Band Element of Surprise, Ventura County CA

Do you <3 classic rock? Strange pairings of music, such as Richie Valens & the Ramones meet Deep Purple? You may appreciate us. We're the band Element of Surprise! We may get thru the song-or it may go horribly AWRY. You pays yer money & you takes yer chance! We play a very eclectic mix of classic & alt rock...if you live in the SoCal area & listen to either KLOS or KRTH-101, you've heard most of our songs. We're a 6-piece consisting of Pat on vocals & percussion, James on lead guitar, Hector on bass, Rob on drums, newest member Danny on acoustic and electric guitars, and your humble scribe Rita on rhythm guitar/keyboard/harmonica and vocals. We've been together for 5 years (longer than some marriages!) and have had some memorable gigs. I started this blog to keep a list of them--and to chronicle our RISE-TO POWER! Well, not really--all of us have a day job, and we're all over 45 (except for Danny, who is young and impressionable!) so this is more of a hobby. But we all have an abiding love for music, and we have healthy self-images, and some of us are major hams, so here we are. Walking down the street. We get the funniest looks. From everyone we meet. Hey hey--no, stop, that's plagiarism. Anyways, I don't expect anyone (other than MY FRIENDS & FAMILY) to ever read this, but if you do and you have an interest in an elderly garage band on the first level of getting started gigging, welcome and well-met. If YOU have an interest in starting a band and are curious about equipment, etc-let us know. Maybe we can help you avoid a TON of trouble.
Well, cheers, and see you "on the cover of the 'Rolling Stone,'"
Rita aka MrsMMars :-)



Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thank you for 5 years of rocking

Hi all:  It is with sadness that I must announce the end of Element of Surprise. The band members have decided that, although we are friends and will continue to support each other's musical ventures, it is time to go our separate ways.

We have been together 5 years and have learned a tremendous amount during this time.

Love & hugs to Rob, Hector, Pat and Danny-you guys are our musical family and we loved being part of EOS, warts and all.
Most of all, we want to thank you, our fans, who supported and encouraged us, and came out to visit us when we played out, with varying degrees of success. You guys are the best and we will miss playing for you.

Here's what's going on with the individuals in the band:

Rob is going into a different musical genres, more R&B style, and will be pursuing personal development.
James & Rita, of course, are continuing with De La Crank, and will be joined by Danny and Pat.
Hector didn't say what he's going to do, but he is very much a family man and I'm sure he'll be happy to have more free time for his grandkids.
This blog wasn't exactly the most widely-read blog on the 'Net, but I will miss having the outlet after a gig to post what went right and what didn't. ;-)

That said, if you are interested in the continuing adventures of the Colonel & MrsMMars, I invite you to check out our blogs-"Jim's Blog" and "Rita's Blog"-at http://www.delacrank.com/.

I leave you with this wish, for a Rocking 2011 and a year filled with love, peace and music!

God Bless,
Rita

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thanks for supporting us this year! We truly appreciate all the kind words and good wishes you've given us, and we look forward to seeing your smiling faces next year at our open gigs.

May you all be blessed with a peaceful and prosperous Rocking New Year!

<3, Rita, Jim, Danny, Hector, Pat and Rob :-)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Upcoming gig on 12/11 for private dinner party

Howdy faithful readers! Just mentioning that the band will be playing a private dinner party on 12/11 in Oxnard (or Teh Nard as it's called by Ventura County locals who don't live there.) It's a fundraiser for a group that supports families of murdered children. Sounds grim but we're looking forward to playing. It's going to be a long one, 5:30 - 11:00 pm. More details later. Have a great Turkey Day, if we don't talk before then!
Cheers,
Mrs MMars

Monday, November 1, 2010

Normally, I don't do this kind of post, but...

...it needs to be said. If you are over the age of 18, YOU NEED TO GET YOUR @$$ DOWN TO YOUR POLLING PLACE ON 11/2 AND VOTE, 4@<%ERS. If you don't vote you can't bitch! I don't care if you vote Conservative or Liberal (well, yah I do but that's another blog) but if you don't vote for anything else, vote YES on Prop 19. There are lots of reasons for voting Yes, but the most important is that you will help change History and send a message to the State that marijuana needs to be legalized to get the DEA personnel off the minor stuff and on to the serious, hard-core drug pushers. ALSO-the Mexican government is AGAINST Prop 19. What does that tell you?! What more do you need to know?! PLEASE JOIN ME IN VOTING YES ON 19. I'm a jerk and I approve this message. ;-)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Sacred Heart Fiesta gig 10-24 Ooooh, you missed out!! :-)

Dudes. It was fun. But it's late and I'm tired (it's 6:30pm and I'm OLD.) More to follow, when I can lift my arms to type a post and load some pix. Thanks.
Sigh. Who am I kidding, if I don't do it now it won't get done.
Well, James & I got there at 8:30 dull (as opposed to 8:30 sharp. ;-) This is the life of a low-rent band, you have morning gigs and it's too early for tequila shots (or 'talent juice' as christened by Esteban AKA Danny.) And it's too early to burn nervous energy by practicing, cos you have to unload ALL THIS CRAP. ;-)
After-Hours Productions setting up.
Look at ALL those TROPHIES!

We were very pleasantly surprised, however, to find that the onerous job of setting up the PA system was being very competently handled by Rico and Dan of After Hours Productions. They were there at 6 am (OMG-made my whining about having to be there at 8:30 seem very, very small.) Their equipment was absolutely top of the line, and perfectly tailored for a large outdoor venue like this (without making the neighbors reach for the Excedrin.) This was one of the easiest set-ups we've ever had, and we were able to walk around a bit and check out some of the cars and bicycles in the Show.

We found the EXACT Buick Roadmaster that James used for the De La Crank website! We were SO EXCITED! We recognized it by the fuzzy dice hanging from the rear-view mirror, pinstriping above the grill, and  the shiny headlights. It truly is a beautiful vehicle and deserves recognition. The owner, Mr. Henry, is still unknowing of his car's exalted position in the annals of music and webpagedness, but I really hope some day to meet him, shake his hand, and ask him to go to www.delacrank.com and see his car immortalized. Well, the grill, anyways.
There were also some extremely amazing bicycles that deserve recognition. These kids do some AMAZING things. I've posted some pix so you can see what you missed today. SHAME ON YOU. ;-)
We did a sound check around 10:20; we played 'Tuff Enuff,' which we managed to mess up by starting on a 4-count, as opposed to the 3-count that the song actually starts with. LOL. However, I must say how proud I am that we have been able to overcome our minor disasters and go forward without most of the audience being any the wiser.

We went on officially at 10:30 and played 13 songs. I won't bore you with the setlist. Some of the highlights were, as usual, "Suavecito," "I Should Have Known Better," and "Running Down a Dream."


There weren't many folks in the audience directly in front of us, but there were a lot of people there--I'd guess at least a couple of hundred. There were a LOT of beautiful old cars there, too.
We took a potty/beer break at 11:30. I felt SO decadent having a beer before breakfast - and at a church, no less. Does that make me an alkie? Only time will tell. I *did* miss the 'talent juice' but the beer was a nice substitute. LOL. Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery. ;-)
James taking 5 before we start
Some of the really cool bikes we saw

Pat thinking about our next song?
"Purple Haze"
Look at that Roland Juno-D!

Rita n Rob
Rob with gear
Bitchin' bike! I WANT ONE, this one will probably fit my fat @$$ LOL!

Here are some random shots from the gig. We played til 1 sharp. ;-) There were no major melt-downs, and we had good crowd response for the most part - what else can you ask? Considering the last time we played for Sacred Heart, I can confidently say we have improved immensely, and are ready to do it again. Pat's ability to engage the audience (with the help of an AWESOME wireless mike that After Hours set her up with) are a huge portion of our success. We got through it, and we are proud that we can bust out 25 songs without the crowd knowing at which point we screw up. ;-)
(Yawn) well it's now 8:42 and I'm BEAT. So thanks for reading, as always, and thanks for keeping up with us--you have no idea how much we appreciate it.
Hugs,
Rita =OD
Pat n Danny

Pat, Danny n Jim

How are those fairy-tale football scores coming along, guys? LOL!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hey folks, it's not too late to commit to seeing us at the Sacred Heart Fiesta!

Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more say NO MORE!!! ;-) Hope to see you all around 10:30 - 1pm at the Sacred Heart Church on Henderson Road in Ventura. Thanks for reading and REMEMBER, IF I SEE YOU THERE & YOU TELL ME YOU'VE READ MY BLOG, I'LL BUY YOU A BEER (as long as they are selling them there.) ;-)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Holy CRAP, a MILESTONE! Over 300 views of my blog!! YOU F@<%ERS ROCK!

