The Big Sky Wanderers – Marty Brough, Scott Arkell, Kevin Bishop, Mark Bunt and Richie Jackson – perform at Simonholt on New Years Eve. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo all-hit cover band will play crowd-pleasers on New Year’s Eve

The Big Sky Wanderers perform at Simonholt on Dec. 31

Keyboardist Scott Arkell said it was a “party atmosphere” when he and his band The Big Sky Wanderers played their first New Year’s Eve concert as a band last year.

The local ensemble – Arkell, guitarists Marty Brough and Mark Bunt, bassist Richie Jackson and drummer Kevin Bishop – will be looking to bring that feeling back when they usher in the new year at Simonholt on Dec. 31.

“A lot of us do other musical projects as well so to be in this band here together and just ending 2019 with friends, it’s a highlight,” said Arkell, who attended VIU’s music program around the same time as Brough and Jackson.

Jackson added that they’ve found good chemistry with their current lineup.

“We’re staring to get to the point where we’re learning songs relatively quickly and we’re expending our musical vocabulary a little bit more and it’s good because it broadens our audience a little bit,” he said.

The bandmates describe The Big Sky Wanderers as “the Jack FM of cover bands,” as their repertoire resembles that of the all-hit radio station, while favouring the music of the ’80s.

“The first set might be more of the people are still socializing, lounging, eating, conversing, and then our second set might be, OK, now they want to start to move and then the third set is when the volume goes up,” Arkell said, describing their shows.

Reflecting on last year’s New Year’s performance, Jackson said “it’s always cool” see how people react to the music they play.

“I remember this one guy, he got up and danced to a song that I didn’t expect him to. Just one of those things where you’re like, ‘I wouldn’t have taken you to dance to Harvest Moon,’” Jackson said. “So it’s always interesting to see how music hits people and that’s part of the reason why we do this, too, is to make people feel good and access some of those memories that you can’t get from any other methods.”

Looking head to 2020, Arkell will be leaving the group from April to October to take a position working at a resort in Greece. His bandmates joked that The Big Sky Wanderers could look a lot different upon his return.

“Who knows what might happen when I come back in the fall?” Arkell asked.

“That’s when we bust out all the Megadeth and stuff,” Jackson joked.

“We’re just going to become a full-on metal band,” Bunt added.

“And black fingernail polish,” Brough said.

WHAT’S ON … Scott Arkell and the Big Sky Wanderers perform at Simonholt, 6582 Applecross Rd., on Tuesday, Dec. 31 starting at 9 p.m. Tickets $30.

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