SXSW Music Review: Bully, Wye Oak, Superchunk
Nineties grit sandwiches a quieter reprieve
By Libby Webster,
12:40PM, Tue. Mar. 13, 2018
Mohawk’s outdoor stage – sponsored by The Onion/The A.V. Club – belonged to Bully on Monday night. The Nashville fourpiece hammered out a 40-minute set thriving with pop encased in the sludge and grit of Nineties grunge, a clamor conjuring up everything from the dissonance of the Jesus Lizard to the poppier Pixies or Hole.
Guitarist-vocalist Alicia Bognanno’s voice kicked from gentle and lost-in-the-mix to hollering herself above deafening guitar fuzz. That whipped the packed outdoor stage into a frenzy, after which a violent mosh pit erupted. Pulling from both 2015’s Feels Like and 2017’s Losing, Bognanno abandoned her guitar to close with a thrashing, breakneck cover of “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” by Welsh post-hardcore act McLusky.
Baltimore’s Wye Oak offered a quieter reprieve, the entire set devoted to debuting its forthcoming fifth LP, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs. It marked a night of firsts for the duo – the first live performances of the songs, the first performance as a trio. The Louder I Call leans heavily into electro ambient pop, an amorphous, spacier instrumentation thrumming beneath Jenn Wasner’s velvety voice.
Superchunk closed out the evening totally buoyant, an elated, hourlong adrenaline rush delivered via the band’s seminal blend of power-pop and punk. Fresh off of the release of last month’s What a Time to Be Alive, the 11th album from the North Carolina quartet, the newer work made up the bulk of the set list.
Of course classics made key appearances, too.
“Skip Steps 1 & 3,” “Hello Hawk,” and the crowd-pleasing “Slack Motherfucker” from 1990’s self-titled debut all blended seamlessly into the new catalog. Anchored by Mac McCaughan’s snotty vox and expert, rapid-fire guitar solos, Superchunk was a blur of constant motion live. Boyish energy fed high kicks and guitars being spun like pinwheels, all radiating a reckless sincerity.