The Rubinoos (from left, Donn Spindt, Tommy Dunbar, Jon Rubin and Al Chan) are making a rare East Bay appearance. (Courtesy Hugh Brown)

The Rubinoos (from left, Donn Spindt, Tommy Dunbar, Jon Rubin and Al Chan) are making a rare East Bay appearance. (Courtesy Hugh Brown)

Rubinoos shake some action with Flamin’ Groovies

So far, the 21st century has been a particularly active period for fun Berkeley-born pop-rockers the Rubinoos.

The 47-year-old band, known for playing in fits and starts, is closing out a gig-filled 2017 in grand fashion in a rare local appearance Friday in Oakland with the Flamin’ Groovies.

“Bay Area seminal power pop bands playing together for the first time,” says Rubinoos co-founder and lead vocalist Jon Rubin.

“’Shake Some Action’ is considered one of the quintessential power pop songs of all time; the Rubinoos cover it,” adds Rubin, pointing to the Groovies’ tune and calling the San Francisco band, which got its start in 1965, “in a way, a generation before us.”

The Rubinoos, who covered “I Think We’re Alone Now,” and had the hits “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” and the “Revenge of the Nerds” movie theme in the 1970s-80s, themselves have been bridging generations.

Thanks to the internet, they’re a hit overseas, where, for younger fans, they’re almost roots artists: “We’re the John Lee Hooker of power pop,” Rubin, who lives in Hollywood, jokes.

“This year, we’ve played more than we have in years. We toured Europe, Japan, the East Coast and played Los Angeles for the first time in 16 years, says Rubin, mentioning that the harmony-heavy band — Rubin, Sacramento-based co-founder-songwriter-guitarist Tommy Dunbar and Bay Area-based drummer Donn Spindt and bassist Al Chan — has hit its stride, and is sounding really good these days.

“It’s something you get from actually having continuity,” he says.

Often surprised by fans’ reactions, Rubin says followers in Spain want to hear new material. The albums “45,” “Automatic Toaster” and “Biff-Bong-Boing” have been released since 2010; today the band also is working on new stuff — collaborating with San Francisco “California noir” rocker Chuck Prophet — for the label Yep Roc, which has expressed interest in reissuing The Rubinoos’ first two records.

In Japan, the band members are considered historical figures: Three notable 2017 gigs there, which really gave the group a workout, had different set lists: one of covers, one of songs from original releases on the Beserkley label and one with at least one song from every album.

In the meantime, Rubin and Dunbar have been indulging in their fascination of the weird, late great Frank Zappa.

In 2000 in Amsterdam, they had big parts in a Holland Festival concert hall performance of music from Zappa’s 1971 movie “200 Motels” next to opera singers, a full choir and huge orchestra in what Rubin calls the high point of his career and the hardest thing he’s ever done.

Today, they’re half way through recording an a cappella version of Zappa’s 1968 concept album “We’re Only in It for the Money,” which he calls “a pretty interesting project” and idea they’ve been playing around with for years.

On a more pop note, however, the Rubinoos – known for playing rare gigs that don’t pay — are enjoying recent club dates that have been “financially feasible.”

At the same time, the band isn’t into touring at a Rolling Stones level, Rubin says, commenting how live performance is more physically taxing as the years pass: “I wish we all had a little more time, were a little younger. … the stamina, that’s the thing.”

IF YOU GO
Flamin’ Groovies, Rubinoos
Where: New Parish, 1743 San Pablo Ave., Oakland
When: 9 p.m. Dec. 29
Tickets: $25
Contact: https://thenewparish.com/
Flamin’ GrooviesJon RubinNew ParishPop MusicRubinoosShake Some ActionTommy Dunbar

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