There was no doubt who was playing, as they had actual pylons on stage, lit up with bulbs underneath, bathing the proceedings in a warm crimson. It matched with the band's red attire, the men in t-shirts emblazoned with the word "Cool," the title of Pylon's 1979 debut single -- which also kicked of the band's set. Their first NYC show in probably 17 years, thanks to DFA reissuing their seminal 1980 debut, Gyrate, for the first time on CD.
There was also no doubt who was on stage from the second they broke into "Cool." Pylon may not have made an album since 1990's Chain, but it was apparent they've still got the chops. Drummer Curtis Crowe and bassist Michael Lachowski, in particular, don't seem to have missed in beat -- nothing sluggish or sloppy about their playing. And Randall Bewley's wiry guitar lines still sound fresh. In fact, Pylon felt more of the moment than nine-tenths of the bands who have been aping post punk sounds since it came back in fashion five years ago. They even broke out an old B/W portable trucker TV to add buzz and hum to "Driving School" -- a gimmick that still works.
If there was a weak link, it was singer Vanessa Briscoe who, after years away from the spotlight being a nurse and a mom, seemed a bit shy and self-conscious. At first. But about halfway through the set she loosened up (as did the crowd), started having fun and her charisma returned. By set's end, she was belting out "Beep" and "Danger" like no time had passed. Certainly the adoring crowd, most of whom were older than me by a good eight years I'm guessing (a nice change of pace for me, I must be honest), helped make things more comfortable. I kind of expected to see James Murphy amongst them, but if he was there I didn't spot him. Gang of Four drummer Hugo Burnham was there, however... as was, uh, my cheesemonger.
Setlist, courtesy nyctaper, who has the whole show on his site as lossloss downloads:
Cool | Dub | Driving School | Read a Book | Working is No Problem | Sugarpop | 3×3 | Gravity | Precaution | Weather | The Human Body | Crazy | K | Danger | Volume | Feast on My Heart | Stop It | Encore: M Train | Beep | Sloganistic
MP3: Pylon - Gravity (buy it)
The Mercury Lounge show was sold out, but I'm guessing there are plenty of tickets to tonight's show at Music Hall of Williamsburg. It's a more appealing bill, I think, with Oxford Collapse and Free Blood (ex-!!!), plus DJ slots from Hugo Burnham (billed as Gang of One, har) and Andrew Butler of DFA signees Hercules & Love Affair. All for $14! Cool indeed.