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Buzz Poets Enjoy Their Charitable Side

By Allison Bourg
Friday, January 4, 2002

A Pittsburgh band will do its best to create a buzz for a local charity at a Jan. 11 show. The Buzz Poets will perform a benefit concert for Project Help Inc., a charity for underprivileged children in Westmoreland County.

"We like to do as many charity shows as we can," says Tim Gaber, manager and vocalist for the Buzz Poets. "And we thought this was a great cause."

The Poets - Gaber, Phil MacDowell and Ron "Tripper" Garrison on vocals and guitar, Ron Lavella on the drums and Justin Sarra on keyboard - recently released their self-titled fourth album, on the heels of previous releases "Pretzel Sex," "Alcohol Abuse Live" and "Planet Buzz."

Gaber describes the band's sound as a blend of several genres, from modern rock to alternative to pop. The Poets' musical inspirations are just as varied, he says.

"The Beatles top the list, but from there on our influences are all over the place," Gaber says, adding that the Poets' songs often are sprinkled with hints of more unusual, underground sounds such as techno and reggae. "We're fans of lots of different kinds of music. There's a lot of diversity in our work."

The band doesn't try to imitate other performers, however, preferring to mix styles of music to form its unique sound.

In the Buzz Poets' five years together, the group has sold more than 15,000 records. The band frequently appears throughout the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, playing at smaller local venues such as the Gateway Clipper Fleet and Nick's Fat City, South Side. Gaber notes that the band has a broad fan base that spans all ages, races and classes.

"We appeal to everyone," Gaber says. "The older folks, the parents and grandparents, like our acoustic stuff; the younger kids and teen-agers like our rock and pop songs. We have a large under-21 following."

The members of the band, who took their name from the beat poet generation of the '50s and '60s, came together after admiring each others' performances in other bands.

"Staying together for five years is an achievement in itself," Gaber says with a laugh. "Producing four records in that time span is something we're very proud of, too."

The Poets, who typically play about four to five shows each week, plan to stay busy in the coming year by working on their as-yet-untitled fifth CD, Gaber says. They also will continue to tour and play more benefit concerts. The next charity event on the band's agenda, for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, is a Groundhog's Day concert at Nick's Fat City. Later that month, the group will perform at Penn State's Fayette campus for THON, an annual dance-a-thon that raises money for children with cancer.

Project Help Inc., is a nonprofit organization established this year whose mission is to collect money and other forms of aid for children in Westmoreland County who are abused, homeless or chronically ill. Anyone interested in donating to Project Help may call (724) 532-0799 for more details.

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