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  BULLY w/ Clemente  
  The Star Community Bar  
  Little Five Points, Atlanta, GA  
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Bully are a band I've been meaning to revisit in my reviews for a while. The last time I mentioned them, they hadn't played out in a while and were quite good, although a little rough around the edges. Since that show, I've seen them numerous times. However, I've never come back to write about them. Until now.

In previous reviews, I've mentioned The Star Bar's tradition of having one band play/host every Wednesday night concert during a month. For May, this band was Bully. And as much as I wanted to see them on this evening, I was even more curious about Clemente, a local band who I've heard good things about. So with the promise of two good bands in front of me, I headed off to The Star Bar to see what the evening would bring.

Once I got to The Star Bar, this guy in the monkey suit (no I'm not kidding) introduced Clemente as a "swamp pop" band. Now, I'm not certain what swamp pop should sound like, but I'm pretty sure that Clemente are not it. That's not to say that the band wasn't good, but rather that they reminded me more of 5-8 fronted by Will Oldham w/ just a touch of Cafeteria or some other country band. However, I'll confess that other people around me immediately compared them to Wilco. Either way, Clemente's lineup that night of guitar, bass, drums, and slide guitar performed nicely, although it was apparent from some of their starts and stops as well as their tuning time that this is a band that isn't used to playing out much (and they weren't helped out by a bass that seemed to be turned up a little too loud). They're still rough around the edges, but certainly promising. And from the breadth of their sound it seems like they aren't a band to be pigeonholed as merely "country" or anything like that. In fact, perhaps their best song of the night came towards the end of their set, when they broke into a straight indie pop song that was quite reminiscent of Butterglory in their heyday.

After Clemente's enjoyable set, I was looking forward to seeing Bully again. On the surface, they are perhaps not a band you'd expect me to like. I tend to listen to more garage-y, reverbed music whereas Bully is clearly a rock band. Still, I've always been pleased by the combination of very solid musicianship and wonderful song writing. And on this night, despite a rather quick, short set, they did not disappoint.

Clearly, this was a band that had made good use of the opportunity to play out throughout the last year. Bully has become a cohesive unit that seems to run on sheer instinct, with each of the guitarists playing off each other without a cue. Furthermore, this ability to play well on both the old and new songs without appearing to try showed off the ability of the musicians in a way I had not noticed before. Of course, at the heart of Bully's performance are the songwriting skills of Joel Burkhart. He has an ability to craft memorable rock songs filled with self-deprecating lyrics that are half funny and half heart-breaking. And it's all delivered in his low-pitched gruff voice that still retains its emotive power, even if he's not a classically trained singer.

However, the clear highlight of their set came towards the end of the evening. Without introduction, they almost hesitantly began a song that seemed familiar to me. They stopped for a moment and they began again, this time with more strength and confidence. And I began to laugh, because I now recognized that Bully was covering The Drive By Truckers' Let There Be Rock. Although it wasn't a note for note cover, it was well done and was delivered with the same intensity I'd expect from The Truckers themselves. And I guess in the end that's the best I can say about Bully: much like The Drive By Truckers, if they can keep it all together, they have the makings of a great rock band.

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