Pylon Reenactment Society

Pylon Reenactment Society is booking and performing several shows in 2018. Click on the Schedule button above to see if we'll be playing near you. Contact us directly to book.


Photo by John Boydston https://jobo.smugmug.com/

Pylon Reenactment Society.
The Legacy of Pylon’s Music.
The Future of PRS.

When people talk about the beginnings of the music scene in Athens, GA the discussion usually begins “The B-52’s, R.E.M...” Those who know will continue the list, PYLON. They were every Athens, GA band’s favorite Athens band. Their musical naïveté, southern upbringing, art school smarts, and house-party roots exploded together to create something quite improbably amazing, hitting the listener on mental, physical, and spiritual levels simultaneously. On the surface, their angular guitar parts and dynamic rhythm section had something in common with UK post-punk bands like Gang of Four and PIL, but PYLON was more fun and less studied — and they had a secret weapon in Vanessa Briscoe Hay, whose inimitable vocal textures and phrasing defined the band’s sound for most listeners.

A Brief History of Pylon

Pylon began as a project conceived by UGA art school roommates Randy Bewley and Michael Lachowski in the fall of 1978. The idea was to form a band, perform in NYC, get written up in New York Rocker and disband. Curtis Crowe heard them practicing from upstairs and brought his drums downstairs to the mix. Former classmate Vanessa Briscoe Hay was recruited to audition on February 14, 1979 after several other art school friends didn’t work out. Two weeks later, they performed their first show above the local record shop Chapter Three Records. Shortly after this, the B-52's caught them at a party out in the country. Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider thought that Pylon should go to NYC and helped by personally taking Pylon’s tapes around to clubs . Their help resulted in a gig opening for the Gang of Four at Hurrah. Instead of New York Rocker. they were written up in Interview Magazine by music critic Glenn O’Brien. What followed was a Cinderella story of sorts. Instead of disbanding, they decided to keep at it as long as it was fun. Along the way, Pylon opened for bands like Talking Heads, PIL, The B-52s and toured throughout the US, Canada and the UK. They also recorded two albums and three singles for Atlanta label DB Recs.

Pylon called it quits on December 1,1983, after deciding that the music business was too much business and not enough fun. This “last show” was documented for an unaired TV pilot and was later released in 2016 as Pylon Live by Chunklet.

It was over, but... Pylon changed their minds and reunited in 1988. Two things had occurred: their song Crazy was covered by R.E.M. and a high profile segment in the documentary Athens, GA /Inside-Out both showcased the band to a new generation of music fans. Both R.E.M. and the B-52s talked openly of their love for Pylon in interviews and successfully encouraged them to reform. This time around the band would try to behave like a professional outfit. After a few years of touring and making one more album, they disbanded again in 1992. They all went back to their lives that included school for some, working, raising families and making art.

In 2004, at Bewley's request, the band reformed a second time — this time just for fun. They also remastered their first two albums for their first ever proper CD release on DFA Records and played a few high profile shows on the East and West coasts.

Not long after Gyrate Plus was issued and work was completed on Chomp More, Bewley died from injuries sustained in an accident caused by a heart attack on February 25, 2009. Afterwards, Pylon announced that they were formally disbanding. There could be no Pylon without the original four members. They went back to their lives and Vanessa continued making music for a time with the recording project Supercluster.

A Brief History of Pylon Reenactment Society

Pylon Reenactment Society began their grassroots driven career by playing what was to be a one-off show during a series of events called Art Rox Athens that explored the connection between the art and music scene in Athens,GA between the years 1975-85. Vanessa Briscoe Hay was invited to perform by one of her former Supercluster bandmates, guitarist and producer Jason NeSmith, who was organizing the shows. He was extremely surprised when she said that she wanted to perform some Pylon songs. Vanessa did not want either guitarist Randy Bewley or the music of Pylon to be forgotten at this event. After all, Pylon had all been art majors at UGA during those years. Casper & the Cookies provided the band which included Jason as well as another former Supercluster member, powerhouse bassist Kay Stanton. Vanessa decided to call the project Pylon Reenactment Society because it wasn’t Pylon, and as a nod to what Pylon sometimes jokingly called themselves at practice.

The Art Rock Athens audience went crazy, and PRS was invited back to play a longer set the following year opening for Fred Schneider of the B-52s. PRS added a new drummer for this show after C&tC’s Gregory Sanders bowed out to have shoulder surgery. Veteran drummer Joe Rowe (The Glands, Love Tractor reunion shows) was brought in and kinetic keyboardist Damon Denton was also added to bring in fresh textures and sounds.The feedback from the audience was again very positive. Indie darlings Dressy Bessy heard about this show and invited PRS to play a few dates with them. What had started as a one-off project, has now wowed both long-time fans who thought they would never see Pylon’s music performed live again and younger fans who have just discovered it. Besides Part Time Punks and Art Rocks Athens, in the last couple of years PRS have performed at Savannah Stopover, Sarasota Film Fest, U+N Fest, Barely Human Fest, Irrelevant Festival, Athens Popfest, Westobou and have shared the stage with the likes of Swimming Pool Qs, Richard Barone, Positive No, 75 Dollar Bill, Mitch Easter’s Project Balderdash, Ltd, Dressy Bessy, The Tissues, Cindy Wilson and many other fine indie bands,. The enthusiasm of audiences at their live shows has provided impetus to keep moving forward and to begin writing fresh material in the spirit of Pylon. They aren’t Pylon, but are maybe the next best thing.


Recordings

In 2017, PRS released a 6 song EP called Part Time Punks Session which was recorded by Josiah Mazzaschi at the Cave Studio prior to a show at the PTP event in LA curated by Michael Stock who is also DJ for the long running show of the same name on KXLU-fm. Available through Revolver / Midheaven and Chunklet’s Bandcamp site on vinyl and cassette. It is nearly sold out.

As of this writing, two new songs have been recorded and will be released in October as a vinyl 7” by Chunklet. The single will be sold through the distributor Revolver USA/Midheaven Mailorder internationally, through Bandcamp by Chunklet and at live shows.


Why does the music of Pylon still have such appeal to all ages and types of people? Vanessa Hay and the musicians in the Pylon Reenactment Society — guitarist Jason NeSmith, bassist Kay Stanton, keyboardist Damon Denton and drummer Joe Rowe — give muscle to Pylon’s compositions, and Hay’s singing remains as tart and original as ever. Pylon’s musical reputation has grown steadily since 1979, which Hay chalks up to, among other things, the universal appeal of music that compels movement. “I think it still sounds fresh because of what it is, and I think it’s danceable,” she says.
- Edd Hurt, Pylon Reenactment Society Carries the Flame for Athens Post-Punk Legends, Nashville Scene, March 1, 2018

In the fertile art-rock scene of Athens, Georgia, in the early eighties, the band to beat was Pylon, a post-punk quartet that front-loaded ominous, danceable bass lines and the screech of the magnetic singer Vanessa Briscoe. As its peers went on to grander stages, Pylon disbanded, in 1983, choosing cult status over a chance to accompany U2 on their first U.S. stadium tour. After a series of reunions, the band closed shop in 2009, upon the death of its guitarist lodestar, Randy Bewley. Pylon Reenactment Society is at once a tribute and a spinoff, with the singer (now Vanessa Briscoe Hay) energetically backed by tasteful musicians from Athens present.
- Jay Ruttenberg, Goings On About Town, The New Yorker, July 1, 2018


Photo by Jim Leatherman http://jimleatherman.com/