Pablo Cruise returns to where the band first was hatched. Bay Area locals come back to an excited crowd in Santa Cruz.

By: Margie Estberg

Having spent some of my teen years in Paradise, CA, I remember many nights driving in the hot heat of summer while listening to Pablo Cruise on the cassette player in my Plymouth Arrow. The newness of their sound, as well as the heartfelt lyrics, attracted me immediately (“Raging Fire” holds some special memories for me of my first love.). Fast forward through many years, and a few hiatuses and changes of members, the same sound resonates as Cory Lerios and David Jenkins welcome Sergio Gonzalez as their new drummer, joining Larry Antonio on bass and vocals, and Robbie Wyckoff on percussion/vocals.

And it only seems perfect that the local Palo Alto/Sausalito artists would reunite to play in one of the first concerts in the Bay Area since the pandemic. They got the opportunity to play their “surf-style” pop/rock sounds in the indisputable surf capitol of Santa Cruz. The stage was set up poolside with the waves rolling in on the sun-soaked beach below, while their fans were able to enjoy their tunes (and sound check) safely up in the ocean-side rooms of the Dream Inn or on the beach below the stage. There couldn’t be a better setting for this return of live music to the Bay Area.

After the sound check, Dave Jenkins suggested we head up for a chat in the (large) conference room, which filled in as their green room. I took a quick glance at the food and bar area, expecting to see a full bar along with munchies. But no, simply a bottle of Kettle One (that appeared unopened), some cranberry juice, sliced meat, fresh fruit, and cookies. Not what you would’ve expected back in the 70’s and 80’s!

I sat down with the band at a (very long, and socially-distanced) conference table and spoke with Cory and Dave (the original members), as well as the newer members, Larry, who had joined the band in 2010 after playing with Air Supply and Barry Manilow and grew up in the Santa Cruz area, much like myself; Robbie, who joined the band in late 2016 after touring with Roger Waters in the crazy “The Wall Tour” and who now lives in my former town in SoCal (the two coincidences led to some off-the-record stories and laughs); and Sergio, who’d formerly toured with Was Not Was and Jennifer Lopez, and who was playing just his second show with Pablo.

Cory and Dave started by explaining how they met and traveled up to play clubs in Vancouver, and that fateful day where they met up again on Capitola Beach, deciding to try to start their own band with Bud Cockrell and Steve Price. The band lineup would change over the years as Bud left to go out on his own right after they got their first Top 10 record with the Place In The Sun album- something that frustrated Cory and Dave as A&M, their own record label, offered Bud his own solo record deal. (Steve would leave later to start other projects.) They would hit it big again with the Worlds Away album before separating to go off and do their own projects. Cory would go on to write music for TV, while Dave later moved to Oahu where he made a Hawaiian album with the popular artist Kapono Beamer in ‘95, and later moved to Nashville and made music there as well. (Dave’s wife Jaime Kyle is a Nashville musical artist herself). When Cory was asked if he made more money writing the Baywatch theme or with the Pablo music, he pleaded the 5th and would only say “some people stand in the darkness, afraid to step into the light…” (the beginning lyrics of the TV theme). That invoked a laugh from everyone in the room.

Years later, Cory and Dave said they got a kick out of it when they were contacted by Columbia Pictures, asking for permission to have Will Farrell wear a T-shirt with the Pablo Cruise name on it for the movie Stepbrothers.They gave permission and later were invited to walk the red carpet for the premiere and played later at the after party. Dave commented that it was at that moment when he finally felt that his “12-year-old son thought he was the coolest guy on the planet!” Interestingly, instead of buying a Pablo Cruise T-shirt for the movie, the wardrobe designer made one herself. The band remembered the hilarious, and embarrassing moment when on the red carpet, the entertainment media all asked why they were at the premiere- was it there was a new tour or new album coming out?, and they had to say that it was simply because their T-shirt was in the movie!

Lastly, we discussed their latest song “Breathe,” a song they wrote in 2019 prior to the pandemic, but was released in early 2020 at the very beginning of the Covid outbreak and right before what would later become a tragic police-related death in Minneapolis. They chose not to perform it this night during the concert, as while it’s a very fun and upbeat song with a great video that people seemed to really enjoy, they didn’t feel comfortable playing it right now.

We finished our chat with a Lightning Round:

FAVORITE PLACE THEY’VE EVER TOURED?: Cory and Dave agreed, Japan. They loved the fans and were surprised when the fans got their humor.

FIRST CONCERT?: Ray Charles in San Jose (Cory). Lovin’ Spoonful and The Beach Boys at the Cow Palace in 1966 (Dave).

ARTIST THEY WISH THEY COULD JAM WITH, living or passed?: James Taylor or Stevie Wonder (Dave); John Mayer, Grateful Dead (Cory); Paul McCartney (Larry); Aretha Franklin (Sergio); and Stevie Wonder or Frank Sinatra (a seemingly surprise from Robbie).

And lastly, SONG YOU WISH YOU’D WRITTEN?: “My Way” or “Don’t Stop Believin’” (Cory said because they’re both popular anthems); and “Superstition” (Dave).

As for the concert that night: this was only their second concert this year – the first being at Aqua Caliente Casino in Palm Springs in March, where the “crowd” was good but not overly effusive, seemingly because of lack of closeness and Covid fears. But this show was entirely different. The concert sold-out in 45 minutes, and fans had been anxiously waiting on their balconies for hours before the concert. The expressions were extremely upbeat, and one woman on the ground floor started dancing early to the DJ’s music that was playing prior to the show and never stopped til the end of the concert. There were fans on the beach behind the stage, and they were equally as excited. The band played all their hits, starting with “Worlds Away,” and continued on with all their other hits, as well as their cover of “Rio,” which was very popular with the fans. They closed with two encores “Whatcha Gonna Do” and “Ocean Breeze.” The sound was incredibly crisp and clear in this setting, and you could tell that the band really has a lot of fun playing together. They each had their solo, and Sergio had his with a little humor included.

The band doesn’t have any concerts scheduled til August (Covid-dictated), but I highly recommend finding a venue to see them when you can. They may be a little older now, but the sound is exactly the same, and you can’t help but enjoy yourself when you’re around these guys. Their sound epitomizes a beautiful day spent in the sun. Not only are they fun and have a great sense of humor, they’re also very nice individuals.