By John Philip Wyllie
With the Beatles enormous impact still felt nearly 40 years after they first burst upon the American music scene, a market has developed for bands that can faithfully reproduce what is perhaps the finest pop music ever written. Tribute bands have sprung up just about everywhere including several in San Diego. Among the most unique is a quartet of South Bay musicians known collectively as the Baja Buggs.
The latest reincarnation of the “Buggs” features Hector Penalosa (lead vocals & bass) Dylan Martinez (backing vocals & rhythm guitar) Javier Anaya (lead guitar) and Ricky Serrano (drums). While most Beatles tribute bands focus on the Beatles best known material, the Baja Buggs bring to life their more obscure early music. Performing songs from the Beatles’ Cavern Club period, the “Buggs” have found their niche. Their repertoire consists largely of songs that were unknown to most Beatle fans prior to the 1994 release of the Beatles’ “Live at the BBC.”
The Baja Buggs shared the stage at last weekend’s Liverpool Days convention in Pasadena with a well-traveled tribute band called the Fab Four. And despite the fact that the current lineup has worked together for only a short time, the Baja Buggs successfully captured the essence of the early Beatles.
“We used to go to these conventions as spectators, but being musicians, we always tended to criticize the other musicians,” Penalosa explained. “We started to realize that there are some good bands playing here, but also some really bad ones. We thought to ourselves that we could do better and as a challenge, we decided to get something going and get involved. This latest Beatles celebration was not Penalosa’s first such performance, however.
“About two and a half years ago, a friend of mine was getting married and like me, he was a huge Beatles fan,” Penalosa explained. “He really wanted a Beatles tribute band to play at his wedding, so he called around.” Penalosa’s friend found out that the going rate for such a band was way out of his price range. Learning about his dilemma, a light went on in Penalosa’s head. “We told him we would do it for whatever he could afford.” And thus the Baja Buggs were formed.
In the interim, the “Buggs” have performed occasionally at events such as a Poway scholarship beauty pageant, July’s annual San Diego Beatles Fair hosted by Come Together and at various school functions. For new “Buggs” rhythm guitarist Dylan Martinez, Pasadena’s Liverpool Days marked his official debut.
“This is my first show with the band, so it has been kind of a trial by fire. At least it is in front of a lot of Beatles fans and playing all Beatles music,” Martinez said. Following a private daytime performance on Dec. 13, the band will take some time off and then perform at the Rhythm Lounge near the Sports Arena on Jan. 11. For additional information, email Penalosa at: Baja4Bugg@AOL.com.