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The Buzz Poets blast crowd: Pittsburgh band energizes student audience during Buskirk Bash

by ERIN N. EMCH reporter - Parthenon
October 5, 2000

"Encore! Encore!"

These words fought to be heard above the thunderous applause as the Buzz Poets exited the stage after their set at the Buskirk Bash Wednesday.

Shortly afterward, they were back on stage giving the crowd exactly what it asked for.

"The Buzz Poets are the best band I've heard all night," said Emily Justice sophomore speech pathology major. "They're awesome!"

Tripper, one name only, stood in the center of the stage clad in a bright green shirt and millions of plastic bracelets on both arms, thrashing and seeming to live up to his name.

"He is a total trip to watch," said Valerie Clark, New Martinsville, sophomore.

To the right of Tripper was guitarist Phil MacDowel, whose only worry earlier had been if he had used the proper fork while eating his salad in the John Marshall Room shortly before the show.

To the left of Tripper was ex-road manager, now current bassist, Tim Gaber, whose "Mary had a little lamb...but I ate it" shirt earned him the fear of comedian James "Chris" Armstrong.

Behind Tripper sat drummer Ron Lavella, the "baby" of the band.

"I just joined not too long ago," he said.

To the right of Ron was Justin Sarra, the disc jockey who, just a short time earlier, had worn his napkin on his head as he described the band's major musical influences.

Their true colors shone brightly as they joked like brothers and best friends about everything from parties to girls.

And then, they took the stage.

As Tripper thrashed about, flipped off the audience and generally caused as much chaos as he could, Tim plucked his bass with the fury and passion of a serious musician.

Justin danced in his own little world as he spun the songs that drove the crowd insane.

Phil, the most down-to-earth member and the quietest off-stage, was the extroverted speaker on-stage.

His "Go Herd!" cries were heard loud and clear as he shouted them into the microphone as Ron beat wildly on his drums.

Separately, they are normal guys who liked to goof off, joke around and pass a football. . . especially the Marshall one they obtained while on campus.

Together, they are the Buzz Poets, a loud, offensive, insane rock band making their presence known across the United States.

The Buzz Poets have played everywhere from Pennsylvania to California to Canada. In 1999, they played three to five nights a week; 224 shows total.

On the way to different venues, they listen to everything from the new Wyclef Jean CD to Weedus.

"Our music is influenced by a lot of people," said Tripper. "Definitely the Beatles and Radiohead."

As Tripper saturated his steak with half the bottle of A-1, he chimed in, "You can always hear Blitz on the Playstation."

No one contested the statement.

Ron just nodded in agreement and added more salt to his steak.

They all agreed that, if they could tour with any band, past or present, it would have to be the Beatles.

"We encompass a lot of different music styles when we play," said Phil.

"We have even modeled certain promotional material after N'Sync."

The band got their name from the beatnik generation of poets, like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs.

"They modernized and changed people views on literature," Tripper said.

"They influenced us. We modernized beat to buzz. Buzz Poets."

Tripper is from Houston, Texas, while Phil, Ron, Justin and Tim are all from Pittsburgh, Pa.

Ron is a former Push Monkey member and Tim used to be in Brownie Mary, two bands from the Pittsburgh area.

"We like to play the smaller venues, like college campuses," Ron said, "but our favorites are Star Lake and I.C. Light."

They played 224 shows last year, including shows at Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia University and Ohio University.

Their exposure in Pittsburgh has landed them a spot in the rotation at the radio station 105.9 "The X."

"The first time I heard our song on the radio I was in my basement," Tripper said.

"I jumped up and I hit my head on the ceiling."

Justin was out on a date.

"I was with this girl, and I heard us on the radio. It was cool."

Ron was also in his car. "I was by myself," he said. "I was still really excited though."

"I think I was dropping fries," Phil said.

"I was at work; they were french fries," he added.

It wasn't as exciting for Tim, though.

"They were already on the radio when I joined," Tim said. "And I'd heard other bands I'd been in before Buzz Poets on the radio.

"It was still cool though."

Although most of their songs center on sex and drugs, one song has a special meaning to them.

"We wrote "Angel Eyes" for our friend Magic Dave who died at the hands of his father," Tripper said.

"We wrote it and recorded it for him the day after he died."

The song is now number three in the world on

The band mixed some original songs into their set list Wednesday night and also performed Sublime and Marilyn Manson covers, among others.

"They did an awesome job on all the covers," said Mark Frazier, junior sports medicine major.

"But they could have played more original stuff."

Pat Mull, Tau Kappa Epsilon member, agreed.

"It definitely would've been cool to hear some more of their stuff instead of all the covers."

Some of the crowd voiced opinions that the lyrics were lewd and offensive, while others saw nothing wrong with them.

"I thought the lyrics were offensive and rude to women," said Bill Sierra, MU Mens Rugby President.

Candy McKee, Delta Zeta member and Mandy Smith, Alpha Xi Delta member said the lyrics didn't bother them.

The band formed four years ago.

Since then they have released three CDs. The latest one, "Pretzel Sex", has their West Virginia tribute song "Copenhagen Girl" on it.

"Every time we play that song, we dedicate it to girls from West Virginia," said Justin.

"Maybe we shouldn't tonight."

When the time came, the song received its usual dedication, complete with a honky-tonk dance number.

After the Buskirk Bash, the band went down the street to play at the Empire Club before heading back to Pittsburgh.

The band agreed the audience was awesome.

"The crowd was cool," they said.

"It was a good show."

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© Kimberly S. Grimm 2001
Last updated August 28, 2002