Good Year for Bad Days

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

Mercury decided to release Brian Blush's song "Good Year" as the first single, to the band members' consternation. They saw "Good Year" as a B-side, but trusted the company's judgment.

It failed at the record store, and Mercury seemed to forget the band's earlier successes.

During the first week of January, the Refreshments' contract with Mercury came up for renewal, and Mercury was not excited. (Mercury would neither confirm nor deny a thing to New Times.) It offered to release a second single, "Wanted," and a 90-day extension on the contract to see if it could resuscitate album sales. The Refreshments passed so that they could shop elsewhere.

"We made a co-decision to get off the label," says Clyne.
Peter Lubin remains optimistic on their behalf.
"Strictly as an industry observer," Lubin says, "the Refreshments are more signable now than when I signed them."

As hometown heroes, the Refreshments were an obvious choice to play at the Fiesta Bowl Block Party, but that deal went south as well.

Creative Artists, the L.A. firm that represents the Refreshments, had wrestled with Image Entertainment, the local firm that books the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Block Party, over how much to pay the Refreshments for a New Year's Eve show. Image had offered $17,500, and the band's management insisted on $20,000, which band manager Michael Lustig claims they got last year for a New Year's Eve show at a local venue.

The two sides reached agreement on the figure, but not on what went with it. Image claims that the extra $2,500 included an agreement not to play elsewhere in the Valley between the November contract (which was never actually signed) and the New Year's Eve show. No such wording appears anywhere in the agreement; Image claims that there was a verbal agreement and that such exclusivity is an industry standard.

But the band remained unaware of any such expectation. On the night before Thanksgiving, the Refreshments performed a heart-stopping show to a sold-out crowd at the Cajun House in Scottsdale.

When the Fiesta Bowl found out about the performance, it called Creative Artists, demanded that the band's fee be lowered because of the perceived infraction, but eventually came back to the $20,000 figure.

Lustig went ballistic and told Image Entertainment that the price had just gone up to $35,000.

"That's extortion when you're talking two weeks before an event," says Ken Koziol, Image's president.

Much of the misunderstanding hinged on the sum paid last year to the Gin Blossoms for last year's Block Party, rumored to be well over $100,000, a figure that Koziol refused to confirm, but says did not come out of his budget; instead it had been negotiated directly by Frito-Lay, the owner of Tostitos.

The Refreshments saw the exclusivity as an attempt to limit their earnings as a local band.

"When you're paying $17,500 to $20,000, they're no longer a local band in my mind," fumes Koziol. "You cross the line and become a national act and then different rules apply."

The Fiesta Bowl got out its big guns. On December 23, although the negotiations to date had been handled by managers and agents, the band members themselves were served with subpoenas at 1:30 in the afternoon ordering them to be in Superior Court at 4 p.m. The Fiesta Bowl was seeking a temporary restraining order to keep them from performing their Christmas show and also was seeking damages against the band to recoup the costs of publicizing the concert that would not happen.

Precisely at 4 p.m., the elevator doors opened on the top floor of the courthouse and ejected three Refreshments and a lawyer of the moment. They'd spent the few hours' notice frantically looking for representation.

Blush was dressed in full concert regalia, rock-star suit, hat and boots in place. Clyne wore sneakers and a suit coat. Naffah had on his usual baseball cap. Edwards was out Christmas shopping and blissfully unaware of the uproar.

The elevator opened again and launched out reporters, notepads in hand. Clyne spoke animatedly, waving arms, wondering aloud why the Fiesta Bowl had rained down on them.

"I have to remember to breathe," he said in an aside.
Blush was smooth and measured, quietly answering questions.
Naffah sat on a bench with an amused look on his face, unpursued by the reporters and not really caring.

He turned to the New Times reporter he'd had lunch with that afternoon and said, "How's that burrito sitting with you?"

The elevators opened a third time, and the Fiesta Bowl party walked out in single file, as caricatured as a scene from A Hard Day's Night: first a Snell & Wilmer attorney who resembled Niedermeyer from Animal House, then a leggy lady attorney in a short skirt, then Koziol, then two Fiesta Bowl officials, the last one carrying a phone. The rockers and the reporters all stopped talking to watch the procession march toward the courtroom.

The Refreshments' lawyer pulled them aside to try to come up with a strategy. He suggested they offer up a free charity concert in the name of the Fiesta Bowl, if the other side would drop all other issues. Clyne and Blush talked it back and forth and then turned to Naffah and asked what he thought.

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