Pylon Reenactment Society.
The Legacy of Pylon’s Music.
The Future of PRS.
Pylon 40 Watt Club 1979
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.
Michael, Curtis, Vanessa, and Randy
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.
Curtis, Michael, Vanessa, and Randy
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
Photo by Amy Ware
More than a tribute band, PRS have written new songs with Pylon as their guiding star. PRS have delighted old Pylon fans while making new ones. PRS features original Pylon vocalist Vanessa Briscoe Hay, guitarist Jason NeSmith, bassist Kay Stanton and drummer Gregory Sanders.
PRS was formed in 2014 to play a few Pylon songs for a one-off show as part of an arts retrospective exhibit named Art Rocks Athens - appropriate as the members of Pylon were all art majors at UGA. Vanessa decided to call the project Pylon Reenactment Society - an inside joke among the original band when they were relearning their material in the early 2000s. The Art Rocks show was enthusiastically received. Encouraged, and with the surviving Pylon members’ blessings, Pylon Reenactment Society became a real band.
Shows with Fred Schneider, Dressy Bessy, 75 Dollar Bill, and KAG of Priests soon followed. Requests for shows around the country and overseas began to flood in. What had started as a one-off project, has now wowed both long-time fans who thought they would never get to see this music performed live again as well as younger fans who have just discovered Pylon. The positive feedback provided impetus to keep moving forward and to write fresh material in the spirit of Pylon.
Since 2015 the band has released a 12” EP, a 7” single, a Bandcamp single, and three music videos. They are currently in the process of recording their first full length album. Festival and concert series appearances include Part Time Punks, Savannah Stopover, Sarasota Film Fest, U+N Fest, Barely Human Fest, Irrelevant Festival, Athens Popfest, Westobou, and Primavera Sound 19. A live concert was filmed in January 2019 for "Athens, GA/Inside-Out 2: Red Turns Into Blue" - a new documentary co-directed by Bill Cody and Tony Brazier, now available on DVD, streaming services and theater screenings.