Daaaaaaaaang...AMAZING. And I freely admit I may be responsible for 103 of those 303, but still...I am THRILLED! And HUMBLE!! And--oops, I think I may have just wet myself. ;-) Just wanna say "THANK YOU!" for all the love, and I hope you'll keep on this crazy journey with us--there's lot's more to come (God Willing) and I will keep chronicling it here for everyone to share. Even those of you who may be thousands of miles (or kilos) away physically, but are just a thought away in our hearts.
In a world filled with jibba-jabba, I realize there's a lot to command your attention, and the fact you're willing to spend some time with me makes me very grateful. LOVE YOU ALL. And if you come up to me at our next gig & tell me you've read my blog, I WILL PERSONALLY BUY YOU A BEER and autograph a pick or something. LOL! Hang onto those, they may be worth something someday!!
Much love,
MrsMMars aka Rita aka Metalhaid (how many other freaking aliases do I have? Oh yea, "Mom" and "Wife of Colonel Mick Mars." LOL!)

Gig upcoming on 10/24! 10:30-5:30pm, Sacred Heart Church Fiesta, 10800 Henderson, Ventura

Hey folks! The Sacred Heart Church Fiesta will be happening on 10/24. We'll be on the stage from 10:30-1pm. Come check out music, food & drink, woodworking, a car show, and their wonderful carnival, with games and prizes. In years past, there have been mariachi bands, ballet folklorico, and polynesian dancers. Should be a kick! Hope to see you there!
For more info, please check out:  http://www.sacredheartventura.org/FIESTA%20Flyer.pdf

Thursday, October 14, 2010

SOUNDBYTES/VID #3 OF 3

Drums/jazz odyssey! ;-) Hector & Rob messing around...

video

SOUNDBYTES/VIDS #2 OF 3

video
This is a *little* better, but it still sounded like karaoke with instruments. :-P Which was a pisser, because we were SO excited about doing this. Unfortunately there's no way to adjust the individual sounds (drums, bass, etc.) We'd have to turn up to get over the drums...and then you couldn't hear the vocals. Oh well...on to Plan B!

Monday, October 11, 2010

SOUNDBYTES/VIDS- as promised! #1 of 3

Before you all start hating, let me explain what happened here. Some jackass left the "ring modulator" effect on the recording equipment prior to us going in...and of COURSE the disaffected 30-somethings who were supposed to help us, didn't bother to check that out prior to us recording our first song (and burning about 10 minutes of our studio time.) GRRRRR. Anyways, here we are sounding like Deep Space 9 through a megaphone...with some David Bowie and Trent Reznor thrown in for bad measure. video

Saturday, October 9, 2010

We recorded a CD today! MAN was it a lot of work X-P

...and what a trip *that* was. Guitar Center Recording Studios (and I do think they use the term "studio" kinda loosely) will let anyone with $30/hr go in, use their FABULOUS equipment (worth every penny here, folks; the Colonel playing through a Marshall JVM head & 4x12 speakers= L-O-U-D!) and lay down as many tracks as they can get out. We bought in for 3 hours. We hit top speed in like 0 - 2 songs and didn't let up for the 3 hours. MAN I had to pee so bad at the end I was dancing around like Michael Jackson on the 'Thriller' tour.

We went down with the idea to do at least 5 tunes (not in order but this is what they were): Love Shack, Running Down a Dream, Heaven, Twist n Shout, and Sabor a Mi. We got down there at 9:40 (they opened at 10.) So the Colonel & I drove across the parking lot to a nearby 'Jamba Juice,' where the 20-somethings behind the counter took 20 minutes (I AM NOT EXAGGERATING) to fix 2 yogurts and 1 smoothie. Did I mention there was NO ONE ELSE IN FRIGGING LINE? I finally sent Jim back at 9:55 to GC so he could at least get started unloading equipment, then got in my cardio for the day, humping back double-time when they finally gave me our order.

Oh BOY is it a rough go playing with new equipment. There was SO much to choose from! Even better, they had so many amps that I didn't have to run the keyboard and guitar through the same amp. For my guitar (the lovely Taylor solid-body electric) I chose a Fender head & amp Super-Sonic that is similar to my wonderful Super-Sonic combo at home, minus the beloved reverb (HUH?!)

OK before I go any further--I am NOT an electronic guitar player, folks. This may come as a shock to some of you. ;-) But there are so many details to know about the amps, the pedals, the whatevers, that it is a science unto itself, and you have to know at least as much general information about amplifiers & effects as you do to actually play the damn thing, that it is mind-boggling. Remember, my hero is Neil Young - who although known for both electric and acoustic songs, is more memorable for his acoustic work (which is why I started playing guitar in the first place.) But I ALSO LOVE ANGUS YOUNG!! (guitar player for AC/DC, for those who don't know--and shame on you if you don't. ;-)

Anyways (now that I've made my excuses) I was excited to see a Vox amp - the legendary VOX that (gasp!) the BEA-EFFING-TLES used! Let me interject here, that the lighting was more akin to what you'd find in an intimate restaurant where you'd take your mistress for a late lunch, rather than your whole band to try to get some work done. DO YOU THINK I COULD FIGURE THIS SUCKER OUT TO SAVE MY NECK? NOT IF YOU HELD A GUN TO MY HEAD. I felt better after asking Danny (aka Esteban) to take a look at it and tell me whether I was retarded, or the amp was. He was as much in the dark as I was, which made me feel ever so much better! Ignorance loves company! So there was a Marshall combo (like 80 bazillion watts) next to it, that I could understand; I ran my keyboard into it for the nonce.

OK, my blood pressure was now up in the triple digits (THIS CAN'T SUCK!! THIS CAN'T SUCK!!) and we set levels, got some idea where we were, and got ready to launch.

We did 'Running Down...' first. Then twice. Then again. ;-)

At this point, us thinking that this was a DIGITAL type setup, we wanted feedback (and not the negative kind.) So we tried to hit 'playback,' tried to hit the 'back' button, etc....all without the slightest effect.

We went running for someone who could help us (we're on the clock here, folks, and it's reading 10:45 at this point) and eventually a guy showed up who told us we needed to push 'record,' then 'play,' then left us. So we eventually got to the point where we could hear ourselves...and were horrified to realize that 'Running Down a Dream' sounded more like something Trent Reznor (of 9 Inch Nails) would have produced on an off day. Some knucklehead left a 'ring modulator' effect on the recording equipment that had the unfortunate result of making us sound like we were broadcasting from Deep Space 9 through a megaphone. I've uploaded a clip for your listening pleasure. ;-) Or not.

So, after straightening that mess out, we proceeded to lay down the track the way God and Tom Petty originally intended it. Then, wanting to hear the result, we tried to play it back...and found there was no playback to be had. We went running again to someone for help...and a young lady with lots of hair (and booty) came back to sweetly advise us that, "like, you only record a CD, you can't listen to it, cos then you finalize it and that's it." Fortunately Hector brought a handful of blank CDs, and we were able to record first one, then another.

We then went through 'Love Shack,' 'Sabor a Mi,' 'Twist and Shout,' then 'Heaven.' (2 times each. For the most part--there were a few technical difficulties that caused a couple of the songs to be repeated and re-repeated.) The vocals on 'Heaven' gave me EFFING FITS. I was NOT in the singing zone, and I forced my bandmates to endure me trying to find the song on YouTube on my iPhone, then made Pat & Robert go over our parts several times. At the end, I finally felt (kind of) confident, but only hearing the final recording will tell....

So! We wound up with something like 50 minutes left on the CD...what to do? I immediately suggested "Listen To The Music," which is one of our stronger numbers. After some debate, we agreed...then did that thrice (technical difficulties rose their ugly heads yet again.)

"Listen To The Music" has some FANTASTIC harmonies in it, we love them and spent a little while working on them. A couple of glitches required us to re-do this song, but we finally felt the whole thing come together.

We were down to about 15 minutes...THEN THE RED LIGHT OF DEATH CAME ON OVER THE DOOR!! GASP and HORROR!! This indicated we were at our last 15 minutes. What to do, what to do? I muttered under my breath, "Play That Funky Music," mainly because I don't play on that song--I knew I could deliver a growly vocal and 'lay down the boogie' with some au-tho-ri-tay. It was all up to my bandmates. Pat gave me a level look, got the cowbell, and took her place. Rob looked all around--you could tell he was trying to think, "Is there a song we do better?" We do have quite the catalog, so I was glad he was trying to think of the best number to end with--but I was smug about him not being able to come up with anything better. Danny said defiantly, "I am ready!" And Hector played a few notes and said, "Let's go." And then Jim opened up the heavens with, "Bomp-bomp-bomp" etc. The band launched into the song and it was one of those killer moments, the WHOLE REASON why we DO this--the planets all aligned, we were all in sync and in tune, and I gave it my best shot.

Then we got to do it AGAIN. It was THE BEST.

We finished (NO $#!T) at 12:57 (remember we only had 3 hrs) and Hector started the 'finish' process so we could get the CD done. I RAN to the ladies' room.

Hector had to take off, but the rest of us were STARVING, so we wound up at BJ's Brewery (Pat, Danny, Rob, Jim and I.) We somehow got onto the 'Gilligan's Island' theme and started singing and laughing like crazy. The food was great; likewise the beer.

