I was getting ready to buy my tickets for the excellent David J show earlier this month and I was agog to see that Cindy Wilson, my favorite member of the B-52’s was going to be in town on the 27th of June at The Mothlight. I’ve seen the B-52’s. Twice, in fact. I like them but what I really loved were their first two albums. By the time I finally saw them, when “Cosmic Thing” was rising up and then topping the charts, they had moved on to a whole different plane of existence. They were fun shows [in fact, the 18,000 seat arena show was even more enjoyable than the 3000 seat PAC show] but the band themselves were a faded snapshot of their glory days, at least to me. “Cosmic Thing” was a pretty good late B-52’s album, but the first one was a stunning bolt from the blue of the kind we don’t encounter too often. Listening to their albums, I definitely fixated on the expressive soul Ms. Wilson brought to the game. Her rare vocal turns outside of the B-52s only served to drive home what a fantastic and sassy turn at the mic she was capable of delivering. With Cindy performing solo, this meant that my slight antipathy towards her old band need not come into play. This was to be a show with one of my favorite vocalists playing several feet away from the audience. Sign me up!
Even better, the opening act for this show was going to be Pylon Reenactment Society! Pylon were possibly the second New Wave band out of Athens, Georgia anyone had heard of by the late 70s, and that was down to the B-52s giving them a leg up. They didn’t need much help! They were legendary for being every Athens, GA musician’s favorite band. They were angular, guitar-based Post-Punk with unique and exciting, idiosyncratic vocals by Vanessa Briscoe. I can vouch that Pylon were a big thing in Orlando back in the day, but due to my age at the time [<21], I did not have access to the clubs where they played when venturing to Central Florida. Their gigs were legendary and my friend chasinvistoria sent me a tape of their first album and I always intended to buy some Pylon but never got around to it until their third album, in 1990 after a period of six years inactive. Pylon Reenactment Society got their name from the fact that Pylon’s guitarist Randy Bewley died in 2009, putting an end to the band’s occasional re-groupings for shows that had happened for the last decade or so.
Vocalist Vanessa thought about paying tribute to Pylon’s legacy at an Art Rocks Athens event a few years back and the gathered up some local Athens talent that saw great worth in revisiting the Pylon songbook for the occasional show or two. They were in my town last year, and I had wanted to go but either a combination of fatigue or low budget conspired to stay my hand, to my regret. Sleep, you can get any time! I was thrilled that I would be seeing Vanessa delivering her unique lyrics and phrasing that had made Pylon such an arresting phenomenon for sure this time!
Pylon took to stage shortly after 9 p.m., dangerously close to showtime. Vanessa Briscoe Hay and band played brilliant post-punk dance rock touched by the unique presence that she brought to their game. Quite succinctly put, there’s no one else like her and the passage of time has not dimmed her light one whit. She was still a singular vocalist with her own sense of timing and delivery that really grabed me by the lapels and pulled me onto the dance floor. Thank goodness Vanessa thought to create the PRS since this was one hot show that was Post-Punk nirvana nearly 40 years later. I am now three times the age that I was when I could not see them in 1980 and I did not waste any time on the dance floor. This was time shifted payback of a rare kind.
By the end of the show, Vanessa had pulled two gents dancing in front of me onstage to be go-go boys; resplendent in their vintage Pylon t-shirts. Total class! After 45 minutes it was over, and I was a lot sweatier than I had intended to be that night, but the siren call of Pylon could not be resisted. This was, as always, the thinking-person’s dance band and their offbeat and intense, but ultimately fun charm was irresistible.
I was hoping that the bands recent DLX RMs on DFA would be at the merch table, but no such luck. They only had the new live LP of vintage shows that came out lat year on Chunklet Industries, and that was beyond the scope of my scant pocket change. PRS were only playing on the “local stretch” of the Cindy Wilson tour. They played the shows a comfortable drive from the Athens/Atlanta axis, so we were exceptionally lucky to be residing in nearby Asheville this evening. The band have a few more shows later this Summer. You really should not miss them. PRS were certainly all that Pylon were cracked up to be.
Pylon Reenactment Society | Southeast Summer Tour | 2017
July 27 | Saturn | Birmingham, AL
July 28 | The Vista Room | Decatur, GA [with The Swimming Pool Q’s!]
July 29 | Fresh Produce Records | Macon, GA
August 12 – Athens Popfest | Georgia Theatre | Athens, GA
By 10 p.m. Cindy Wilson’s new five piece band were coming onstage to a video projector backdrop. Her new band was completely different to the B-52s. They were a five piece with synth/violinist. Their talented guitarist also doubled on synth occasionally. The vibe they proffered was a bit like New Order meets Tom Tom Club with a dash of dub. Two songs were instros with Cindy manipulating her expression vocals in dub space with an effects box. It was a little trippy, especially with the videos projected behind the stage. Some of the songs from her two new EPs were hazy psychedelic dreamfests. Others were alternative dance rock which is where the New Order comparison came in; but more laid back.
The band played these songs with extended codas/segues between songs, so the problem of “when to clap” reared its confusing head, as it occasionally does in these ambiguous times. The vibe was pretty seamless, and sometimes went from groovy chillout to much more dancefloor focused. The songs were well paced, and diverse with Ms. Wilson taking a more subordinate role here than compared to her brassy B-52s work. The show was unfortunately beset with sound that tended to be louder than it should have been, so her vocals were partially drowned out by the band.
The other distancing factor during this show was that Ms. Wilson came across as being somewhat aloof. She said maybe three words of thanks to the audience at the end of the set, who were all of four feet in front of her in the intimate club. It also bears mentioning that the band were not introduced. I don’t think she was on a star trip though since she walked onstage in unison with the band and they all returned for encore in under a minute. Even so, she wore shades for the entire show, which was another distancing effect.
I like Cindy Wilson’s new band – maybe moreso than the B-52s at this point. They had a cool sound that offered real possibilities. It’s just like she seemed somewhat remote in concert. Maybe it was a case of having worked in arenas and sheds for so long, she was unused to clubland intimacy. Part of my annoyance at this gig was that I had read an interview with Ms. Wilson where she was looking forward to dialing it down and not having to shout in intimate spaces – and then the sound was too loud. The last show I had seen at The Mothlight was David J and it was definitely not necessary to wear earplugs. This show was the first concert I’d attended with earplugs following a run of three this month where they were not needed.
I liked the Cindy Wilson show, but I was prepared to love it. It wasn’t for the material performed; just the detail aspects of the show that conspired to erect a wall between myself and the performers. If the notion of Cindy Wilson unfettered from the B-52’s also appeals to you, you should check it out below. This is the video for “Coporeal” which was projected during the concert.
Cindy Wilson is doing groovy music in a very different vein from the B-52’s, and I see where her band will be hitting Will’s Pub in my old stomping grounds of Orlando next month. I suspect many of the friends I have who still live there will be in attendance. Will’s isn’t much larger than The Mothlight, but by the time she plays there, I hope that Ms. Wilson can lose the shades and connect better with the audience who will be standing just inches away from her.
Cindy Wilson | Summer North American Tour | 2017
June 30 | Zanzabar | Louisville, KY
July 24 | The Wilbury | Tallahassee, FL
July 25 | High Dive | Gainesville, FL, US
July 27 | Will’s Pub | Orlando, FL
July 28 | Crowbar | Ybor City, FL
Sept. 5 | Hard Rock Café | Pittsburgh, PA
Sept. 6 | Lee’s Palace | Toronto, ON
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