Crash and Burn 

Crossroads '98 a bust

Crossroads '98 a bust

In the pantheon of shitty-gig stories, the following tale merits its own pedestal. This saga explains how a Nashville band played a gig awash in screw-ups, vomit, and all-around bad vibes—and managed to emerge with something of a buzz. At the very least, if you didn’t make it to last weekend’s Crossroads ’98 music festival in Memphis, you can officially stop kicking yourself in the butt.

Nashville power trio Four Hundred made the three-and-a-half-hour trek to Memphis last Friday to perform at the Blue City Café, a Beale Street watering hole that served as one of the festival’s venues. Under no circumstances were they to bring their own gear: The festival would furnish amps and drums to reduce the time between acts. Thus notified, the group persuaded some management reps and producer Ron St. Germain to catch the show.

The trouble started when the opening band, a group of talent-impaired Danzig wannabes, began to drive people out of the room. The trickle of patrons became a mass exodus when a woman gulping coffee at the foot of the stage suddenly keeled over and hosed down the dance floor with a bilious Technicolor spew. Muses Four Hundred lead singer/guitarist Eric Marlow, “Nothing clears a room like the combination of bad heavy metal and 10 cubic feet of vomit.”

Twenty minutes later, the dance floor had been deslimed, the room had been reasonably cleared of stink, and booze-soaked partiers began to flood back into the club. Relieved, the group plugged in and bashed through its opening number. It took exactly the space of one song for the band to realize the festival-issue gear—a handful of Peavey amps and a rudimentary Peavey drum kit—was a wagonload of crap. Marlow’s first guitar amp futzed out in mid-solo; the kit provided for drummer Bobby Rutzky was tuned so high, it sounded like timbales. In the midst of the second song, in front of a full house and the group’s industry viewers, the bass amp flatlined completely.

Bassist John Allen wasn’t happy, to say the least. But no one really expected him to lose his temper. “He’s this thin, normal, soft-spoken guy,” Marlow explains. “He never raises his voice.” Maybe so, but after he heard an uncharacteristic bellow of profanity issue from across the stage, Marlow turned to see his mild-mannered bandmate lift the Peavey bass amp above his head and body-slam it to smithereens on the floor below. Rutzky responded by walloping the drum kit and beating it to pieces.

At this point, Marlow decided he had to keep the show going. So the singer, clad in a suit, struck up an impromptu solo rendition of American Music Club’s melancholy “Outside This Bar.” It served as pleasant accompaniment while his bandmates destroyed everything emblazoned with the “pointy ‘P.’ ” “We’re Four Hundred,” Marlow said, surrounded by kindling that had once been a sound system. “Thanks for coming out.”

Oh, there’s more: How security guards and Crossroads reps bum-rushed the band, only to be warned off by the Blue City’s sympathetic staff. How two piss-drunk bikers waited to thrash Allen for busting the bass amp near their girlfriends. How people in Memphis congratulated the band all weekend, though it’s unclear whether the praise was for putting on an amazing show or for euthanizing the decrepit speakers.

At any rate, the gig did have two bright spots. One was Erica, a touring Rockette waitressing part-time at the Blue City, who kept the band from getting killed by bikers and festival personnel. The other was a surprise rave notice in The Velvet Rope, the exclusive online chat room frequented by heavy-hitters in the music industry. Peavey and Crossroads took such a roasting that reps for both organizations contacted the band. Four Hundred, meanwhile, was acclaimed as the festival’s highlight. “If we’d played pristine versions of each song,” Marlow says, “we wouldn’t’ve gone over nearly as well.”

Four Hundred plays May 15 with Bobby Bare Jr. in the back room of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. If we were Tootsie’s, we’d double-check that sound equipment.

Our sincerest condolences to the family of Zachary Nesbit Chaney, 18, who died April 14 in Memphis after a months-long struggle with hepatitis. Chaney was the son of Nashville club fixture Robert “Lonesome Bob” Chaney; after successfully completing rehab in New Jersey, he had moved to Nashville to pursue a music career and to spend more time with his father. Shortly before he got sick, Chaney says, Zack had written his mother a letter saying for the first time in a long time he was happy, and he saw the point of living. “He was a sweet, gentle-natured, funny kid,” Chaney says. “Losing a kid just bends your soul and psyche in directions it’s not supposed to go.”

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hepatitis Foundation International, which works to educate the medical community and to aid early detection of the disease. The address is 30 Sunrise Terrace, Cedar Grove, N.J. 07009-1423.

—Jim Ridley

Elliptical dispatches: After several nibbles over the past year from major labels, The EvinRudes have signed with Mercury New York. The band’s self-produced EP was an unexpected radio success last year, racking up heavy airtime locally on KDF and on stations across the Midwest. According to Nashville’s Flipside, the group is currently in the studio with guitarist/songwriter Brian Reed producing; the album could be out by the end of July....

Universal recording artist Jason White, whose first album is slated for release this summer, plays the Sutler Friday night with bandmates Viktor Krauss (bass), Jack Silverman (guitar), and Bob Warren (drums), and special guest Michael Reynolds. Fans of Todd Snider and Kevin Welch are encouraged to check him out....

Singer/songwriter Alisa Carroll concludes a flurry of recent shows celebrating the release of her new CD Then & Now with a gig Monday night at Caffè Milano. The nine-song CD mixes the sepulchral atmospherics of “Die to This World” with the tense acoustic balladry of “Mothers Bed,” all wrapped around Carroll’s neo-goth keening. Carroll made an appearance here at last year’s Lilith Fair; if you miss her Monday night, she’ll perform at the H.O.R.D.E. Festival July 21 and 22....

Phil Lee continues his series of Monday-night gigs at Jack’s Guitar Bar on Nolensville Rd. with special appearances by Kevin Gordon this coming Monday and by John Sieger May 18. Don’t let Gordon’s new Shanachie Records CD Cadillac Jack’s #1 Son get lost in the wave of great left-of-center roots-rock albums coming out of Nashville this year; of course, we could say the same for Phil Lee’s amazing, as-yet unreleased album, recorded with studio aces Richard Bennett and George Bradfute....

Who’s that country star about to announce his breakup with wife No. 2? What’s that dirty joke about country music making the rounds on the Internet? Check out country music’s version of The Drudge Report, Stacy’s Music Row Report, compiled by veteran Nashville writer Stacy Harris. Even if you don’t exactly get answers to the questions above, you will learn that Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius are reuniting for a second time. For similar investigative bombshells, check out www.geocities.com/Nashville/2851....

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