After Bragg Jam, I happened to come across an old episode of 99% Invisible called “Frozen Music.” It features a recorded conversation between acclaimed producer and composer Jon Brion, in which he puts the history of recorded music into two different categories, each with their own merits: those recordings that qualify as ‘songs’ versus those that are better described as ‘performance pieces.’ The former, he contends, are detailed creations with more melodic longevity, and the latter are unreplicable moments, the product of certain people in a room at a certain time. However, at no point in the conversation did Mr. Brion expound on the possibility that the two labels aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.
The best moments in recorded musical history occur when artists float between the two or embody them both fully, simultaneously. As proof of that proposal, I offer you Exhibit A: Bragg Jam 2017, Pylon Reenactment Society at Fresh Produce Music Hall.
Before the incarnation of the Pylon Reenactment Society, the recorded output of the original Pylon existed to me as a beautiful time capsule, easily classifiable as what Mr. Brion would call a ‘performance piece.’ Their records, especially Gyrate, seemed to provide a visceral, four-cornered snapshot of Athens, Georgia in the early 1980s. The problem with snapshots, though, is that they don’t always provide an objective truth about their features. They inspire heady nostalgia and often warp memories. Gyrate is hands-down a desert-island record for me, but I never thought it could exist outside the snapshot-confines of Side A and B of a piece of wax. Boy, was I wrong.
Pylon Reenactment Society at Fresh Produce Music Hall proved that the band can somehow remain faithful to their recorded output, while also showing that they can exist in an environment far removed from where the music was originally formed. Their songs are from a certain moment in time, and they’re from the future. They’re also perfectly suited for the present musical climate in the country, which is why Pylon remains such an influential band. They’re melodically beautiful, and they’re pure performance pieces that can stand the test of time
Their set was the highlight of the festival for me, and the best part of my night involved making train noises into the microphone and a sweaty hug with Vanessa Hay during the last song of the show. Those kind of moments are why I’ll take live music over sitting at home with a record any day, and they’re part of what makes Bragg Jam such a special event every year.
For the Bragg Jam experience beyond the above moments, I didn’t stick to my schedule at all. Other than Pylon Reenactment Society at Fresh Produce, I played a sweaty set at Grant’s Lounge with Widow Pills; I saw enough of Faye Webster and later Walk Thru Walls to know that I need to check out more; I boogied with *repeat repeat for awhile, talked tacos and high school with Elroy Love, and was lucky enough to catch some of the Brett Harris Band’s set at Gallery West. That was another highlight of the night, which included a personal favorite, “Up In The Air.” The song’s beautiful melody immediately burrows into your ear and sets up a nest.
I certainly didn’t see as much music as I would’ve liked to see, and true to what is in danger of becoming an annual tradition, I made my exit just after midnight, for I am not as young as I once was, dancing is still considered exercise, and tequila continues to function as advertised. See y’all next year.