MILLBURN, NJ – Millburn’s music scene is alive and rocking. Poet Section, named for the Short Hills neighborhood that includes such streets as Wordsworth, Byron, and Chaucer, is comprised of township and Livingston residents and includes Ron Papka on bass and Peter Graubard on drums, Ed Maguire on violin, Adam Lowenberg on vocals, and Mike Karpas on guitar and all the way from Princeton resident Roye Abramson on keys and vocals. Former key group members were Matt Karch on guitar and co-founder Steve Lehroff on guitar. The group plays rock mostly from the 60s and 70s including songs by The Who, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, and The Grateful Dead. The band plays at local hot spots Boxcar Bar and Grill in Short Hills, McLynns in Springfield, the River Grill in Chatham, Suzy Q’s in West Orange, Crossroads in Garwood, Just Jake in Montclair, and Liberty Tavern in Union.
Bassist Papka explains that the band members – fathers all – have day jobs. He explains that there is a “micro-economy around parent-bands.” These bands draw in their friends, which is a big plus to the host restaurant and bar and the band members get to eat a bit, drink a bit, play for three hours, entertain friends, and make money to pay for the babysitter. Papka names another town band, Cats Will Play, with Matt Stone who Papka names as the best musician in town, on bass, keyboards, and vocals, David Diamond and David Garfinkle on guitars, and David Gardner on bass. Poet Section welcomes guest performers including Shannon Aronson of the local band Mood Swings. Papka states that guest performers bring in more people, add variety, and reciprocate by inviting band member to perform with them.
Poet Section rehearses in Papka’s basement studio three to four times before a gig. They get gigs based on their combined 100 years of playing and word-of-mouth. The last time they played at Boxcar in Short Hills, they drew a crowd of 350. They also play at not-for-profit events and have played at a fund raiser at Greenwood Gardens and at Millburn Rocks sponsored by the Millburn Education Foundation.
Papka has a background of 33 years of playing bass. He played in a punk hard-core band called the Shaved Pigs in New York while an undegraduate at Columbia University. They recorded three albums and played to six people at New York’s CBGBs and to 500 people in various European venues. Papka received a Masters Degree from Brown and received a PhD in computer science from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. While at Brown he played in the band Color Blind and while at U. Mass in the band Curmudgeon.
He moved to Short Hills in 2000 to be closer to his sister when his wife was ill. Their daughter Sophia was four -years-old at the time. Sadly, his wife passed away in those early years in town. Busy with raising Sophia and commuting to work in the City, he did not play music for five years. One day, he arrived at neighbor Steve Lehroff’s home to pick up Sophia from a play date. He noticed that Lehroff had guitars, the men got to talking, and a band of neighbors and fathers was formed. The band was first named Extreme Walkers, a goof on the slow pace the men walked on group walks. The group morphed into Poet Section.
Papka credits his sister Sharon Ordonez as the band’s awesome “marketer” and his second wife Becki for video graphing the band. The Papkas have a fifth grade daughter Delilah.
Papka finds it “amazing how much talent is in the town. As you get older, you get better.” The Poet Section’s upcoming gigs are at Just Jakes on October 17 and Boxcar on November 14.