SAN FRANCISCO — Playing even faster than on Bully‘s new album, Losing, singer Alicia Bognanno flew through the opener, “Feel The Same.” With frenetic energy, Bognanno bounced on the stage. The song, which sounded like a mix of Sonic Youth and The Breeders, has a guitar riff in which one could get lost. Her and Clayton Parker’s strumming came blasting in, setting the show up for what was to come.
On “Guess There,” Bognanno’s blonde hair flew about, covering her face. Her vocals were soft and tender. As Bully continued through its set, anticipation slowly built.
Reece Lazarus’ catchy bass line on “Seeing It” was the calm before the storm. As Bognanno’s vocals came piercing through the fuzzy guitars, she yelled out, “I didn’t want to/ I should put this on you/ I quit seeing it in you.” The delivery were pure, raw emotion.
As Stewart Copeland (no relation to The Police) began drumming quickly on “I Remember,” and Bognanno started screaming the song, the crowd came undone, and mosh pits broke out throughout the venue. People were flying at the stage in a surge. Bognanno, who somehow never missed a beat, continued to play without missing a note.
When she also noticed people getting crushed in the front, she took time to make sire everyone was having a good time and not getting hurt. That’s a rarity.
Bognanno has an ability to switch between singing softly to screaming on a dime, all without losing her voice. In “Running,” she began really softly before the angst emanated, and she screamed, “I get anxious too/ Just like you.”
In the hour that Bully played, the band played most of the songs off its new album as well as its prior LP, Feels Like. During the encore Bognanno said, “This has, maybe, been my favorite show of the tour.”
Bully then began top single “Trying,” which had the crowd singing along. It ended with Bognanno walking atop the tables that line the Great American, singing an intense cover of Mclusky’s “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues,” before collapsing on the floor. Fans went wild. The band tore it up, ending the show at a high point.
Three openers played before Bully. Noise-rockers Melkbelly, from Chicago, had guitars all over the place, creating a sonic dissonance. Miranda Winters yelled each song at the top of her lungs. But it was drummer James Wetzel who took control of the show. He was pounding so hard that shards of his sticks went flying into the crowd. The songs came so fast that at times it felt like a speed metal show.
The band, which just released debut album Nothing Valley, was excited to be in town, but disappointed with the weather. They made small talk about not being able to go to the beach and that even when they were in San Diego, it was still nearly as cold as Chicago.
Boy Scouts, a project of San Francisco’s Taylor Vick, opened the show. Vick brought a band of friends to play with her. While the venue wasn’t yet crowded, there was a definite sense appreciation among those who came early. Vick’s dreamy, lush vocals filled the Great American. Even when she broke a guitar string, she rolled with the punches and decided to forego taking the time to string and miss a song. “It will be OK,” she quipped. And it was a lot more than OK—the band was fun to watch, switching between pop and softer, more melodic songs that would end with a punch from loud guitars.
One of Oakland’s newer bands, Club Night, played next. The experimental math rock band was reminiscent of Mew. Lead singer Joshua Bertram toyed with many effects with his massive collection of guitar pedals. His high notes blended into the screeching guitars. Most of Club Night’s songs felt free-form, in which a collection of musicians all hit the stage and played their own music. The bassist was the group’s glue, holding all of the songs together. When the band members came together in unison, their synergy created for fun, danceable tunes. Club Night was definitely the most unique of the bands.