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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Children of the '80s, rejoice!

Because Pylon is back and they are playing in Philadelphia Saturday night at the World Cafe Live!

In December of 1987, R.E.M. was chosen by Rolling Stone as “America’s Best
Rock And Roll Band,” an honor that was quickly dismissed by drummer Bill Berry.
“We're not the best rock’n’roll band in America." Pylon, he declared, was much
more deserving of the honor than his group. Yet, at the time, Pylon had been
broken up for four years.

But such is the legacy of Pylon. Word of mouth and a relatively small but
vital cache of music, often traded by hard-core fans and collectors, has kept
the story of the fiercely independent and highly influential band alive for
three decades.

The quartet was born in 1979 in the humid college town of Athens, Georgia. It’s hard to believe now, but back then there was no real music scene in the now-legendary city. The B-52’s had made their mark and quickly moved to the greener pastures of New York. Cover bands and redneck frat parties served the college community, leaving the more artistically inclined outsiders with plenty of free time to create their own little world. Pylon was born of this necessity and deftly rose to the occasion -- on their own terms.

University of Georgia art students Randy Bewley(guitar) and Michael Lachowski (bass) teamed with drummer Curtis Crowe to fill out their repetitive “electronic experimentation” project, grinding out lock-step mechanical art rock that treaded danceable beats with the precision of a well-oiled machine. Two weeks after the addition of vocalist Vanessa Briscoe, the novice band debuted at a downtown party in March of ’79. Just a few shows and a few months later, they were opening for Gang of Four in NYC and Philadelphia.

Oh, man...Gang of Four! Commie dance music from the UK...

The “art-oriented, New Wave dance-party circuit” as Lachowski once referred to their clique, soon responded with a wave of new bands -- including an enigmatic garage band called R.E.M. Athens became a hotspot for music as The B's became the IT band of the New York scene, riding high on “Rock Lobster," and spreading the word about Pylon and the burgeoning Athens scene to anyone who’d listen.

Pylon's first single, "Cool" / “Dub” was released on Atlanta’s DB Recs label in early 1980, earning a slew of excited press that immediately heralded Pylon as a major underground act. The band’s jagged rhythms, scratchy guitar and insistent bass lines were the perfect foil for Vanessa’s whisper-to-a-shriek vocals and the band’s live shows were sweaty dance parties. Their debut LP Gyrate, was released in November of ’80 amid a heady time for the band. A string of sold-out club shows across the US was highlighted by an opening slot for The B-52's in New York's Central Park.

Glowing reviews came flooding in, including attention from Rolling Stone, Trouser Press and seemingly every other magazine on the planet. “Gyrate is a very good record that, in its humor, drive and purposeful innocence, sums up everything that’s best about the new American rock bands,” wrote Tom Carson in Rolling Stone. “[Pylon] bears scant relation to anything,” cooed a writer in NME. Pylon garnered a virtual torrent of positive reviews, all praising the band’s minimalistic approach, charming naiveté, artful use of space, persistent beat and quirky yet concise lyrics.

After Gyrate, the band soldiered on, releasing the stylistically adventurous Chomp while continuing to tour the US and UK to uniformly glowing reviews for their performances. The band remained an independent enterprise and when the project became more of a job than an exploration of art, they called it day with no one to answer to but themselves.

Many bands would be happy to relive those glory days, but damned if Pylon didn’t have another trick up their sleeve. In ’90 they reunited, released Chain and opened a string of well-received shows for R.E.M. before calling it quits once again the next year with a massive garage sale in their hometown the day after their final show. This time, they said, they were gone for good.

Or were they?

In the summer of 2004, fans and critics were shocked and pleasantly surprised to hear the rumors that Pylon had been secretly rehearsing at a practice space in Athens. Suddenly, on a balmy August day, word spread through Athens about a “secret” Pylon show, later that night. Naturally by showtime, the place was packed with old friends and fans who’d certainly heard of the band, but were too young to experience the real thing in person.

Pylon blazed through a set of their best-known material with Crowe bashing away on a set of drums borrowed from -- drumroll, please… yep, you guessed it -- old pal and long-time supporter Bill Berry. The band rocked with wild, wide-eyed and loose-limbed abandon, occasionally stealing glances at each other as if to assure themselves it was indeed happening after so many years of silence. For an all-too-brief brief moment, it was just like a hot summer night in Athens, circa 1981.

That brings us to today. After a string of successful gigs in Athens and Atlanta, Pylon is ready to create another era of their musical history. The very same line-up that ignited the Athens scene of the so-called Golden Age (and the only Athens band of any era to feature the original personnel) still has that spark and charisma that audiences and writers fell in love with the first time around. And the best news of all is that the outfit hasn’t altered their sound to pander to “modern” tastes, nor have they lost one ounce of their original style, humor and unrelenting art-school beat.

No one but Pylon sounds like Pylon. With an exciting live show and a newly re-mastered version of Gyrate, Pylon is back in action for their legion of old fans and a whole new generation of music lovers.

This is Pylon.


It starts at 11:30 PM, which is way past my bed time, but I have been waiting for this chance for twenty-five years.

This is why we invented naps, kiddies.

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First of all, the word is SEX, not GENDER. If you are ever tempted to use the word GENDER, don't. The word is SEX! SEX! SEX! SEX! For example: "My sex is male." is correct. "My gender is male." means nothing. Look it up. What kind of sick neo-Puritan nonsense is this? Idiot left-fascists, get your blood-soaked paws off the English language. Hence I am choosing "male" under protest.

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