On Oct. 19, Bully and Guano Girls performed in two respectively high-energy sets at The Draw, a small off-campus venue. Despite the concert taking place over reading period, it was surprisingly well-attended, with audience members ranging from freshman to upperclassmen to Lawrence alums all mingling and dancing in the crowd. It’s exciting to have such a well-known artist like Bully come to Lawrence, especially considering that many Lawrentians are also aspiring musicians.
The Guano Girls opened with a high-energy set ranging from their own originals to covers of Angel Olsen and The Beatles. The recently formed band is comprised of juniors Bridget Bartal and Georgia Greenberg and senior Lily Greene. It was fun to see a fresh, new campus band opening for a professional, long-standing group. It served as an inspirational reminder that the most important thing you can do is to make the music you want to make—you never know where it will lead you.
Bully was founded in 2013 by lead singer and guitarist Alicia Bognanno, a sound engineer who has worked at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio in Chicago, Illinois and in Nashville, Tennessee at Battle Tapes Recording and The Stone Fox Venue. While in Nashville, she was part of power pop band King Arthur before founding Bully. Comprised of Bognanno, guitarist Clayton Parker, drummer Wes Mitchell and bassist Reece Lazarus, the band has a tangibly strong group chemistry. Their harmonies feature interesting inversions and voicings, laid down by Lazarus’ strong bass. The ensemble is incredibly loud and incredibly tight.
Her petite frame slouched over her guitar and her wild blonde hair flying everywhere, Bognanno embodies the “laid-back rocker chic” aesthetic. Yet her music is anything but laid-back. Bognanno holds nothing back. Her lyrics are intense, personal and vulnerable. She eschews vague poetry for lyrics that tell intimate narratives that offer a close look at many twisted and complex emotions. Musically, her songs play heavily with contrast, often starting with softer “indie girl” vocals and then escalating into a distinctive raspy scream. The band also has a strong dynamic range which, in a world of audio compression, felt authentic and fresh. Throughout the concert one could find Bognanno both dancing on stage or crooning into her mic while playing guitar. Her confidence and strength as a performer was absolutely magnetic, capturing the attention of the entire room. Meanwhile, the rest of the band remained completely tight and well-balanced even in the most extreme moments, such as a song when Alicia laid on the floor as she performed.
It’s exciting to see a band that plays with such raw vulnerability both musically and lyrically but never sacrifices both their polish or harmonic complexity in order to achieve their high-energy and raw appeal. It is inspiring to see artists with such a distinct vision, and it is inspiring to those who are also interested in making and sharing their music with the world.