For anyone who remembers the days of vinyl, there are few albums as iconic as the Eagle’s 1977 classic Hotel California.
The music of Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Joe Walsh carved out a spot in rock and roll history that few bands can repeat. The title song of the album cracked Rolling Stone’s top 50 of all time. The guitar solo is as recognizable a classic track as there is in rock and roll.
On Saturday, Aug. 1, Hotel California will take centre stage at 15th annual Caribbean Festival.
The Eagle’s tribute band hits the main stage at 7:30 p.m., joining the 14 other bands in the two-day festival at the Albion Fairgrounds. The festival moves east for the first time as it outgrew its home at Peace Memorial Park.
For Hotel California original member Mike Dimoulas, Saturday’s show is just one more chapter in the long history of recreating one of rock’s most enduring sounds. Dimoulas said he started Hotel California as a way to revive the music of one of the 1970s’ most influential bands. The Eagles sold more than 100 million records, recorded six No. 1 albums and won six Grammys. But by the mid-1980s, infighting amongst the band had lead to individual projects and left Eagles’ fans out of luck. A reunion seemed unlikely.
For Dimoulas, a guitarist and vocalist, the chance to pay homage to the legendary work on the Eagles was a perfect fit. With bass and vocals band mate Andy Lapointe joining Hotel California a year later, in 1987, the two have gone on to play countless shows and earn an international reputation that has paved the way for their success. They have shared stages with such bands as the Doobie Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd and as individual musicians have played with iconic Canadian bands like the Guess Who and April Wine.
“When we started doing this 28, 29 years ago, nobody else was doing it,” said Dimoulas from his home in Toronto. “Their music has such range. The bass and the harmonies, along with the signature guitar riffs.”
But starting a tribute band is one thing. Keeping it going for close to three decades is another matter.
Dimoulas said the continuity he shares with Lapointe over the years has helped establish Hotel California’s signature sound. While some members have moved on, drummer and vocalist Dean Young has been with the band for the past 11 years, while guitarist Rick Spyder joined in 2008. Dimoulas said by playing 80 to 100 shows a year, they have been able to perfect their approach.
“We’re a very well oiled machine, so to speak. We’re a group of four individual artists who respect each others’ creativity and strengths and built our sound off that. It’s just getting stronger and stronger as the years go by.
He said the band had its best touring year in 2014 and continues to shine. As for why they’ve been able to survive while so many other bands come and go, Dimoulas said it always comes down to the fans. He said they have to leave feeling like they’ve been more than just entertained for a couple hours. Entertainment is about the experience and Dimoulas said with the Eagles, it’s all about the sound. He said he can’t keep count of the times fans have told him that if they close their eyes, it feels just like an Eagles show.
“I think we get it pretty close. We have the vocals down as tight as we can. The guitar, bass and drums are tight. We have so many people tell us it’s dead on. They walk away feeling they’ve seen an authentic tribute band.”
As for headlining a Caribbean festival, Dimoulas said people love live music and aren’t bound by genres. He said the music of the Eagles fits so many categories, from rock and ballads, to country.
“Everyone is so familiar with the songs it makes for great fan experience,” he said.
While the Eagles soared to the top of the charts in the ’70s, he said one of the great parts of being in Hotel California is seeing each new generation of fan come to the shows.
“It never gets old seeing the young fans who are just discovering the music. They’re just as into it as the people who grew up with the Eagles.”