Tribute band covers guitar greats Clapton, Santana

IN CONCERT

What: The Journeymen — A Tribute to Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana

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Where: Elements Casino, 1708 Island Hwy.

When: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. (doors at 7)

Tickets: $47.50 at ticketmaster.ca or in person at Elements Casino

 When paying tribute to a pair of storied guitarists who collectively helped shape the course of rock music, it helps if the star of the show can play.

Doug Towle checks out in that regard. The teacher and trained flamenco guitarist does much of the heavy lifting in the Journeymen, which celebrates the music of Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana. He had years to prepare for the role, having gigged for decades around his native Vancouver, in a variety of groups.

“I grew up being much more of a hard-rock fan, but as I got older and cut my hair, I got more into the Latin stuff, which led me to Santana,” Towle said. His relationship with the music of Clapton took a different path. “I was a big Clapton fan as a teenager but didn’t rediscover him until I was older.”

Towle moved to Shawnigan Lake a few years ago, and relocated the operations for several acts he leads there as well. He performs under the moniker TL Douglas as a solo act, and plays in the flamenco act De La Terra. He also fronts Big Awesome, an R&B cover band.

He had been doing his Santana tribute, Supernatural, for five years before he added the music of Clapton a year ago, which resulted in the Journeymen. “The idea was to give the audience a bigger show,” Towle said. “As much as we love playing in tribute to Santana, you have to be a real Santana fan to come see a tribute dedicated to him. Adding the Clapton in meant you could be a Santana fan, you could be a Clapton fan, or you could just be a guitar fan.”

Clapton occupies second place in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, while Santana is ranked 20th.

Towle has his work cut out for him, to say the least. He handles all of Clapton’s vocals in the Journeymen, while bandmates in his six-piece band cover about half the vocals on Santana’s songs.

He has help on the guitar front. Towle made sure to play the same guitars as the greats — a Paul Reed Smith guitar for Santana and a Fender Stratocaster for Clapton.

“It’s one of those things where I picked up a guitar and the right sounds just came out of it,” Towle said.

The Journeymen tribute played Courtenay in April, but Towle’s performance on Sunday at Elements Casino marks the Victoria debut for his project.

He will play two 45-minute sets, closing with Santana. As for the songs fans want to hear but the band does not play, Towle has a good excuse.

“It’s very difficult to narrow down a combined 100 years worth of music into a single night,” he said with a laugh. “We hopefully have made some good choices for everybody, and play some of their favourites. Because there’s a lot of songs to choose from.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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