Hold the Tonic

The Refreshments are one of a handful of Tempe, Arizona bands that were gobbled up by the big labels in the feeding frenzy set off in that town by the Gin Blossoms. A party-hardy quartet that floated quickly to top billing in the clubs around Arizona State University, the band is blessed with a fiercely collegiate, twang-jangle guitar sound, a nicely manicured scruffy image and impeccable timing. To top it off, they have a good feel for the absurd and an incessant thirst for booze, both of which have come in handy as the group has attempted to deal with the circumstances that led to its swift advancement.

Steering their way through Tempe's circuit of collegiate watering holes, the Refreshments rose to prominence at a rate so accelerated that it made less charmed (and less interesting) Tempe acts jealous. The band had its beginning in a basement in May 1993, with drummer Dusty Denham, bassist Buddy Edwards and singer/guitarist Roger Clyne banging away on dusty, dinged-up instruments; after adding guitarist Brian Blush and settling on the Refreshments as their moniker (a more tasteful alternative to the initial choice, Pop Enema), the band kicked off 1994 with their first shows, stirring talk by wearing water wings, granny glasses and shower caps on-stage. Later that year, a first place prize in the Ticketmaster national talent search provided the Refreshments with the resources to make a self-produced CD, Wheelie. An impressive showcase at the 1995 South by Southwest Music Conference then sealed a recording deal with Mercury, and less than a year later, the Refreshments had themselves a major-label debut, Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy. (Note the play on the Who's Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy; these guys have reverence for their rock forefathers.) By this summer, the strapping, south-of-the-border single "Banditos" was burning up the nation's modern rock frequencies.

It's nice to know that all of this good fortune has so far failed to dilute the Refreshments' endearing regularness. They play simple, guitar-driven melodies precisely and passionately. Live, they feign recklessness and nonchalance while performing with a measure of precision and care that could only come from a secret desire to become rock stars, not just cult heroes. The most irreverent thing about the band remains its barstool humor, which can be found in all its indie glory on Fuzzy tracks such as "European Swallow," with its seedy, tongue-in-cheek chorus, "I'll do anything for you / Anything that you want me to / It's just gonna take a little more money."

Wonder what it'd take for the Refreshments to break out the water wings and shower caps for old times' sake? Something tells me not much.

-- Hobart Rowland
The Refreshments perform Wednesday, September 11, at the Urban Art Bar, 112 Milam. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $1.07, 21 and up; $5, 18-20. Semisonic and Meices open. For info, call 225-0500.

Shawn Colvin -- Fortunately for her, Shawn Colvin has had plenty to keep her reflective side occupied in the two years since the release of her ill-advised Cover Girl CD. Low points on that lamentable collection of takes on other people's work are too numerous to mention, and were too inexcusable to warrant the touring that followed. Not that it isn't always a pleasure when this streamlined Joni Mitchell disciple steps to the mike, even if we have to endure her precious, for-the-girls version of the Police's "Every Little Thing He Does Is Magic." Her voice has the ability to soar and to crumble, and even at its most vulnerable, it retains its earthy grace. Though it may sound uncaring, the recent breakup of her marriage to tour manager Simon Tassano was just the thing Colvin needed to refuel her creative tanks, supplying her with the turmoil needed to drag her songwriting to a more intense level. Colvin's new release, A Few Small Repairs, is due in stores September 24, and this opening slot on Jackson Browne's tour gives audiences a chance to sample in advance some her most unconventionally catchy, emotionally threadbare material to date. At Cynthia Mitchell Woods Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 5. Jackson Browne headlines. Tickets are $15 to $40. 629-3700. (H.R.)

Hootie and the Blowfish -- Hootie and the Blowfish have dodged plenty of barbs from hecklers who would rather see the band sink than swim. But the simple truth of the matter is that critical whining can never overpower the din of ringing cash registers, and Hootie CDs continue to fly out of the stores. What makes these mild-mannered straight arrows from South Carolina so popular was obvious long before the press sat down to analyze it. Plainly put, what's equally good for frat parties and cocktail parties is, well, as good as platinum. Though this year's Fairweather Johnson hasn't reached the multiple-platinum level of the Cracked Rear View debut, it's still been the kind of wildly received sophomore effort most bands would kill for. If Hootie's last tour was any indication, expect minimal musical exploration when they hit the Cynthia Woods Mitchell stage; unlike with most other former H.O.R.D.E. bands, Hootie's live versions of its hits tend to stay predictably true to their recorded counterparts. Still, the playing should be airtight and the mass sing-alongs epic. At Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion at 8 p.m., Saturday, September 7. Sold out. Jolene opens. 629-3700. (David Glessner


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David Glessner
Hobart Rowland