs yet. That wasn't the case at Music Hall. If you ever want to see a couple hundred folks going hoarse singing "I remember how your sheets smelled!" at once, go see Bully live. Alicia Bognanno was losing her own voice throughout the night; her speaking voice was slowly devolving into a squeaky rasp as the evening progressed, but the audience rewarded her commitment by going all out themselves. I don't like moshers -- I think it's an unnecessarily aggressive act that harms other folks from enjoying the show -- but if you're going to mosh at a show, Bully is the act to do it and the area near the stage become a sea of bodies, pushing and shoving and losing themselves in the frenetic riffs of Bully's guitars.

Bully is here to stay. Barring the sophomore slump on however they decide to follow-up Feels Like -- and something tells me that Alicia Bognanno has plenty of other stories inside her to tell -- Bully is on course to become one of the revitalizing rock acts of the 2010s. I pass this band off to any friends with the most remote taste in reverb-soaked and full-bore rock & roll and none of them have been disappointed yet. And after that night at Music Hall, I suspect everyone in attendance has been doing the same.

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