Too often the parting of the Oxford Art Gallery’s heavy curtains seems out of place; an overly grand gesture not always befitting of the artists who are about to grace the venue’s stage. But as the fabric was drawn apart for Bully’s Sydney show, revealing the Nashville band standing taut and ready, soaked in red light, it seemed like the perfect opening. It was, in short, a significant entrance, one befitting a significant group.
After all, there are very few bands who can make the mundane feel mythic the way Bully do, and though their music is ever rooted in the real, it has a vague, hard to define epic quantity, one very much on display as the band blasted through the first three songs that kick off Feels Like. I Remember morphed into Reason which morphed into Too Tough, as the songs grew swollen with a potent energy.
Though the band’s incendiary Trying got the most enthusiastic response from the crowd, every single song was met with applause and cheers. Indeed, with each number played a feeling of solidarity grew. One was struck with the feeling that something was being built and achieved; that a sudden sweaty community was being formed across the dance floor. Shoulders rubbed; revellers stumbled over each other; beers were raised aloft; but the contact never became conflict, and the attitude was singularly focussed.
A hefty part of this is due to the lead singer Alicia Bognanno’s lyrics. After all, any song that can get a room full of people deeply invested in a song about Bognanno breaking her sister’s arm, a story she tells on Six and one that had revellers cheering descriptions of snapped bones, is doing something both unique and very, very right.
That said, the defining moment of the gig occurred during a rendition of the spit-and-tear tainted Trash. As the lights behind Bognanno grew impossibly bright; as her band wielded guitars like rifles, and drew tattoos across the face of a drumset; as the song reached its incredible crescendo; something was achieved. An outcome was reached. Something was changed. Afterwards, the audience swapped looks, not entirely sure they could confirm what had just happened. And Bognanno, smiling broadly, uttered her thanks and launched right into the next one.