Monday, February 1, 2016

Bully and Palehound at The Drunken Unicorn, Atlanta - January 31, 2016

Last Wednesday night, Julien Baker wore a pretty self-defining t-shirt that read "Sad Songs Make Me Feel Better."  Last night, Alicia Bognanno of the band Bully wore a t-shirt that read, "You Must Be Walking Backwards. All I Can See Is An Asshole."  The distance between the two bands can fairly well be defined by those two t-shirts, and before you read that as a pejorative toward either band, please know that I like them both (both t-shirts, too).

Before talking about Bully, though, let's talk about opener Palehound.

Palehound is Ellen Kempner from Alston, Massachusetts.  I under to live in Alston, Massachusetts many, many years ago, and David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest is set largely in Alston and the adjacent neighborhood of Brighton.  This was the last night Palehound would be touring with Bully, and both bands watched the other from stageside, and both attested to how much they appreciated each other's music.

Kempner crosses the songwriting craftsmanship of folk with the reckless intensity of punk into a music that's not quite refined but not quite garage either.  I liked her set.  A lot.  It had me jumping up and down. 

Fun fact: the band that's probably most similar to Palehound in sound and style is arguably Speedy Ortiz, and Kempner and Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis were camp-mates one summer and later roommates.

Anyway, Palehound were great and then Nashville's Bully took the stage and brought it to a higher level altogether.

Bully have a melodic punk sound closer in spirit and sound to 90s grunge bands than to today's punk-pop, so it's not surprising to learn that Bully frontperson Alicia Bognanno once interned at famed producer Stave Albini's studio.  Regardless of heritage, though, Bully hit all the right notes, snarling when snarl was needed, jamming when a guitar riff or two was required, and generally working the happy audience into a frenzy.

Alicia and company played about every song from Bully's debut album Feels Like and apologized, like many new bands do, for not having more material to play.  But no one much cared, to be honest, as everyone appeared to enjoy the ferocious enthusiasm of what they did play and it was a great way to spend a Sunday evening.

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