We parted, dropped off Rob, and got home....where I started posting this (after a TON of trouble.) Anyways, I look forward to posting the results of the CD...I hope you all enjoy it as much as we did making it!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How to lose 2 gigs in 2 days D-:

Well, we were all afire to play another fundraiser on the 16th...then found out our hostess was due for surgery on the 14th. Then we were asked to perform on the 9th for a birthday party...and were told today, never mind. Hmmmmm....we showered, we have been practicing...one must beg the question--is it something we said? Something we *did*? Do we charge too much?  :-C
If anyone wants a band for a Halloween party on the 30th, please let me know--I think it would be *such* a kick to play in costume! And I already have it picked out, so I'm ready to show it off LOL!
Have a wonderful Halloween, regardless of whether we play or no! ;-)
Hugs,
MrsMMars  =^-.-^=

Saturday, September 25, 2010

We interrupt this blog to bring you this breaking news--

My hubby, James McKinney, aka The Colonel, has produced his first album, entitled "All Puffed Up" and under  the band name De La Crank!! It's available on iTunes, and you can also check it out on his brand-new website, www.delacrank.com. Please check it out and let us know what you think. Thanks for your support!! <3

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pix from 9-18? Yeah right! ^_^

OK, figured it out. Amazing what one can do when one isn't tired and hammered, LOL. Here they are--feel free to comment, since I went to the trouble of posting them, the least you can do is tell me whether you like them or not! ;-)

Fundraiser - FRO Foundation - Gig at Chuy's in Camarillo

Jim is chanelling the "talent juice"

Hector & his rig

Los borrachos - again! LOL!

There are good shots...then there is THIS.

Where ARE those TACOS!

Best. Tequila. Ever
What a GREAT day. We played at Chuy's in Camarillo. The day was perfect, not too hot and just lovely after the haze burned off. The Colonel & I got there at 10 sharp. We met Kevin, a very nice young man who showed us where we were going to be playing, and helped us set up by moving tables etc. The palapas (umbrellas with palm fronds for shades) were bolted down but provided a nice shade. We unloaded all of our CRAP (and folks, when I say "CRAP," it's amazing how much stuff it takes to put on a show--PA system-which is a car-load unto itself-guitar stands, mikes & stands, speakers & monitors, enough cables to encircle the earth a couple of times, my guitar, keyboard & amp, the Colonel's guitar & amp...it goes ON and ON) then started setting up...and up...and up. We were joined by Pat & Danny around 10:30, and Rob & Hector shortly thereafter. After we set up, tuned, and were ready to go, I ran across the parking lot to Trader Joe's, where I bought a bottle of 100% agave reposado tequila. THIS WAS THE BEST TEQUILA UNDER $20 I HAVE EVER TASTED. And the Colonel, Danny, Pat, and Rob corroborated that the tequila was, indeed, very tasty. The go-go juice did its magic, the talent started started flowing, and the show was more or less ready to go on about 12:40; we did "Angel Baby" as a sound check, with the Colonel sitting in the audience to check levels--a novel experience for him, and one I suspect that he would like to emulate more frequently ;-) We started our set, per our usual way, with "Big Me/Runaway Train." We like running these numbers together, as I've said before--it makes us sound like we know what we're doing (and since we always know these go together, it lessens the nerve factor. ;-)

We ran into some trouble with "Just Like Heaven," unfortunately--Hector had a beautiful new Fender Precision bass, but--his usual axe, the Ibanez--has *5* strings, while the Precision had 4, making him off-key. Poor Hec! We took our lumps and soldiered on. He changed back to the Ibanez & we ran through the rest of the set with a minimum of problems. One of the problems was--right after we did "Suavecito," which Pat does beautifully and is probably my favorite song we do (when all the planets are in alignment, and everyone is on the same page, it's a freaking work of aural art, literally) we ran "Black Magic Woman" onto the end. This would have been fine--had I been turned up loud enough for Jim & Hector to hear me :-P. I realized the problem immediately, and cranked the amp up to 11 - then started feeding back! ARRRGH! So, I turned back down to a level just below feedback, stood behind my amp, and delivered my personal best. Afterward, a gal came up and high-fived me, saying she couldn't believe it was me doing the lead, then clarified the statement by saying I did a good job and telling me, "You go, girl!" That was some very welcome recognition! I may not be Ruyters Sighs (guitar player for Nashville P) but I can play 'Black Magic Woman.'  ;-)
The Colonel praised my work and then, just to add pressure, announced that on the next song, I would be playing guitar, harmonica, and performing the lead for "I Should Have Known Better." I retorted that the lead was rather easier on that song than Black Magic Woman.

Let me say a bit here about the fundraiser & why we were there. Jeff Flores is an Air Force vet and a corrections officer. He is originally from Camarillo, then moved (with his family) to Las Vegas a few years ago, where after landing his dream job of being a police officer, was diagnosed a few months later with leukemia. He has been fortunate enough to locate a marrow donor, and with luck will be home with his family (after being in the hospital for 5 months) in another month or so. The fundraiser was organized by a friend of mine from work, Lisa Ayala, who's best friends with Jeff's wife Tracy (apologies if I got the name wrong.) There were raffle prizes, the venue Chuy's offered a $10 chicken dinner with 1/2 the proceeds going to the family (and the food was DELICIOUS) and a LOT of my friends from work showed up. It is SO cool to see people you normally see only in the workplace, out and about on the weekend. Here's a (partial, and I say that because it's now 10:22 and I may not remember everyone tonight--if you were there & I didn't list you, PLEASE let me know & I'll update this post ;-) list of folks I knew that were there today (again, apologies if I get the names wrong!)

Lisa Ayala (of course :-)
Laurie and Bruce
Marie, her son, and her sister-in-law Shelley
Laura H and her friend Bill
Marla, Laura B and Kristen
Kim W & hubby Greg W
Mike J

We ended the first set an hour after we started, so Lisa could pull some raffle tickets and give away some prizes. There were some happy people in the crowd! We took about a 20-minute break, wherein we all punished the tequila bottle some more and then kicked back to a playlist the Colonel had pre-recorded on his iPod, which included Muddy Waters, Avril Levine, Mel Torme, Chuck Berry, and Howling Wolf (among others.) The Colonel went through a slight trepidation at the possibility that there might have been some Black Sabbath on the playlist, but we dodged the bullet. We had heard "Fairies Wear Boots" on the way to the gig, and one just doesn't have luck like that, to hear 2 epically great Black Sabbath songs like that in one 4-hour period (although I heard 'Planet Caravan' later that night, and my life was fulfilled.)

We came on strong with "Evil Ways," "Heaven," "Seminole Wind" and "Listen to the Music" (by the Doobie Brothers.) The Colonel had watched a Frank Sinatra special, where The Chairman Of The Board stated one should play 2 fast songs, then 2 slow songs, so we tried to kind of adhere to that, but with this set, we went to the mat with everything we could bring. I was proud of my rendition of "Hippy Hippy Shake," and the crowd seemed to like it, considering the number of folks gyrating, hooting and hollering. "Smoke on the Water" started with it's usual schtick ("Jim, wrong song!") and we made the audience laugh, which was all that mattered. Rob busted out "Spill the Wine" very competently, and I defy ANYONE to try and play drums while singing! We played another hour, and Lisa came up and picked some more raffle winners. We kind of ripped through our last set, making a great impression on the crowd. Probably the best crowd reactions came from "Play that Funky Music," "Love Shack," and "What I Like About You." Which makes sense, being as they are really great songs. ;-)

Per our usual, we ended with "La Bamba." ALWAYS a crowd pleaser. I sing half and Pat sings half, and Jim does his incomparable guitar work on it, and Danny is really dead-on (he plays an extra F chord that just makes the song work) and Rob and Hector are rock solid, so there's nowhere else to go but up. We took our bows, said, "Camarillo, GOOD NIGHT!" and the crowd went wild. And screamed. And screamed. Lisa finally came out and asked us to play for another half hour, because we were doing so well (well, they were doing so well at the bar & with food. ;-) We returned with '29 Palms,' after a very moving speech from Jim saying 'Thank You' to all of the veterans in the audience--freedom is NOT free, and those who served paid the price, some of them the ultimate, for us to have the freedom that we enjoy. As most of you know, our son is in the Marines, and is currently serving in Afghanistan, so this was rather hard to listen to and then have to sing--I cry at dog food commercials, folks, so you can imagine what this did to my nerves. Pat and Danny were very supportive, and hugged me. I managed to pull it off without too much waterworks and fanfare. Our songs were: 29 Palms, Talking In Your Sleep, and Running Down a Dream.

