Loyal fans of the music coming out of Athens, Ga., more than three decades ago won’t soon forget when Rolling Stones declared R.E.M. as “America’s Best Band” in 1987. But drummer Bill Berry insisted another Athens-based band deserved the title: Pylon.
Back then, Athens was full of new rock bands, from the B-52’s to the Method Actors, and a documentary called, “Athens, GA: Inside/Out” in 1987 tried to capture the heart of the college town’s music scene.
The film, which features concert footage and interviews with several Athens bands such as Kilkenny Cats, Flat Duo Jets, Love Tractor, The B-52’s, Pylon and, of course, R.E.M., will be a part of Westobou this year.
Augusta University’s Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre will host the 30th Anniversary screening of “Athens, GA: Inside/Out” on Oct. 6 at 6:30 p.m. with a special guest performance by Pylon Reenactment Society.
While Pylon — a fiercely independent, post-punk band in Athens — had actually already broken up by the time the documentary was released in 1987, the group was prominently featured in the film because it was one of a handful of bands that put Athens on the map.
Formed in 1978, Pylon released such unforgettable albums as Gyrate in 1980 and Chomp, in 1983, but eventually broke up in late 1983.
The group played a “final show” at Athens’ Mad Hatter in December of 1983 before disbanding for what would be the first of three times.
“What was the genesis of all of that was when we opened for U2 (in 1983),” Pylon’s singer Vanessa Briscoe Hay recently told the New York Observer. “It was a painful experience in some ways being the opening band. They weren’t quite the monster they are now, but they were pretty big and their audience didn’t like Pylon at all.”
“Most of the experience was the audience yelling ‘Get off the stage!’ and things like that,” she added. “It wasn’t a lot of fun, but (U2) asked us to open the rest of the whole tour with them and we turned them down.”
The band’s agent was shocked, but the members of Pylon had made a personal decision, she said.
“We were like, ‘Let’s just quit while we’re having fun,’” Hay reportedly said. “That was kind of the idea in the first place. We were just going to perform as long as it was fun. So we broke up, and it was a decision we all made together.”
Uncontrollable fame and the band’s music simply just didn’t go hand in hand, explained Pylon’s bassist Michael Lachowski.
“We didn’t necessarily want to do what a lot of people suggested we had to do,” Lachowski told the Observer. “Everybody had these notions of a prescribed pathway for us and we were like, ‘O.K., we’ll just show you guys that we were serious about doing it on our terms.” So we quit.”
The band had a brief reunion in the 1990s and then again in 2004; however, when guitarist and founder, Randy Bewley tragically died of a heart attack in 2009 at only 53, Pylon permanently disbanded.
“Pylon died when Randy died,” Hay told The Observer.
But, while Pylon will always be Curtis Crowe, Hay, Lachowski and Bewley, members of Athens bands Casper & the Cookies, The Glands and pianist Damon Denton joined with Hay in 2014 to form a Pylon tribute band (of sorts) called Pylon Reenactment Society.
Basically, Athens’ musician Jason NeSmith was in charge of a music committee for the Art Rocks Athens, an event exploring the connection between the art and music scene in Athens between the years 1975-1985.
In 2014, NeSmith approached Hay about performing a short set of Pylon songs at Art Rocks Athens and the crowd loved it.
As a result, Pylon Reenactment Society was born.
30th Anniversary Screening of Athens, GA: Inside/Out with Pylon Reenactment Society
AU’s Maxwell Theatre
6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6
$15, advance; $20, day of show