Shock and Ska
By Dan MacIntosh
Experiencing a Buck-O-Nine show these days is about the same as it’s always been over the past two decades or so since this popular SoCal ska-punk group’s been together.
“I think our goals are pretty similar now to when we first started out,” Buck-O-Nine lead singer Jon Pebsworth explains. That is “just to have our shows be as fun and wild as possible. And I think that’s mainly our goal today, even though we don’t play as many shows, and we don’t tour and stuff anymore.”
Playing live today (the band is scheduled to perform Friday as part of The Vault’s Legends of Punk & Ska Series 2013) is certainly fun for the act; maybe even more fun than ever.
“Honestly, in some ways I think it’s more fun,” Pebsworth admits, “because there’s less pressure. I think when we first started out it was really fun because nothing really mattered. ‘Cool, we’ve got a show! We’re going to drink beers and have fun.’ And then when things start to get serious. ‘Oh, there’s record deals involved, and there’s managers and agents and lawyers.’ When all that stuff starts to happen, it’s still exciting and fun, but I think it puts a little bit more pressure on things and it can take away a little of the fun. And now, we just don’t give a shit.”
Accumulated age has given Buck-O-Nine a slightly different overall perspective on band life. “You can just get up on stage and just have a blast now,” Pebsworth enthuses. “We don’t care if we’re selling T-shirts. We don’t care if we’re making money. All we care about is that our microphones work and we have some beers onstage.”
Buck-O-Nine has sure come a long way from singing about its hometown with “My Town,” the group’s modern rock radio hit from 1997. “The band is based out of San Diego,” Pebsworth elaborates, “and that song was written on my porch at my little apartment in La Jolla.” Pebsworth now lives in Los Angeles, which is where he grew up, but the San Diego area will always hold a special place in his heart. “I left L.A. to go to San Diego for college,” he recalls “and that’s where I met the Buck-O-Nine guys. And I just ended up staying there for all the years that we toured.”
Pebsworth plays a slightly different role today, than back when Buck-O-Nine was madly touring around the world. Ska may not be all the rage like it was when the act was signed to TVT Records and touring Japan and nearly everywhere else. Nevertheless, Pebsworth’s nieces and nephews think he’s a rock star, even though he no longer rides atop the ska wave.
“My sister has kids, and I’m Uncle Jon,” says Pebsworth. “They’re, like, ‘Uncle Jon is in a band! He’s famous!’ And I’m, like, ‘Well, I wouldn’t really say ‘famous,’ but I appreciate what you’re trying to say.’”
There’s just something pure and organic about a band that plays live for the love of the music, as Buck-O-Nine now does. Even so, Pebsworth won’t soon forget those days when he was truly ‘big in Japan.’
When performing for the first time in Japan, Pebsworth describes that experience as “just being overwhelmed.” It did, indeed, inspire an epiphany. “It all kind of hit me at one moment, right as I walked on stage for the first show, on the first Japanese tour,” he recalls. “I was, like, ‘I can’t believe I’m in Japan! And I’m singing songs that I wrote in my underwear in my apartment in San Diego.’”
Buck-O-Nine at The Vault, 41607 Enterprise Cir., Temecula, (951) 296-9993; www.thevaultconcerts.com. Fri, Feb. 8. 6:30pm. Tickets $12.