We got MORE Encore calls! WHAT A KICK! The audience was SO great, yelling "ENCORE, ENCORE!" Lisa came up to us and said, "OK, ONE more!" We looked at each other, dumbfounded. This has NEVER occurred in our career. We immediately launched into an argument over the last song. We were hissing our song choices at each other. I wanted "Long Cool Woman." Danny wanted "Pink Cadillac." Rob wanted something different. I finally said, "Come on you guys--" and Rob said, "Yeah! "Come On Let's Go!" That was PERFECT. We ended with 'Blitzkreig Bop' and then immediately pulled the plug. Dudes, we played 47 effing songs today, not counting repeats--we did our best today, and our best did NOT suck. Whew! I'm going to bed now. ;-)

Catch up! No, not the kind you put on fries ;-)

Hey folks: It's been awhile, hasn't it? I think our last gig was 7/4...waaay too long. It doesn't really seem like it's been a busy summer (unfortunately no time off, no cool trips, nothing but work & more work) but it's been enough to keep us from the boards. Sorry about that.
Well, news--? The Colonel turned 50 on 8/2. We went to the Santa Monica Civic Center to attend the World Guitar Convention (sounds much fancier than it is--basically, it's a flea market for musical instruments that they charge $15 admission to.) Still, it was all about guitars, and that made it cool. We had a good time, then went and checked out the fancy new mall in Santa Monica called The Santa Monica Place. It was, well, fancy. ;-) They have a killer wine bar with a fabulous view of the beach, that made the $10 they charged me for the glass worthwhile.
I turned 48 on September 8th. No big deal. I'm looking forward to being 55...senior discounts and I'll be eligible for retirement from my day job (not that I'll be able to AFFORD to retire, unless this gigging thing goes MONSTER ;-) but it's the next milepost for me. So, 7 more years. Then I'll stop counting birthdays. I had a very lovely week, though--I was taken out for lunch 5 times! =oD I have really wonderful friends and am blessed with a fabulous family.
So, that's all the latest. I wanted to separate these posts, because the next one is about our FANTASTIC gig at Chuy's on 9/18. Thanks for reading! ^ * ^

Monday, September 13, 2010

Long time no talk... :-)

...haven't really had anything going on, Element-wise or gig-wise. We're working on a sample CD, which hopefully we'll have out in a month or so, and we have a gig coming up at Chuy's Mesquite Broiler in Camarillo CA on 9/18 - more on that to come. Thanks for reading! =oD

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mia's Place!

dang it, the sign was supposed to say "ELEMENT OF SURPRISE" or "Rita McKinney Enterprises PRESENTS ELEMENT OF SURPRISE" LOL!!

Had a BLAST at Mia's today. Some good friends showed up and we were really grateful!
<--isn't Pat pretty? Love her "Betty Page" look LOL!











We went easy & just used the majority of the setlist from the 4th. Jim & I were scrambling to get out of Santa Paula early on; Jim didn't realize that we were going on at 3 (not 4) and at noon he realized we still had to get our kid to the Citrus Festival (where she was doing volunteer work for the FFA) so we went into super YIKES! mode and got everything busted down and into the Element, while I took Lilli to her job. We made it to Mia's about 1:15. Setup took about an hour, and we actually started our first set at 2:45. Laurie, whose hubby Bruce is an awesome singer BTW, was at her sister's salon next door! And came over to say hi & let us know she'd be doing her homework outside, so could we keep it down LOL! Just kidding!

<--Elba, Hector's wife, sits in for a couple of numbers, while Hector was doing something else.

Here's a little secret about us, folks: Element of Surprise are a bit superstitious and have a few traditions we are religious about following, in order to ensure good luck for the gig. One is that the Colonel and I always have Taco Bell before we go. I figure the stomach ache will neutralize the nerves LOL. Another tradition is that the Colonel always provides the crew with a couple of shots of teh-kill-ya prior to going on. If the Taco Bell doesn't eradicate the nerves, the tequila does. HURRRRRR. It's pretty raspy but it does make your hands stop shaking.
<--Los borrachos! (Google it!)

We played for about a half hour--then the proprietor Gina's friends showed up with some homemade eggrolls and Gina invited us to have some. THEY WERE AWESOME. We took a 5-minute break and just as we did, my friend Laura & her hubby Barney walked in. She was amused--"Break already, huh?" but we explained we were about to scarf eggrolls. They went on the patio and we resumed.
I was really, really happy to see Krishna and Marla show up--Kris has been reassigned to a different campus and I miss his wry viewpoint and hysterical running commentary on all that is crazy about work and life in general. He informed me he was going to yell 'Freebird!' but knew that unfortunately, it no longer fazes us; if you play covers and classic rock, you hear it every gig! ;-)
Marla is my next-desk neighbor (she's in IT, I'm in the Police Dept at work) and she probably hears the most about the band, other than those who are actually in it. She even goes with me to the beach at lunchtime and endures while I practice my guitar. I was very happy to see her there and able to see what all the hoopla is about.
Another couple of folks I must give a shout-out to: some of you may know I've been translating children's online books into Spanish for this awesome company, MightyBook Jr. The Colonel & I have also sung some songs and written music for this outfit. These folks are teaching early childhood literacy and really doing good work. Well, Greg and Cliff (and his lovely girlfriend Nancy) actually came out to see us. I was blown away; Greg came from the San Fernando area (understandable why he'd want to come out actually--he said it was 102 in the Valley :-( ) and Cliff and Nancy came from the eastern County area. I was very pleased to meet these guys and have them check out what we can do (besides 'Itsy Bitsy Spider' LOL. ;-) If you have little ones that would benefit from learning how to read at an early age, or love music, or like to write their own stories! Check out www.mightybookjr.com. They have literally hundreds of books, music, games and puzzles, and are very entertaining. Our contributions are: "Alberta La Gorrion," "El Fulgon Dijo," and a couple of songs: "Cinco Elefantes" and "Elefantes Balanceaba." More to come and I'll be talking about that later, because this is a really cool website that your little ones can benefit from (and not just because the Colonel & I are involved, ha ha.)
We started playing 'Smooth Operator,' and the Colonel informed me that it was his song, as he is The Smooth Operator; then when we finished up, he realized that Gina was much Smoothier than he is. So we dedicated it to Gina and her delicious concoctions. Here's to you, Gina -- The Smoothiest Operator. ;-)
Some friends of Pat's from her work showed up, too, as well as Hector's favorite sister Amy and his lovely wife Elba. Elba held Hec's bass while he ran a errand; we got some cute shots.
This is probably TMI, but we have a 'schtick' for 'Smoke On The Water.' We get a big kick out of this; we announce we're going to do a Deep Purple number. Jim immediately launches into 'Burn' and we stop him; he appears befuddles, apologizes and then immediately launches into 'Lazy.' We stop him again; and I tell him, "No, honey--the one they won't let you play at Guitar Center anymore!" He goes, "Oh yah," and starts Smoke On the Water. Corny but fun! One guy in the audience 'got it,' then asked Jim to play 'Burn.' For reals. :-(
It was warm, and it was work; but ultimately it is very rewarding. There's something very (dare I say?) elemental about performing in front of people. It's so cool to show people "hey, this is what we love, hope you like what we are doing" and get their feedback. And of course, it's always a rush to hear people clap and yell for you.
I probably liked 'Wicked Game' best. Danny can play this already very well, and it frees me to concentrate on my singing; probably the best number I did all day. I screwed up the ending to '29 Palms' but thought I did fairly well on the vocals. Pat's best number was undoubtedly 'I Got The Music In Me,' and we got through it ok.
There was a fellow in the audience from Florida (a singer/songwriter in his own write) who was
offering quite a bit of sage advice; at one point he said "Why don't you guys do The Romantics' 'What I Like'?" I told him he had to be patient and wait, and just smiled. When we busted it out, he clapped and cheered. We also performed 'Seminole Wind' for his edification, and he was very appreciative.
Danny (aka Esteban) has a new fan! One of the gals in the audience took a shine to him and told him, "You are SO CUTE!" Then she looked at the rest of us and said, "And you're all cute, in your own way!" LOL well, it's better than being told, "DAMN you're all a bunch of old farts!"
Lessons learned: #1. The Colonel MUST have a mic to make witty repartee; otherwise the poor folks just sit there and watch us go, "What's next?" "Wait, I have to tune." "What key is that in?" "Do I play on this one?"
#2 - In a small venue like this, we can perform the more 'radio-friendly' numbers; no one's dancing, so the songs you would normally save for the beginning of the set (when folks are eating, not there, or being otherwise distracted) work well. Examples would be 'Can't Get Enough' by Bad Company; 'Cinnamon Girl' by Neil Young & Crazy Horse; and 'Runaway Train' by Soul Asylum.
We closed with 'Volver Volver' (the Mexican version of Freebird) and 'I Saw Her Standing There' by the Beatles. Gina was very gracious and appreciative, and told us we could practice there ANY TIME. She even sent us all home with tasty eggrolls :-) mmmmmm, eggrolls.....
We plan on being back there in a month or two, and will let everyone know when we're out again! Looking forward to it!
I want to thank again, all my friends who came out to support us. We TOTALLY LOVE YOU GUYS and really appreciate the kind comments on Facebook (NOTE: I post as Metalhaid.) You've all gained super uber mega-Karma-points and I'm sure you've all contributed to your mansion in Heaven. See ya around!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July 2010! =oD

