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This Doobie Brothers tribute band will be “Takin’ It to the Playhouse” this weekend 

By Theresa Keegan 

Leave it to Mom to have all the right answers. In early 2020, life-long musician Peter Tentindo of Massachusetts was thinking about creating a tribute band. However, the options were endless – until his mom suggested one of her favorite bands: The Doobie Brothers.   

“They have such a wide variety of hits…It kind of covers the gambit of different styles of music,” he said. “There’s a harder rock, and then a smooth jazz era. We’re able to tackle an array of things.”

With numerous songs that have topped the charts in the 1970s, including the toe-tapping “Black Water,” “Listen to the Music,” “Jesus is Just Alright,” “Takin’ It to the Streets” and “Minute By Minute,” this new tribute band certainly had more than enough material. But the reality of performing in a tribute band was different than Tentindo’s prior musical experiences. 

This Doobie Sean singing

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Michael Yorkell

Sean Byrne, lead vocalist for “What a Fool Believes” enjoys the vocal range found in the Doobie Brothers music 

“You’re taking your talents and shifting them to pay homage to those people,” he said. “You’re just bringing yourself into it.” 

Exploring vocal opportunities 

That hasn’t been a tough transition for Sean Byrne, who is the lead vocalist for the What A Fool Believes show, which will be at the Laguna Playhouse this weekend. He’s also been in tribute bands for Foreigner and Bad Company. 

“This has given me an opportunity to explore with the other registers of my voice,” he said. “Back then (when the Doobie Brothers were topping the charts) it was all about Michael McDonald and that voice – you can’t deny that sound.”

It also helps that Byrne has done theater, since a tribute concert is both about the music and becoming the featured musicians in various stages of their careers. 

“I do my best to respect the writer and the vocalist for what they’ve done,” said Byrne. “I’m more concerned with how I’m being perceived by the audience. I’m not going to just be Michael McDonald or Steve Perry – otherwise that’s just a karaoke concert. I try to hit on all those nuances that make Michael McDonald Michael McDonald.”

And, the band members also wear the outfits from the era – clothes that reflected a suave coolness 50 years ago.

“It’s not anything I’d wear out in the street openly – unless I were in Greenwich Village,” said Byrne. “It’s like dressing up for Halloween. You do feel different and it makes it fun. Everybody’s on board.” 

This Doobie full band

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Michael Yorkell

The full cast, who all live in the northeast, includes (L-R) Eric Bertone, Sean Fitzgerald, Peter Tentindo, Sean Byrne, Mike Fretwell and Bob Whitlinger

The popularity of tribute bands in theaters and playhouses reflects the growing trend of expanding what is defined as entertainment. 

“Our audience loves both theater and music,” said Ellen Richard, executive producing director of the Laguna Playhouse. “We have found over the past few years that the demand for music acts has really grown and is attracting a new audience to the Playhouse.” She felt the Doobie Brothers band which originated in California was a perfect fit for the Playhouse’s spring season.

Audience is key to show’s success

Performing the songs of a band that’s not only been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are themselves still touring, could be intimidating. But both Tentindo and Byrne thrive on the joy these classical rock songs bring to their audiences. 

“People are just having a great time,” said Tentindo. “With tributes, I find they’re there to come back, reminisce and just enjoy the music they grew up with.” It helps that the Doobie Brothers music was on the radio during his formative years as well. “I love this music, so I can get into it even more.” 

And when the crowd starts moving, it impacts vocalist Byrne. 

“I feed off the crowd and we’ve gotten some great reactions – it’s been very energizing.” 

This Doobie Peter Tendindo

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Michael Yorkell

Peter Tentindo, left, who grew up on the music of the Doobie Brothers, finds connecting with the audience is a highlight of this show. Bob Whitlinger, on bass looks on.

Often a tribute crowd tends to be older. But last year, when the group performed in the northeast for summer concert audiences that varied between 250-10,000 people, an inter-generational crowd was frequently in attendance. Most credit it to the diverse, but classic rock music of the Doobie Brothers.

“We’ve tweaked some stuff since we’ve started this,” said Byrne. When they performed eight shows in 10 days in Florida this winter, they not only learned which lineups worked best, they also learned how to gel as a band. 

“We experienced, in that short course of time, what most bands experience over the full course of a tour. We got past all the personality issues and are really focused on the music,” he said. “These musicians are so seasoned and so good at what they do, we can get some warm-up time and we’re ready for the show. Once you’re up and running, it’s power steering.”

Tentindo loves tweaking their sets in response to the audience reactions. 

“We have our set list, and some nights we might veer a bit. We can throw in a few surprises here and there. Like they say in the song ‘It Keeps You Running.’”

What a Fool Believes will be performed May 13 at 7:30 p.m., May 14 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and May 15 at 1 p.m. 

The Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach.

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