Good Year for Bad Days

Their record company just dumped them; Fiesta Bowl sponsors think they're dips; but Tempe still love its Refreshments

"We had a hit single. We sold almost 500,000 records, and we make almost exactly the same as a national band as we made as a local band," says Buddy Edwards. "Almost exactly the same."

They all carry not-so-fond memories of working day jobs so that they could gig at night. And they all jealously cling to a success that allows them to do what they want and get paid for it, knowing it could end at any time.

Otherwise, they are four different men.
Brian Blush, 28, grew up in suburban Detroit, the son of a psychologist. He wandered out to Tempe to study communications at ASU, and when he tired of that, he tried business and then dropped out altogether to focus on band life.

"Brian's the one person I know who knows exactly--exactly--what makes him happy," says bass player Buddy Edwards. "He doesn't care why, and it is both his strength and his weakness. What he likes is to be onstage playing music."

Blush is smilingly cool onstage, hiding beneath his big cowboy hat. He admits that it's almost an out-of-body experience, that he sometimes finds himself listening in, observing from outside and thinking, "Whoa, this is a pretty good band."

But he seems a younger, more vulnerable being walking anonymously around Tempe, the Stetson replaced by a truck-stop baseball cap. About the only thing identifiable about the off-duty Blush are the knees poking through his blue jeans. He speaks gently, introspectively, not just about his music, but about his relief at being off the road long enough to cut his grass and visit with his wife. The other band members joke that they really don't know what Blush does when he's not performing, assuming he inhabits some hermetically sealed universe.

Blush spent the second part of the 1980s in a band named Ritual, which played cover tunes, and then with a second local cover band named August Red. Along the way, he fell under the sway of the legendary guitarist for the Gin Blossoms, Doug Hopkins.

The Blossoms were still a local band, and Blush was too young to get into the clubs where they played. He'd been stopped at the door of Long Wong's, and then, failing to get in the front door of the now-defunct Sun Club, he looked for a way to sneak in.

"I was walking around and found a back door," he remembers, "and I was just about to give it a tug when it flew open. And there was Doug Hopkins, this tall guy with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other. I didn't know who he was."

"Buy me a beer," the older guitarist demanded, "and I won't shanghai your ass."

Blush settled in at the bar, and when Hopkins took the stage, he settled into new aspirations.

"I sat back and it changed my life," he says.
Blush claims he learned much about guitar playing from Hopkins, though it's hard to hear. His licks on Fizzy Fuzzy are bigger and edgier than Hopkins' guitar work on the Gin Blossoms' New Miserable Experience--if that is any fair comparison. Hopkins was on his way out of that band when the album was recorded, and how much he actually contributed, and how much of his soul had already been consumed by alcoholism, has been debated in the press.

But influence shows itself in other ways.
"Brian was Doug's biggest fan," says Curtis Grippe from Dead Hot Workshop. "He wore a hat like Doug's, kinda walked like Doug, stands onstage like Doug. He plays riffs like Doug. Doug was his mentor."

Arthur Eugene Edwards III, 28, calls himself Buddy, because, he says, the long name is too regal for a kid from Moline, Illinois. His parents and grandparents worked in the John Deere plant there, but Edwards went to ASU to study English literature.

"I studied English lit because I wanted to know what Moby Dick was about," he says. "I had no plans for a job. Before the Refreshments, I had 10 jobs in 14 months, doing the lowest of the low."

But he liked being in a town where the local bands played more than just cover tunes. He'd work a week or two to pay the rent or airfare to Mazatlan, gigging at night in college bands. When he graduated from ASU, he applied to the university's graduate program in creative writing and was turned down. Ironically, unlike most aspiring writers in writing programs, he now earns enough to spend his days at the computer working on a novel.

Edwards has an explosive and a frequent laugh.
He lives with his wife in Ahwatukee, drives her Camry, and is like just another accountant in sneakers and a flannel shirt on his day off. During an interview at a taco chain in an Ahwatukee strip mall, Edwards was interrupted by his next-door neighbors. They chatted politely about the taco franchise.

After they left, Edwards apologized for not introducing them because he didn't know their names, even though he's lived next door to them for several years.

"They don't know what I do," he said.
Edwards seeks normalcy and hates being on the road.
"You're taken away from everything that's regular in your life," he says. "When I come home, I kind of demand a certain amount of: This is what happens in the morning, this is what happens in the afternoon, and this is the evening, every day, and I literally write it out on a piece of paper every day."

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