We had our gig up in beautiful Ojai, and the weather was all one could ask for...at least 20 degrees cooler than usual, and a light breeze made it all the more appealing. Our host, Trent, has a gorgeous home on a 2-1/2 acre spread...and the view was KILLER. We set up at the foot of the stairs going up to the top patio. There was plenty of room for all, which in this line of work, rarely occurs. Unfortunately, the Colonel ran over the host's prize tomato plant within 15 minutes of arriving. He didn't do it on purpose, though--he was trying to get out of the path of some of the parked cars, while angling for the best spot from where we could unload our stuff.
Naturally, the course of true love never runs smooth...neither does the course of gigging. Our first challenge was power. Our host gave us a cord from his daughter's room, however due to it not being grounded, made our equipment hum like vuvuzelas wielded by angry South Africans.
We set up the amps according to our host's specifications (pointing away from the patio) and then had to deal with folks asking us the rest of the evening, why we didn't turn them around. There were 2 reasons: 1, that the configuration of the speakers, cords and mike stands made it almost guaranteed that we would have issues with feedback, were we to put the speakers behind the microphones; and 2, that's how we had them set up, so that was that.
While we were waiting to go on, we asked our host for an iPod to play their choice of tunes, and that made for some hilarity as some of the less inhibited (and unsober) guests made their way to the mikes and sang along to such hits as, "I Can't Fight This Feeling" (by REO Speedwagon.) It was absolutely hilarious, and a tragedy that I didn't have the opportunity to invade some privacy by recording the performance.
There was a large trampoline in the field across from where we were playing, and a lovely tennis/basketball court to our left. There were guys of various ages and stations in life who were courting death by playing basketball in the warm sun as we pulled up. We began unloading, setting up, and were ready to go by 4...when a couple of band members said they needed to go get food and "run errands," meaning obtain the preferred brand of beer for the festivities. We actually started at 5, right when we were supposed to.
We opened with our usual "Big Me/Runaway Train" medley; our host and his guests were excited about us playing songs they recognized as from only 15 years ago. We managed to pull it off without too much trauma, then launched into "29 Palms..." and all hell broke loose. Or didn't, depending upon how you look at it. 3 bars into the song, for some unknown reason, the power cut out. We looked at each other with the deer in the headlights look, and then the power came back on. We shrugged, said, "Mulligan!" and started again. This time, we got through the first chorus before it cut out again. It was like that game you hear on the radio where the folks are singing, the song cuts out, and they have to continue on. We limped through the song, then tried to route power a different way, only to find we didn't have an extra grounded cord. So we soldiered on.
I must point out here that there were several attractive, VERY young ladies (<18) on the trampoline at this point, making it difficult for the male band members to focus on the songs. Later, some boys got on the trampoline, and the focus became waiting for one of the kids to bounce off the trampoline and break a limb. It was kind of hard to watch.
There were also a couple of guys playing Frisbee, that let the thing go by a few times; we were kind of waiting to get a Frisbee in the teeth.
There were also a couple of dirt bikes and enthusiastic riders (shirtless, and tanked up) zipping by. I was concerned that one of them would wipe out, wind up in the dirt, and have to go to the hospital to get his back tattoo reattached. Fortunately, that didn't occur (at least, while we were watching.)
My brother (to whom we owe the gig) showed up a few minutes after the third song, and it was good to see him; he's one of our biggest fans, besides talking us up to the folks there. I look forward to getting some referrals from today.
Another issue that occurred was for some strange reason, my amp (through which I was running both my guitar and keyboard) was making HORRIBLE noises, and I couldn't figure out what the heck was the problem. I eventually just turned down and unplugged and re-plugged, as we switched songs; it was kind of a pain because deviations from the set list made for last-second adjustments which made the rest of the band wait, and kept the crowd waiting, too.
Our 'shtick' of the evening went off well, too...the Colonel announces he is going to do a Deep Purple song--then he launches into "Burn." We stop him, remind him that he's doing the OTHER Deep Purple song...and he launches into "Lazy." We stop him again, ask him to do the Deep Purple song that he's not allowed to play in Guitar Center anymore--and there he goes.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the evening (besides the food, which was absolutely delicious, and the beer, which was also delicious and plentiful) was the Bicycle Polo Match on the tennis court. The Colonel was called into service to do the play-by-play reporting, and he shone. I believe he has missed his life's calling. The teams were The Green Shirts and The Non-Green Shirts, and the usual amount of smack talk was flying about. The Colonel made some clever observations about Jonas Brothers- and Harry Potter-look alikes. The game was made all the more interesting by the judicious application of water bombs, on winners and losers alike. There were also some fireworks that went off at random periods, usually under the tires of the players at the least opportune moment.
We resumed our set after this break, and leaped right into the dance set. The guests came down and settled into some serious fun. We went straight through for about an hour...then ran out of light. We closed with "La Bamba," per our usual way.
Our host was very generous and gracious as we started to tear down, and invited us to stay and watch the fireworks (and enjoy some more libations.) We, however, were anxious to avoid the crowds leaving town (and even more anxious to avoid the supposed DUI check points on the long way out of town.) We got home by 10 (only a little concerned by our gas light coming on halfway down the back side of a very mountainous, dark, curving road...but the Element persevered and got us to the local Valero gas station.)
All in all, I would consider this a success. Each gig is a learning experience that provides a wealth of opportunity to screw up, and how we recovered from each potential disaster is a sign of how we are maturing as a band.
I want to give a shout-out to Danny, who for his second gig, managed to do a very credible performance. He was the first one to have issues with his amp cutting out, and I know that didn't help his nervous condition; but he pulled through like a trooper.
Pat also did a great job of really selling the songs, dancing about, and visiting each of us and singing with each of us. You could feel the energy coming off her and it was infectious. Some young ladies (the 12-14 year old variety) came up and wanted to sing with her; the Colonel said they could sing along with "I've Got The Music In Me" but warned them not to screw up the singer. The girls all clustered around his mike and whispered their lines as their cue came up. It was really cute to watch.
I got a kick out of Rob the Drummer and Hector the Bass Player wearing matching kangol hats, which they obtained in Las Vegas on their recent trip. They are both Beatles fanatics, and their style of playing reflects their love of all things Beatles.
Well, folks, it was a fun time and a great day...but this chick's beat to a frazzle. Going to go recoup for the next gig on the 17th! =o)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ooops....MY BAD

I really, really dropped the ball, folks. I forgot to mention (in our last gig) that we have a NEW MEMBER!! Danny The Guitar Dude, AKA Esteban (on account of his long hair and his ability to amaze with his fingerpicking skills.) Danny joined us towards the end of April and has been a great asset, allowing me to focus more on my keyboarding and singing abilities and bringing a new dimension to the guitar sounds. His first gig was our last one, in Teh Nard, and I bet no one noticed that he was a bit nervous! He did excellent! He's too modest to talk about himself, so I will put words in his mouth. He likes all kinds of music. He's the guitarist for his church choir and is a very talented young man. Stop by at our next gig and welcome him into the mix! And Danny, I apologize again for not updating the blog sooner...sickness, vacation, and a mix of laziness and too much work got in the way, dude--it won't happen again. :-(

Thursday, June 24, 2010

*2* gigs for July! =oD private party 7/4 and Mia's 7/17 Public Venue!!!

Hi faithful readers, sorry for the hiaitus in writing...not much to report til now. The Colonel & I celebrated our 24th anniversary of wedded bliss by going to Las Vegas for a few days...what a BLAST. If you've never stayed at a posh 5-star hotel, I HIGHLY recommend it (if they give you a killer deal like what we got, for some crazy reason.) We stayed at the Encore, it was FABULOUS. We couldn't afford to eat, drink or gamble there, but that's what Downtown is for. ;-)
A few quick lines about the bands we saw there, then it's back to all about US.
We saw a band called The Crashers at Harrah's Carnavale; their schtick is they have a bucket where the audience drops in song requests, and the band will play them (if they are so inclined, and if they know the song.) We requested "anything by DIO." We also put on the note, which was written on Terrible Herbst's stationery: "LOOK WHERE WE ARE STAYING. Please, please hear our request." The note was accompanied by a $5 bill. They obliged by playing "Rainbow In The Dark," at least the first verse of it, and they did a pretty good job. They didn't have the keyboard part, nor was the singer anywhere near Dio's caliber, but we were happy anyways.
The next band we saw was at the Fremont St Experience, in Downtown. There was an Eagles Tribute band playing in the street (on a permanent stage.) Now THESE guys were impressive; their harmonies were dead-on, and they had a pedal-steel guitar player who had a contraption for his guitar that was like a vibrato for one string (or something; I'll have to ask the Colonel for more details, if anyone's interested.) They were really fun to watch.
OK, now back to about US. ;-) We have a private party we will be playing for on July 4th, up in sweltering (but beautiful) Ojai. We're always excited about playing on the 4th; it's like an event, but you don't really miss out on presents, the people will usually feed you really well, and it's exciting to see fireworks at night; the whole vibe is really fun. We didn't have a gig last year, and our 4th was kind of blah, so I'm really looking forward to this. Thanks to my brother the stock broker for obtaining us this gig.
The second gig that I'm excited about and looking forward to, we're going back to Mia's Place on Petit and Telephone, where we played last March. Saturday, July 17th!! We had so much fun and it's such a laid back, easy atmosphere. No pressure whatsoever, and the crowd was really responsive. This is OPEN TO THE PUBLIC and we'll be on from 3-6 pm. Feel free to drop by, have a smoothie or a cup of coffee, and share some love! Hey, if you have any song requests, drop me a line on the comments section and we'll make sure it gets worked into the set (if we know it...remember, that's part of the 'surprise' element. ;-) We're working on some new tunes, so if you've got a song you'd love to hear played live, let me know ASAP so we can add it in. Hope to see all of you out there!
Much love,
MrsMMars aka Rita :-)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Gig 6/5/10 - Private Party in Oxnard CA

