When the Ocean Park Wailers play for dancing this New Year’s Eve at the Crescent Legion’s newly revamped Club 240 venue (2643 128 St.), it will be the culmination of a year of growth in every respect.
The South Surrey-based band, which started modestly some 11 years ago as a feel-good garage band for a handful of locals revisiting rock ’n’ roll classics, has evolved organically into a tight, dance-oriented act with strong stage presence and a loyal following – and more gig offers than they can, logistically, accept.
“I feel like it has reached a whole new dimension over the last year,” said Jim Widdifield, one-half of a keyboard partnership completed by the equally experienced and versatile Bill Brooks.
The group’s current lineup, headed by charismatic lead vocalist/guitarist/frontman Mike Sheeshka, is rounded out by the instrumental skills of lead guitarist Kevin Irwin, bassist Russ Froese, drummer Paul Sorbara and sax player Elliott Clarkson.
And Widdifield said they have developed into an area favourite that can cover, adeptly, everything from Rod Stewart and ZZ Top to Joe Cocker, The Beatles and Amy Winehouse, add some convincing country twang and some funky R&B and even offer a list of originals that is rapidly approaching album-length (Widdifield said recording may be in the offing in the new year).
Widdifield said he first started with the band as a fill-in, initially swapping dates with Brooks (with whom he also works in the R&B-oriented Cooler Kings).
“Eventually, both bands decided they wanted to go with double keyboard players – we complement each other, because he plays a lot of Hammond and synth and I play more piano.
“When Mike joined a year ago, he started taking the band to a bit of a different level. We’ve spread out in terms of material, but it’s still all about the love of the music and being able to get it out there and help people have a good time.”
He said New Year’s Eve will also be an opportunity to showcase for locals the recently-improved venue characteristics of the club – including an enlarged stage and new lighting and background curtains – and highlight the fact that music at Club 240 doesn’t end, by any means, on Jan. 1.
Widdifield and his partners in the Semiahmoo Music Consortium produce and promote dances at the venue most Friday nights, except holidays, throughout the year, bringing in not only local groups like the Wailers, but also such heavy-hitting dance bands as Incognito, the Mojo Stars, Blue Voodoo, Soul Purpose and Big City Soul; while the legion also promotes dances and other events (including such attractions as Nearly Neil and Bonnie Kilroe’s Divas) other nights, including Saturdays and some Thursdays.
Tickets for the Ocean Park Wailers New Year’s party ($75) include prime rib dinner buffet (with seafood or vegetarian options), party favours and bubbly at midnight, and are available from the legion box office (604-535-1043) or www.club240.ca