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Pylon in the party zone

Critics' darlings return to dance this year around

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"Is Pylon back?" asked Kate Pierson of the B-52's, as she greeted Pylon vocalist Vanessa Briscoe Hay. The B's had just opened for Cher on her never-ending Farewell Tour at the Gwinnett Arena, and Hay popped backstage afterward to say hi.

It was a homecoming reunion for Hay, joined by former B's manager Maureen McGinley, Wax 'N' Facts record store owner Danny Beard and other assorted scenesters, mingling in the recesses of the fluorescent-lit dressing room area.

Pylon was the second new music band to emerge from Athens, officially debuting March 1979, just a month before the B-52's left the Classic City for New York. A unique blend of your basic guitar/bass/drum combo tempered with the galvanizing spoken-sung-screamed vocals of Hay, the band personified the Southern new wave of the early '80s. And, with the B's in the Big Apple, Pylon instantly became the cornerstone of the Athens music and party scene and earned glowing praise from around the world. Their incessant dance beat set the rhythm for the art-school band movement that launched Athens' flood of other influential groups including R.E.M., Love Tractor and the Method Actors.

"Well, we had a show in August," Hay told Pierson, recounting the events that led to the revitalization of the band that hadn't played live in 13 years. "But we have to sort of adjust our schedules around [drummer] Curtis [Crowe]."

"I am playing a lot of Pylon on my [Sirius] radio show, 'Party out of Bounds.' You have to make a new record," said Fred Schneider emphatically. "You tell Curtis to get off his ass."

But Crowe's ass (and the rest of him) hasn't even been on mainland soil since Pylon's now-legendary reunion show in Athens Aug 5. He's been in Hawaii, where he works as construction chief on the set of the TV drama "Lost."

"That was such a hectic period," Crowe recalls by phone from the "Lost" set. "I work in the movie business, so whenever I get the call to go to a job, I have to leave."

"Since Curtis only had one shoot last year," recalls bass player Michael Lachowski, "we figured it wouldn't be a problem." After four practice sessions, the phone rang with a job offer Crowe couldn't refuse, so the rest of Pylon had to wait. When he returned, the band began to practice again. Then, once again, work intervened. After eight practices, "We just said, 'Aw hell, let's go out and play a show,'" Crowe says. "I told people not to expect much and that it would be a fun show, but probably not a good show. But it was both!"

The band has accomplished an impressive feat: It is the only remaining Athens band that has all its original members. And the August show, advertised by word of mouth, was a smashing, sold-out success, proving that the band has a few miles left before complete retirement.

Guitarist Randy Bewley was the linchpin in both the '91 dissolution of band and its current renaissance. In the early '90s, he lost interest in the group and actively distanced himself from it. But now, he says simply, "I just missed my friends and wanted to be back with them." After a few calls to his old bandmates, Pylon was back in action. "It's fun again," he says. "I can be as silly as I want to be around them," agrees Hay, "and it's OK."

Now, after so-called farewell shows in two different decades ('83 and '91), the band is back and ready to play for a new generation of fans -- that is, when their schedules permit.

"Probably the coolest thing about playing again," says Crowe. "is that my kids finally got to see what their old man used to do for a living. My son, he's a good critic. When he sees a show or a movie I've worked on, he'll be honest and say, 'Dad, that was dumb,' or 'Couldn't it have been better?' He saw us play in August. He came up to me afterward and said 'You guys are a great party band.' That made my night."

lee.smith@creativeloafing.com

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