Hi all: Well, I got sick over Memorial Day weekend...got sick with a VENGEANCE. I haven't been this sick in YEARS. Lost my voice, had a horrible sore throat & headache, but the worst was the utter fatigue. I missed Ronnie James Dio's funeral on 5/28. I called in sick for the first time in 3 years on 6/1. I went home early the rest of the week.
All this is to preface my tale of the gig we did Saturday, 6/5. When I say "I lost my voice," I mean I sounded like a cross between Elmer Fudd and a pubescent teenage boy. I couldn't hold a note if it had handles. That being said, our singer Pat had advised we had a gig for a retirement party for a friend of hers in a very exclusive neighborhood in Teh 'Nard (that would be Oxnard CA, for those of you unfamiliar with Southern California) which I was looking forward to with equal parts dread and excitement. Dread, because of my voice-and excitement, because I experimented with some new sounds on my synthesizer and was looking forward to trying them out.
Well, the day came; I awoke at 4 am unable to sleep and decided to take our daughter to the farm to feed her lamb at 6:30 since I was up anyways. The Colonel was grateful for a few more hours of shuteye, but since he's had this same flu? cold? whatEVER for longer than I, he was up by 7:30. We went to breakfast, then went home & packed up. We got to the venue by 1:45, started setting up--oh horrors, we brought the small PA system & found we were missing an input for an extra mike. RATS. The Colonel enjoys witty repartee onstage and was denied his chance to speak. Seriously, that was a drag, because he usually comes up with some pretty funny stuff. We also realized we were missing a guitar cable. And although I remembered to bring the bag with the percussion instruments...someone (not me) forgot to put the cowbell in it. @%*#$! Oh well, this is part of the learning curve.
The venue was a clubhouse in a gated community (very nice.) The clubhouse was small, and there was not much 'stage' area. We brought the small PA system, as I said, and we were petrified that someone would trip over the speakers. Fortunately this didn't happen. We got to move all the furniture around and set up against a short wall. We were set to go on at 4 pm. We set levels (ha! we ALWAYS get louder!) and waited for folks to show up...
...and finally went on around 4:30, when there were about 10 people there. This was unfortunate because it cut into our playing time, but folks seemed to enjoy our playing; they were up and dancing, hooting and hollering. Around 5pm, we probably had a dozen people dancing in front of us, and maybe 40 or 50 sitting listening (and maybe another 25-30 outside.) A DJ was going on from 6-11, and he showed up about 5, and watched us for awhile. We were keenly aware that we needed to end at 6, so when we called "last song," everyone went "awwwwww..." That was nice. What was even nicer was we got a call for an ENCORE! Yay, that's always an ego boost!
Well, we finished up, thanked the crowd, and went to eat. They had a taquero there (a guy who prepares soft tacos in front of you) serving 3 kinds of meat-carnitas, carne asada, and chicken. There were about 6 different types of sauce, from hot to melt-your-face-off, beans, rice, and all the trimmings. The food was absolutely delicious, and so was the beer (it was HOT in that room!) Best of all, we each earned $31 apiece from the tips jar! I rate this as a very successful gig, even though we only played for about 2 hours total; very few technical difficulties (except I couldn't hear my keyboard after we started getting louder.) Next time I'm bringing my own amp for the keyboard, & we can mike the amp or something. Live and learn!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

NASHVILLE P IN VENTURA MOFOS!!

Element of Surprise has been on a much-needed, self-imposed break, so I'm continuing to post about bands I've seen lately. :-) All this great rock is getting me in the mood to play out!

Last night the Colonel and I went to see one of the greatest bands you've never heard of. Nashville P laid down the law, playing hard & fast 'chicken fried rock' with major attitude! The singer, Blaine, had on a trucker's cap with the word 'Ventucky' across it. They brought down the house with their version of Nutbush City Limits. It was a rather short set, but worth every penny. Surprisingly, no encores (well, Ruyter, the lead guitarist, broke all of her strings so maybe it wasn't such a surprise after all) and they didn't do their signature song 'Piece of Ass' but overall it was a great time! Our front-row vantage point made for some great photo ops; also, got some lovely crowd shots & the Colonel dropping in some photobombs, will post later for y'all's edification! ;-)

Looking forward to Element's next gigs, a retirement party in June...and a high school reunion in July. We'll need to squeak in some time to go back to Mia's!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Went to a DIFFERENT bar in Simi...

I went with my daughter-in-law's best friend's mom (who is also coincidentally named Rita) to go see our friend Pete Echeribel play his last gig (for awhile.) He's been part of several bands over the years, most recently a Ronnie James Dio tribute band called Holy Diver, but due to medical reasons must retire. This last show was the Rick Hunter Band. The guys did not disappoint--my head is still ringing. For a 3-pc they sure laid down the law. Their set was most diverse, too--a fantastic mix of REAL old school rock (Kings & Queens by Aerosmith, Woman From Tokyo by Deep Purple) to modern rock (Bullet the Blue Sky, by U2) to grunge (Machinehead by Bush.) They got a late start, and we left around midnight-ish, but had a great time. That venue again? Season Ticket, 5835 E. Los Angeles Avenue, Simi Valley. GREAT sampler platter of chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, buffalo kickers, fried zucchini and onion rings. Yikes, I can *feel* myself getting fatter. Got home around 1 am...and am still tired. Now I know why you do this stuff when you're young--it kicks your ASS when you're older!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Santa Paula Relay For Life!

WOW. What a GREAT day. Even with some minor meltdowns, the day was a fantastic success.
Let me recap the situation quickly ('too late,' I hear some of you groaning! Well too bad, I'm going to do it anyway): Some of you may know I was the Entertainment Chair for the SP RFL 2010. The Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society's foremost fundraising activity. In a nutshell, teams of folks agree to have people walk on a track for 24 hours (from 10am Sat to 10am Sun.) They also invite cancer survivors to participate. The motto is, "Celebrate (survivors), Remember (those who've lost their battle to cancer) and Fight Back!" There are TONS of logistics involved, such as food, cleanup, porta-potties, a stage, power, etc. Another item is entertainment, to keep the folks motivated. That's where we come in.
The day started late; the gal who was in charge of the survivors lost her mother last Tuesday and had a hard time starting...so the first band got short shrift (their set was cut about 15 minutes, which SUCKS when you're only on for an hour--believe me, I know because it happened to us 2 years ago.) We were able to recover on our set (from 12:30 - 2) fortunately, because I left a half-hour between sets. We did about 23 songs and it was perfect timing, even with the occasional announcement interrupting the set. I had a minor heart attack when I got there and the band before us was doing some of the songs from our setlist ('What I Like About You,' 'Wicked Game,' and 'Twist & Shout') but that's the price you pay to be a cover band. We did 'What I Like About You' because I actually play harmonica on it so it wouldn't sound EXACTLY like the first band, and 'Twist & Shout' is kind of a No Man's song, everyone does it. It wasn't our best set (technical difficulties kept the Colonel from hearing the vocals, which was a DISASTER during 'Love Shack,' ordinarily one of our strongest tunes) but I can confidently say it wasn't our worst, either...by a LONG shot. Again, 'Suavecito' and 'Sabor a Mi' were crowd pleasers. A funny note during 'I Can See Clearly Now'--I forgot the words in the first verse. I turned to Pat the singer, with the 'deer in the headlights' look and said (off-mike) "Oh $#!%! I forgot how the words go!" She got a big kick out of that, because she was in exactly the same position gig before last! I recovered and we were able to finish it off, if not gracefully, at least competently. We also got a lot of compliments for the Badfinger song, 'No Matter What.' I didn't bring the keyboard this time (what with worrying about magicians who were starting late, and no room for the K-9 demonstration, playing keyboard--which I hadn't practiced this week--was the LAST thing on my mind) but we managed to get through with an all-guitar session, and the crowd reaction to 'Running Down A Dream' and 'La Bamba' made it all worthwhile.
To participate in the fundraising, I put our band up for raffle (with the blessing of my bandmates.) I was really happy to hear a BUNCH of people had submitted raffle tickets (at $5 a pop!) to try and 'win' us. The successful bidder was my good friend Becci, whose daughter is getting married on 10/10/10 (that's kinda cool.) So I will be posting about THAT later down the road.
Another thing I have to write about is the band that went on after us, 'Burnin' Sky,' a Bad Co. tribute band. These guys were AWESOME. Everything about them was really tight-vocals, guitars, bass, drums--I can't say enough good things about them. Who would have thought that there could be 2 hrs' worth of Bad Co songs that wouldn't put the audience to sleep? But I enjoyed every minute--it was the first time I had all day to put up my feet and just dig the beautiful day, with my beloved hubby next to me, and groove on some really bad-ass songs played most excellently. 'Burnin' Sky' will be playing in the San Fernando Valley, and I will post a link to their next show--I believe they'll be playing with Robin Trower (the first date that Colonel and I went on was to a Robin Trower show!! Nostalgia!! AWWW sweet!!) which should also be most triumphant. Mr Rick Hunter is their contact guy, who has like 4 other projects going (including a DIO! tribute band) and I really hope to be able to post more about Mr Hunter and his projects in the future--he was a very cool guy to work with.
The next act I want to discuss (and yes, this is an unusual post in that I'm discussing bands other than Element of Surprise, but bear with me, they're worth it) was an extremely talented fellow named Charles Law. This man got up and played an acoustic set from 6:30 - 7:30 of ALL ORIGINALS, got the BIGGEST CROWD OF THE DAY, and left us all screaming and clapping for more. I'll post a link to him too. What a way to end the day. The sun was going down, Mr Law was up on stage singing his heart out, pounding on a beautiful Martin guitar for all it was worth, and that was just a very cool part of the world to be in at that time and space. I got to talk to his lovely and very nice wife Christina (HOPE I spelled that right, if not I apologize!) who is a music producer and talented musician in her own right.
The Luminaria Ceremony followed...about an hour and a half later. There was a bagpiper (I ALWAYS get chills when I hear a bagpipe, it's just one of the freakiest cool sounds EVER!) and this was probably the simplest, most moving LC I've ever had the privilege to witness.
It was followed by Groove Factor Entertainment (and DJ Boogiemen) making the kids lose their MINDS with the funkyness. Mr. Alexis Solis is a good friend of mine, who commandeered his friend Don into donating their time & effort into making sure that the late-night walking crowd at the RFL was able to stay awake! Way to go, guys! Even getting shut down by Santa Paula's Finest didn't dampen their enthusiasm--they played very quietly to keep those kids on their feet. Hey, it's better than candy and soda pop!
I must say, working with and meeting cool folks like Stephanie and Larry Morales, Peter Echeribel and his family (Tommy, you come over ANY TIME DUDE!! And bring your family!!!) not to mention Rick Hunter and the Burnin' Sky guys, Charles and Christina Law, and the really cool folks from the Cruise Knights and my committee-mates John Proctor, Matt Cooper, and our expert sound guy Desmond Warren-makes me feel kinda humble and just so fortunate to have this outlet. Thanks to all of you for a really AMAZING RFL experience!
.....I'm going to go CRASH now.....

