Alicia Bognanno of Bully. Photos by Maddy Fox for MPR.
Bully are dear to me — and not just because their lead singer, Alicia Bognanno, grew up in a Minnesota suburb near my hometown, though that’s pretty cool too. I had just finished high school when their first album, Feels Like, dropped in 2015, and Bognanno’s charged, screaming vocals about the difficulty, monotony, and messiness of being a young person in the world today resonated. Having been raised on a heavy dose of grunge and 90s alternative (thanks, Mom and Dad), it’s so nice to have a modern counterpart to those bands I grew up listening to.
Last night at the Fine Line Music Cafe the Nashville quartet were playing to an eager crowd, a crowd that even cheered through the soundcheck before the band’s actual set. Returning to the stage, they calmly started in on “Seeing It” off their latest release, Losing, which came out just a few weeks ago. While the track is slower than many of the band’s others, it is easily one of the heaviest and has an explosive chorus, warming up the audience and setting the tone for the rest of the night.
Playing a good mix of songs off Feels Like and Losing, pausing every three songs or so to chat with the crowd, Bognanno told us that she was a little nervous when they first started because of how many people were in the building, but that she was glad to be back playing in Minneapolis. There was enough fog in the building for three haunted houses, making it a bit difficult to see from the balcony where I was standing — the guy vaping right next to me didn’t help — but I did notice some of the more excited fans were able to push their way to the front row to headbang along.
Crowd favorites were easily the singles from both albums, especially “Trying,” “Feel The Same,” and “Milkman,” all delivered with even more fog, strobe lights, and a crowd that swayed in unison because there wasn’t enough room, and maybe not enough rowdy people standing in the same area, for a mosh pit to open up.
There were a few crude comments shouted by some stray hecklers (the vape lord next to me kept yelling “Alicia!” to no avail), and Bognanno laughed them off and countered and established her rightful dominance by saying, “Alright, be quiet or you’re gonna make me f*** up. Can we get complete silence!?” before beginning “Blame.”
Bully closed their set with the decidedly political “Hate and Control,” the final song on Losing. It addresses and validates the upset that many young people are feeling in regards to current social issues. The song speaks to a restless generation that is still learning to employ our power, to overcome and take control, and this show encouraged and empowered us to do exactly that.
The Nashville band returned for a two-song encore, not even two minutes after they left the stage. They gave a quick thank-you before bursting into “Running,” showcasing the vocals and distorted guitar sound of those grunge bands they could easily hold their own against.
Bully ended the night with my favorite of theirs, the short and heavy “I Remember.” Bognanno scream-sings nearly the entire song in a powerful ode to nostalgic moments, a salute to the weightiness that youth carries. It’s a feeling might be hard to remember or understand if you’re no longer in those prime young adult years, but for that one minute and forty-seven seconds, everyone in the building felt it in full.
Big Ups (opener)