If you’re looking for a dead-on impersonation of Carlos Santana, Doug Towle says his act might not be for you.
The Vancouver-based musician who brings his popular tribute act, Supernatural: a Santana Experience to the stage of the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Saturday night says his show is more about honouring the music than note-for-note replication.
“We’re paying homage (to Santana),” he stressed.”Not emulating.”
Towle,who has been playing the guitar since he was 12 and working as a professional musician for more than 20 years, feels that given the abundance of tribute acts and impersonators, it’s an important distinction to note.
“What we’re really trying to do, in the truest sense, is pay tribute rather than try to be Carlos Santana. I don’t pretend to be anybody but me,” he noted.
Not that he’s knocking tribute acts—he knows being a professional impersonator is a tough gig.
“I guess I wear the hat,” he conceded. “Other than that, I really don’t look the part, I just love to play Santana’s music.”
Towle says he can’t pinpoint exactly when or how he developed his passion for the 10-time Grammy-award winner’s work, just that, as a guitar player himself, he can’t help but admire ever-evolving performer’s distinct style.
He admits it may stem from the years he spent playing exclusively acoustic guitar, focusing on nouveau flamenco—a genre of music he says is akin to the style made popular by the Gypsy Kings.
“Besides, Santana is a ton of fun to listen to, but they’re also a ton of fun to play.”
That love, he added, is what inspired the former music teacher to assemble Supernatural— a seven, and sometimes, eight piece band that he says recreates the experience of a Santana concert, with “all the energy and musicianship of the real thing.”
Acknowledging the ambition required to devote a group of musicians soley to covering Carlos Santana’s vast canon of ever-evolving music, Towle points to the uniqueness of Santana itself.
“I’ve never met a person that doesn’t at least like Santana. Who wouldn’t want to cover his music?” he asked, adding that standing out among his peers in the West Coast music scene was also attractive when it comes to choosing his act.
“There are a bajillion Beatles acts, but as far as I know we’re the only Santana act outside of California.”
Whatever Towle and Supernatural are doing, it appears to have struck a chord, with Vernon audiences, as their last three local performances have sold out.
And he’s hoping for another sell-out this weekend.
“We’re really looking forward to coming back to Vernon,” he said.
The show, which Towle describes as high energy, covers 50 years of Santana’s music, from his career-making performance of Soul Sacrifice at Woodstock, to his collaborations and more recent albums.
“We pretty much kick off at a ten, and it keeps going from there. We have two amazing singers; a male and a female, and I sing as well. It’s a really broad spectrum to cover, so we have quite a few songs on reserve.”
When you’re covering a 50-year career, he noted, the question isn’t what songs to cover, it’s what songs to leave out.
Supernatural: a Santana Experience takes the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre stage Saturday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for $55 adult through the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.