Group organizes battle of bands to raise money for United Way

January 29, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |

Youth United Way of Washington County had fallen by the wayside for a while.

This year, about a dozen high school students set out to revive the United Way affinity group, which aims to raise money for programs addressing youth-related issues such as homelessness, abuse and teen pregnancy.

Youth United Way roared back onto the scene Saturday at Rock Fest 2011 at the Leitersburg Cinemas in Hagerstown.

Electric bass and guitar, thundering drums and guttural vocals screamed through the theater when local heavy metal band Defyance kicked off the show.

Just an hour after the doors opened at 4 p.m., more than 100 people had rolled in. With three bands still to perform, Youth United Way member Sean Cremins hoped that at least 250 people, and perhaps up to 500, would attend by evening's end.

Cremins, 17, of Hagerstown, said Youth United Way has set a one-year fundraising goal of $15,000.

"That's a pretty lofty goal," Cremins said. "So we started spitballing ideas for events that might raise a lot of money, and we thought a battle of the bands kind of thing, if done right, might work."

Cremins, a student at North Hagerstown High School, said he tried to organize a similar event in the past with limited success.

"I wanted another shot maybe," he said.

Under the leadership of Youth United Way President Steven Wang, the group set out contacting corporate partners and sponsors.

Radio station 101.5 Bob Rocks! got on board, recruiting local bands to compete, providing judges for the contest, and offering a prize of $5,000 worth of airtime to the winning band. Bob Rocks! General Manager Blake Truman said the time could be used for playing original music and for promoting appearances. Matinee @ Midnight, Youngblood and Arsin Orchards competed against Defyance for the prize.

"We are interested in cultivating a local music scene," Truman said. "These kids' efforts to combine promotion of a rock music scene along with raising money for a good cause, that's gigantic. I think it's great, and that's why we wanted to jump on."

People of all ages filled the audience. Tickets cost $4 for those 18 and younger, and $6 for adults. With ticket sales, T-shirt sales and other contributions combined, Cremins said he hoped the festival would raise "in the $2,000 range."

John and Judy Leggett, 71 and 72, of Hagerstown, went to the event to support their grandson Zach Zeger, 19, of Williamsport. Zeger is the guitarist for Defyance.

"I think this is nice for the young people, good experience for the bands and good for the United Way, too," Judy Leggett said.

Catie Moore, 16, of Hagerstown, said she likes attending local shows with local bands, rather than concerts with "big-name" acts.

"And I think it's really nice that they are raising money for (Youth United Way). Most people would be like, 'We want to keep the money for ourselves,'" Moore said. "This is really cool."

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