Rubinoos on a roll 

click to enlarge Rubinoos
  • courtesy photo
  • The Rubinoos — from left, Jon Rubin, Al Chan, Donn Spindt and Tommy Dunbar — make a rare appearance at the Great American Music Hall on Saturday.
Every once in awhile, The Rubinoos get together to play for their hometown crowd.

On Saturday, the venerable power-pop group founded in 1970 in Berkeley makes a rare local appearance at the Great American Music Hall, a follow-up of sorts to a big 40th anniversary gig in 2010.

The goofy, guitar-driven band with sweet harmonies — best known for the 1978 semi-hit “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” and the theme song to the 1984 movie “Revenge of the Nerds” — performs only sporadically due to financial and geographical constraints.

“We all have our lives, and three of us have mortgages at least. The goal is not to lose money,” says bassist Al Chan, the new guy who joined the band 34 years ago.

“Getting together just to rehearse is a major undertaking,” says lead guitarist-songwriter Tommy Dunbar, who lives in Sacramento. Lead vocalist Jon Rubin, who co-founded the band with Dunbar when they were in ninth grade, lives in Los Angeles. Chan and drummer Donn Spindt live in the Bay Area.

But since 2007 and particularly in the fast few years, the group — amused that Rolling Stone once called it an “unlistenable trash rock quartet” and whose members all have other musical projects — has had a burst of energy, says Chan.

After well-received Halloween shows in Pittsburg in 2012-13, Chan decided to set up a gig in San Francisco. Although he wanted to play The Chapel, when he got in touch with longtime booker Dawn Holliday, she said, “Great American Music Hall is your home — what Saturday do you want to play?”

Other upcoming gigs include an Aug. 7 show at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord and an appearance at a private party in New Jersey with Tommy James, famous for “I Think We’re Alone Now,” a tune The Rubinoos covered nicely in the ’70s.

Successful tours to Europe and Japan even prompted a recording collaboration with an Italian group called Radio Days, although CDs aren’t available and won’t be for sale in the near future.

“But we have new T-shirts, they look outstanding!” Chan says.

A fall tour with multiple stops in Spain, Italy, Norway and possibly the U.K. is in the planning stages, too. Dunbar, in fact, is taking the month of July off to write new material.

Despite the recent spurt of activity, Chan says The Rubinoos, as has been the case for decades, won’t be a full-time pursuit.

“We all have stuff going on in life,” he says, adding, “This is a 55-year-old man talking; 30 years back, I would have said something different.”

IF YOU GO

The Rubinoos

Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $26

Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.slimspresents.com

About The Author

Leslie Katz

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