Monday, April 26, 2010

GREAT fun at Mia's Place


Saturday around 12:30, we packed up our small 300-watt PA system, our mikes, amps, stands, etc. etc., and headed over to a small smoothie/frozen yogurt/coffee shop in East Ventura--"Mia's Place" at 1129 S Petit (corner of Telephone & Petit.) It was really cute, neat paintings on the walls, cozy couches, tables and chairs scattered about, free wi-fi! and a nice counter with yummy-looking baked goods. We walked in and met Jina, the proprietoress. She was really friendly and helped us get tables moved so we could set up. Everyone showed up on time and we started about 3pm. It was not a large venue, but our levels were good (Rob the drummer had a new toy-a decibel meter-and was very keen to try it out.) We played at under 90 decibels, which was perfect for the room, the neighbors, and the security.
A variety of folk came and went; I estimate about 30-40 throughout the whole gig. We considered this as a "practice" set, but had the benefit of playing live in front of folks, as opposed to in the garage. We went for about an hour and 15 minutes, then took a break. Jina came up at this point and told us she really liked us; she introduced me to her daughter, who was about 5; her name is Mia, hence the name "Mia's Place." Jina also very generously offered us drinks on the house.
We went back on for another hour or so, then realized--we actually played through our whole set! We dipped into the "bullpen" (a side-list which we keep on hand in case we want to change out a song, get a request for an encore, or need to go a bit longer.) We finished up by 6, and closed out the house. We were invited back! And we are looking forward to going back--they are great folk, really mellow and laid-back atmosphere but at the same time we were able to get a good workout. Jina also told us that we could look forward to a referral from one of her visitors, who was looking for a band. Woohoo! Looking forward to another mango smoothie!
Sorry for how long this took to get posted; we went down to Oceanside Saturday nite to see our daughter-in-law Vanessa and our son Joe, before he takes off to Afghanistan, courtesy of the 1st 11th Marine batallion, the Cannon Cockers. Uncle Matt was there as well, and it was a very fun time-didn't do anything but walk Bella our grand-dog, shop, eat and play video games, but we laughed throughout the whole time. Joe, Godspeed and hurry back-your family loves you and is VERY PROUD of you! Vanessa-God bless you too, sweetie, we love you & are proud of you as well.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gig tomorrow, 4/24 at 1129 S Petit Ave, Ventura CA

The gig is for a coffeehouse named Flo, Yo & Joe (soon to become Mia's Place.) We'll be serving up some tasty tunes from 3-6 pm. If you're in the area, stop by and buy a smoothie and enjoy some eclectic vintage rock. ;-)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Link to Easter Bunny getting down!

Enjoy! Let me know what you think of my first post to Youtube! ^_^

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXDMcnRVcUk

Well that was less painful than a root canal (without anesthesia)

I'm glad it's over, but if you twist my arm really hard, I will admit we had fun. In fits and spurts. Punctuated by long periods of misery. Of course, it's hard to wait (and boy, did we wait.) We got there at 1:00 sharp, only to be told the Hawaiian dancers would be going on in 15 minutes, so no chance of setting up our stuff then. But, let me set the stage (so to speak) before I go into the story.
The Fiesta was for Our Lady of Guadalupe School (in case you didn't figure that out from my prior posts.) This is a lovely little parochial school in the heart of La Colonia, Oxnard. It is a real jewel in the middle of a cowpat (meaning Oxnard, best known for having the highest murder and gang-related crime rate in Ventura County.) The event was for Palm Sunday, and it was very cool to see how many people showed up (at least 500 people throughout the day.)
We (meaning the Colonel and I, because as I mentioned before, we have no roadies) dragged our stuff about 100 yards in the heat (about 80 F) and set it next to the stage. How much stuff? 2 guitars, 6 mike stands, about a million pounds of amplifiers, pedal boards, bags of cables, cords, and electrical gangs, a keyboard, stands for said pedals and keyboard, 2 monitor amps, 2 powered amps, a 16-channel mixer, a preamp (also weighing a million pounds all by itself) and the various other things that pack our car so full the gas mileage drops by at least 5%. The Hawaiian dancers went on and were absolutely lovely--so graceful and really transported one to another place (when you weren't flipping out about someone trying to help themself to a piece of expensive equipment lying next to the stage or out of the car!) My favorite part was the little girls wearing their leis and their bright dresses and makeup--so cute!
Well, they got a big hand and up we went. The stage was a standard porta-stage; a large trailer where one side folds down and you're in a steel 'cage.' The Colonel was going up the steps, when suddenly the steps FAILED. My heart leaped in my throat as I saw my hubby hit the stage in slow-motion, but he was OK. It was like he was on an escalator going down. We fixed the steps and soldiered on, spreading out our tons of stuff and getting the cords connected, etc. Did I mention the stage was at least 40' long?
At this point I noticed that the shirt I had ironed for the Colonel that morning was, how shall I say--ventilated. Seriously. He had a huge rip running from the armpit halfway down the side. He was chagrined but said, "I *thought* I felt something rip when I was lifting stuff on the stage." We got everything set up, then went in search of a shirt dealer (hey, this is a big fiesta, they were selling snow cones and tacos, of COURSE they would be selling shirts, right?) We lucked out and the Colonel scored a Spartans Pride t-shirt (SPARTAAAAA!!!) for only $5. We were happily paying for the shirt when the entertainment chair came up to us and said, "The Ballet Folklorico (Mexican dancers) are going on in a few minutes, and they have no room with your stuff on the stage. I apologize but you're going to need to move it again." She must have seen the look on my face because she started babbling, "I'll send the gal over with lots of drink tickets for you guys!" (Water & soda only, it's a school, remember?) I asked if we could just move everything over to one side like for the Hawaiians and she was amenable. So back we went, but fortunately the singer had shown up by that time, and the moving went much quicker. The Ballet Folklorico was really neat, all elementary school kids except for 2 young men and ladies (jr high age.) Reminded me of when my daughter danced in a similar group. Good times, good times. They did "La Raspa" and "El Jarabe Tapatillo," 2 of my faves. They did a really good job, too! The crowd was noticeably larger for the Ballet vs the Hawaiians, but I think a big part of it was the parents. ;-)
At last we were able to get on and start setting up--at around 3:00. We'd been there for 2-1/2 hrs at that point, and I was starting to get grumpy. I was looking forward to mixing a couple of drinks from the car (we had brought our traditional bottle of rum to toast the gig and settle the nerves) when I saw...we had parked RIGHT IN FRONT of the cops, who had a fingerprinting station and Lost & Found set up. I didn't want to have any issues with LE, so we actually played sober. Not fun. I commented as such to my bandmates, who were in full sympathy, but wanted me to go and get the bottle anyway. Since I work for cops, I knew better.
Then, the best part of the day happened! The Easter Bunny took the stage and showed off his best moves. He had the crowd PUMPED! I've posted a link to my Very FIRST Youtube upload, yay! Please check it out & let me know what you think!
We finally started about 4:15. We had the usual issues (surprisingly, feedback was not one of them) including a problem with the new powered monitor. The Colonel, in an impressive display of multi-tasking, ran both his single-channel amp and the mixer. Pat the singer was at her alma mater and we could tell she was a bit nervous--we'd sing a song and then she would say, "And that was...oh yeah, --- by ---."
I really enjoyed a couple of songs we did--namely, 'Suavecito,' written by Carlos Santana's brother George, and performed in a band called Malo. At one point, a blue balloon cut loose from some screaming kid and floated past me--it was just a really beautiful day, and the balloon made me lose some of the tension and uptightedness I incurred through the day.
Another good one was 'Sabor a Mi' by El Chicano. Pat does a really good job on this one and the crowd was really responsive. My amp sounded just about the best I've ever heard from it (no dicking about with 2 guitars on this gig, I didn't want to bring my $2K Martin to the ghetto!) and as a result the lack of struggle with the second guitar left me tons of room to adjust the reverb, choose the correct channels on the amp, and just basically enjoy myself.
The set was punctuated by raffle numbers drawn by the folks who put on the fiesta, but overall we had yet again another learning experience and--actually got a call for an encore (from our die-hard groupie core comprised of Rob & Pat's sisters, and co-workers of Pat, about 6 in all.) We closed as usual with 'La Bamba' but then went on to perform 'Volver Volver,' as done by only about a million Tex-Mex and Mexican artists. My favorite version is by Freddy Fender and Willie Nelson, by the way. We do the 'Los Lobos' version, which is also good. Hey, it's a good song no matter who performs it. Even us LOL. In our defense, this was only the 3rd time we had done it live, but we muddled through effectively. Afterward, we actually had 2 people ask us for our business card/phone numbers! So I rate this a success.
As a very nice ending to the day...Pat said we were going to get paid for this gig (YA-HOOOO!) but they didn't know how much yet. So, stay tuned for the gripping finale!

