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Live Review: Bully w/ Bleeding Knees Club @ The Lansdowne – 19.07.2018

If you are missing out on Splendour this year, there are plenty of gigs to get around to help ease your FOMO woes. Ahead of their Friday Splendour set, Nashville punks Bully cut their teeth on two Aussie headlining gigs, one in Melbourne, and a packed show at the Lansdowne in Sydney.

Gold Coast band, Bleeding Knees Club were the support act, and they came off as pretty bummed about it. The bassist played with only three strings. There was little crowd interaction besides a curt, “Bully is up next,” and a mutter of, “it must just be Thursday-itis.” Either that or the term ‘slacker rock’ is super apt. But the guitarist, Michael Barker, was on a whole different level energy-wise. His wild guitar swings wove their way through the textures like a salmon fighting up stream—fluid but frantic. The contrast was stark but made for an interesting show.

New tracks from the band’s upcoming album ‘Fade the Hammer’ sat alongside older tracks from their 2012 album, ‘Nothing to Do’. A garage-rock style is definitely encroaching on the surf rock territory, thick, loud layers shaking the walls of The Lansdowne.

Bully then took the stage, and the floor quickly filled, punters towering over the crowd—standing on the seats that line the venue. The mix was perfect, you could hear every element with clarity, the band letting the power of the songs speak for themselves rather than blasting volume. The band cultivated an intimate and engaged crowd from the first track, Feel the Same, opener of their 2017 album ‘Losing’. It was quiet enough in some parts to hear the collective crowd in awe.

Singer and guitarist Alicia Bognanno commanded attention with her raw performative playing. Her voice moved from saccharine sharp quips to harsh stabs, constantly jabbing the coals of the crowd’s fire. Her fingers flung around her fretboard, into her mess of blonde hair, and into the air. Lyrics like, “I get anxious too!” “I am trying to stay focused,” “I blame you,” were screamed out, revealing the gutsy heart of Bully’s songs.

The band was incredibly tight, working together to throw dynamic passages and rolling feats of punk into the crowd. The drumming was furious and expressive, and guitars cut through to shine. Focused built with immense power from chill jagged riffs to evocative head screams. Short songs like Not the Way and Spiral came and went with ferocity.

When Bognanno announced they had reached the last song, the crowd was uproarious.

Turns out she totally lied though, and Bully came back for a double encore. Bognanno left her guitar backstage, allowing her to come into the crowd partially, and really let go. These last two songs throbbed with the single guitar and bass, Clayton Parker’s guitar tremolo flying between two speakers, the impressive panning making for an exciting finale.

The band abruptly left the stage, presumably running off to prepare for their 1:45PM set at Splendour the next day. Bully left the crowd buzzing, a punter yelling from behind me, “That was so fucking cool,” summing it up better than I ever could.

Written by Samantha Hughes