When living in Philadelphia, you quickly realize there are countless bars that dot the city streets, and an equally absurd number of musical venues. Rarely do you find one that perfectly combines the best of both, which is what the Boot and Saddle located on Broad Street aimed to achieve. Entering and walking through what seemed like an ordinary bar, the main walkway continued to a surprisingly large backroom exclusively for live shows. It was there that I had the opportunity to experience the band Bully’s first ever 2015 headlining tour spanning across Canada, Europe and the U.S. as they stopped there Sept. 30. The grunge punk rock group out of Nashville snared my attention from the get go and thoroughly surprised me with the heart and soul they put into their music.
The band previously toured with Hamilton Leithauser on his solo tour earlier in 2015 and had visited Philadelphia this past January. They have since moved on from supporting acts to having their own full-blown tour. Accompanying them on their travels are the Canadian bands Dead Soft and Heat. The former group hails from Vancouver, the latter Montreal. Heat in particular stood out with some catchy beats and piqued my interest for later listening. After the few entertaining opening sets, Bully entered through the crowd cheerfully and excitedly, spurring the audience to a fever pitch and packing the room to full capacity.
I had just heard of Bully in passing, so I was only familiar with their new single, “Trying,” which has since garnered much attention in the music world. This was the song that hooked me into hearing more, devouring the rest of their newly released album, “Feels Like.”
That being said, as they took to the stage I was ready to rock. Each member of the four piece band took their spots with their front woman Alicia Bognanno addressing the crowd before they jumped into their first song.
Going through most of their new album, I got a good taste and feel for the band and was captivated. A juxtaposition of strident chords and the sepulchral tones of Bagnonno’s voice brought back the feel of grunge and angst I haven’t experienced since the 90s. It’s something I’ve sorely missed. Perhaps the best comparison that could be made would be that of Gwen Stefani from her No Doubt era.
The song “Trying” perhaps best sums up what the band is about, and as such was a massive hit with the crowd. Listening to the lyrics, so many can attest to the similar problems and feelings that people experience. One in particular stands out, “There’s no flawless education just a stupid degree, the feeling of growing so far from myself.” Any college student can relate with just how uncertain they feel about putting so much work towards a degree which has no guarantee towards a future.
At the end of the show, the band walked through the crowd exactly as they came in, stopping to speak and take the occasional selfie with a fan. I walked out just after the band members did themselves. Still humming the tunes to myself and amped from all the excitement, I could only hope that they felt just as satisfied with the amazing show they put on as I was.