Almost show time! =o)

It's 10 am on Sunday morning. The Colonel is working on his latest song (which, of all the ones he's written, is probably the most commercially-viable and I'm counting on it making us a gazillion bucks--or at least enough to pay off the Guitar Center credit card, LOL.) It's windy as hell outside, we're playing in El Barrio (which in Spanish means, "not a nice place") and the town is called The Nard. What else can we say. Oh yeah--we get to bring our PA system which weighs about a million pounds--and we have no roadies. Grumble grumble. ;-) Well, you can't say we don't love the rock. Although judging from the set list, there will be precious little rocking forthcoming. If you happen to chance by, come say hello! We'll be in the school behind Our Lady Of Guadalupe church on Juanita Way. Sigh. Time to go load up the Element.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gig coming up Sunday, March 28th at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Oxnard CA

530 N. Juanita St., Oxnard, from 4-6 will be the site of our next gig. I believe the school is having a fiesta fundraiser, hence the need for crowd entertainment. Which is where we come in. If you're not afraid of the barrio and you happen to be in Teh Nard around that time, drop by!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Link to Youtube video of our last gig :-)

The wonderful folk at the Simi Valley Moose Lodge took some video of the 13th and their webmaster did a fantastic job of editing. Here's a snippet of our show (each song about 30 seconds:)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sd9ziXw4qmo

Enjoy! I'm the one with the flashing dot that moved around, over by the keyboard and the guitars.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Yay, we're now a paid bar band!

Moose lodge gig? 3 words: Best. Gig. Ever. We had the usual trouble with feedback (my Martin acoustic guitar did not want to cooperate and I wound up shelving it after 2 songs) and the monitors were causing the mics to feed back horribly...so we were stuck turning the mics down, which in turn caused us to not hear ourselves, which is a MAJOR recipe for disaster...but we worked it through, managed to recover by turning the monitors away from the mics, and keeping the mics away from the monitors. 3/4s of the way through 'Back On The Chain Gang,' all of a sudden, Pat stopped singing. We looked at her, confused-she showed me the cable had fallen out of the mic! As soon as I realized what had happened, I jumped on the vocals until she could get the mic working again, then she finished. We laughed so hard--you know how you get when it's inappropriate to laugh, and that makes it funnier?
There were about 80 people at the shindig. The Moose folk also had a raffle going, so I bought a ticket. I won a Jagermeister flashing shark brooch, a Jagermeister T-shirt waaay too small for me (is it OK for parents to give their kids T-shirts that advertise liquor? LOL,) a Jagermeister lanyard (which was actually pretty cool & useful,) and a Jagermeister visor cap. Score! Funny part is-I don't like Jager, I think it tastes like cough syrup.
One very amusing moment (well, it amused us anyways) was when it came time to play 'Smoke On The Water.' Jim & I had worked up a (very) little comedy routine--we announce a Deep Purple song next, then Jim deliberately starts playing the intro to 'Lazy.' I stop him and say, "No honey, the OTHER Deep Purple song." He then goes into 'Burn.' I stop him again and say, "NO Jim, the one they won't let you play at Guitar Center anymore." Then he goes into Dant Dant Dah, Dant Dant Dah Dah, Dant Dant Dah, Dah Dah. You know it!
Anyways, we had the usual cast of characters at the dance--the Moose Lodge folk are always so friendly and easygoing, we just love playing for them and watching the antics as the evening progresses (and the beer level on tap goes down.) One couple on the floor were a little too enthusiastic with the dancing, and the lady wound up on her butt on the floor! They got up laughing, though, so I'm sure she was OK, but she'll probably wonder where that HUGE bruise came from later! There was was a fellow dressed in a full-out leprechaun suit, with matching neon green hair, eyebrows, and long shaggy beard; he was going around passing out 'leprechaun gold' (chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil) and he read the raffle ticket numbers. I feel bad I don't remember names, so if you're reading this, guys, sorry but we love you just the same--and if you're the guy in that leprechaun outfit, it's probably just as well that I don't remember, LOL. I had a couple drinks myself (one for the nerves, one for the gig, one because I wasn't driving...you get the picture.)
The Moose Lodge folks were serving tasty and filling corned beef and cabbage. I hadn't had such good corned beef & cabbage in several years. The cook told me he cooked 118 lbs of beef!
One fellow named Little Paul tipped us $5, and requested 'Stairway to Heaven.' I told him it wasn't on the setlist, but at an opportune moment, I'd play it for him. That moment came at the end of the night, when we started tearing down. I did a fairly lousy job, but he wasn't hypercritical, quite the opposite-he thanked me for playing it (even tho it was just the first few bars up to the, "there's a lady who's sure" part) and said that he had been in Viet Nam, and the song had a lot of meaning for him. I felt bad I hadn't done better, but he gave me a hug anyways.
It was kind of an interesting crowd. There were some folks from other lodges there (explained to me by a gal in the ladies' room, who had come from the San Fernando Valley lodge) and our setlist had been tailored for the regulars, who are not shy at all about requests, their opinions of which songs should be done next, and since they know our setlist, advising which musical genres were better than others. For instance, one young lady made a request for some hip-hop. We looked at each other. I'm the youngest in the band, at 47. I don't get this hip-hop stuff. But since we do 'Hey Ya' by Outkast, we figured that would be the best we could do. Another gal asked if we did any 'country.' I told her that Tex Mex, Buck Owens, and John Anderson were the closest we got...but we are working on Lady Antebellum's 'Need You Now' so hopefully for next show we'll be able to offer it.
We played straight through from about 8:20 til around 10, when we took a 10-minute break. We started the next set, then were 'interrupted' by the leprechaun who wanted to read the raffle ticket numbers. We offered him a mic, but he scoffed, saying that he 'blew out microphones.' Which he was eminently capable of doing!
We finished up around 12:30 am and we got paid for this gig--most we've ever made! Now we can say we are a band that gets paid to gig! We were also asked to return around June. THAT's the best compliment we can get-even better than getting paid (which is also very cool!)
We started packing up, and got home around 2 am...which, thanks to Daylight Savings Time (which I HATE) made it 3 am. And as we can never just walk in and go straight to sleep, we were up til 4 am, when the Colonel & I finally turned in. As per usual, we just removed our guitars from the car and left the unloading til the morning. We were awakened around 4 hours later by the cats demanding to be let out, let in, fed, petted, etc. I took a nap from 3-5...and may take another one. Man, this is fun but there's no way I could do this for a living--glad I've got a day job!
Til the next gig!