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 :-)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Luau in Hell, August 29, 2009

We played in the Purgatory that was Simi Valley on this date. It wasn't Hell, but we could see it from there. It was a toasty 102 degrees, and the gig was an outside one. No, maybe not Vegas hot, but plenty HOT enough. Fortunately for us, the Moose Lodge property had many shade trees and we were able to set up out of the direct sun. The Colonel and I arrived about 9 am. We listened to our favorite podcast, "This Ain't Iowa," on the way out (Simi is about 45 minutes away from us.) The treat ended, however, when we had to exit our air-conditioned vehicle to lug our equipment under the shade. The kind Moose Lodge people were having another fundraiser-a luau, with vendors and food booths. Looked like a lot of fun. Set-up took about an hour, after which we started our set.
We played straight through about 18 songs. Thank you, yes, I'm impressed too. We took a brief break to grab some liquid refreshment and started up again. We got to our third song of the set (Suavecito, by Malo) when the power inexplicably shut off. Had the Moosers (?) forgotten to pay the electric bill? Or was the combined efforts of all the air conditioners going full blast in Simi too much for Southern California Edison? We looked at each other with the 'Deer In The Headlights' look, and then because of the consumate professionals that we are, the singer, the drummer and I (playing my acoustic guitar) finished the song. No, there are NO Attention Whores in OUR band! LOL! After we finished, I looked at the Colonel and asked him to call the time of death. He said, "OK...2 pm." Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. Packing up our crap in 100+ degree heat was NOT.

This stuff weighs a TON!

We actually got paid for this gig--7 hrs of backbreaking, heat stroking, nerve-wracking work. Well, you can't say we don't love the rock & roll.

Moose Lodge (old) from August 21, 2009

We did our first gig for the Simi Valley Moose Lodge in August 2009. We provided music for a fundraising dinner.

Before I tell you about the gig, what does the term 'Moose Lodge' conjure up? Images of guys and their wives, like on the Flintstones' 'Loyal Order of Water Buffalo'? Or do you get images of smoky, stinky halls, where the windows haven't been cleaned in 30 years and the ceilings have such a dense layer of cigarette smoke, that they are yellow?

Well, the place we played was probably the nicest Moose Lodge (or VFW hall, for that matter) that we've ever seen. It was smoky, but very clean and well-run. The Moosers (?) were really nice people, very generous with the drinks, and dinner was tasty and adequate. We went on from about 7:30 to 11:15; the crowd was up and dancing for hours, and we left them hollering for more. We were asked back for next week!

The fun part was seeing the initially kind of intimidating Governor and Lt. Governor of the Moose Lodge going from dignified to 'happy' in about 4 beers. These guys are GREAT, very low keyed and easygoing.

The Colonel advised me there was an amusing sticker in the mens' room urinal--it was a picture of Jane Fonda superimposed over a target, with the words 'HANOI JANE URINAL TARGET' around it.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

December 26, 2009 - The Tower Club! (cue ooh, ahh from crowd)

We were STOKED to find out we were going to play at the Tower Club-a very exclusive club in the tallest building in Ventura County (Morgan Stanley Building, 22 stories, in Oxnard, CA.) Hey, it may not be much to those who dwell in Las Vegas, or who live east of Earthquake Country-but we were very happy! For 3 of us, it was our first time in the club. We were impressed by the marble entryway, glass facade, and gruff security guard--til we found out what we would have to go through to get our equipment (a Honda Element STUFFED full of guitars, amps & gear, a Chevy Impala LOADED to the gills with 400 watts of Galen-Kruger Bass stack, and a Chevy truck packed with a 7-pc drum kit) up to the 22nd floor...when the freight elevator (Notice the EL VATO label, in case you had any doubts that you were in Oxnard) would only go up to the 21st floor. MEH. We moved our crap from the 21st floor to the 22nd floor elevator (which refused to stay open, necessitating the need to wedge it open while we hucked our crap into the elevator) then dragged it into the Sunset Room--which was absolutely breathtaking. As you can see from the pictures, the view was spectacular. Well, we unloaded, set up, did a sound check, then went to dinner at a Ventura County landmark (kind of like Norm's in Los Angeles.) The waitresses wore white uniforms (rather unsettling.) We were the only patrons in the restaurant, which was weird, considering it was 5:30 pm on a Saturday night, about 1/2-mile from the mall (in a city of around 200,000 individuals.) The upshot of the meal was, while it was tasty, the restaurant would not warrant a repeat (unless you happened to be starving and coming from said mall.) I had the fish and chips, which were absolutely delicious (and the waitress was generous with extra pickles.) The bass player, unfortunately, found a HAIRPIN (yes, one of those double-curvy old-fashioned kind) on his plate. Management comped him a pie (he chose dutch apple, and went away a happy camper.)
On to the evening. We went and changed into our "fancy" duds and then went back to start the show. Here's the Colonel and I in our "fancy" duds, in the "fancy" bar. It really was swanky, with waiters walking around offering crabcake appetizers on elegant plates. We got a couple of drinks and went to meet our public.
The first set was a bit rough. It started OK; we usually open with 'Big Me' (by the Foo Fighters) because, well, we know it pretty well & it's a cheerful little tune--and a couple of practices ago I got the bright idea of running it into Soul Asylum's 'Runaway Train,' since it starts in C (and'Big Me' ENDS in C! Brilliant!) so that went well. Running songs together makes you sound like you know what you're doing. ;-) The next song, 'I Should Have Known Better,' got two leads (inadvertently) but since I was doing them, I didn't mind. I don't think anyone noticed. Too much. So we plugged along, but into the 8th song ('Black Magic Woman,' on which I solo) I was distracted and left the acoustic pedal on...which led to the most horrible feedback trouble since the first time I had ever played it in public ('what do you mean, I have to be BEHIND the amp?') and the Colonel was hissing at me to turn UP, then turn DOWN! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! I had the deer in the headlights look, and felt like all 100 people were looking at me going, "WHAT is she DOING up there?" So I went and hid behind a fake tree (which shielded my guitar from the amp, thereby producing a passable tone) and we were able to finish the song. We had 4 more songs to do, and I had NO alcohol to kill the pain of the Black Magic debacle...but we soldiered on, and at the break, the Colonel and I headed straight for the bar, where I ordered a rum & diet coke--and knocked it back before you could say 'Abraxas.' The Colonel was amused and told me to slow down...but not before I ordered one more, 'for the gig.'
We had a relaxed 10 minutes, then went back to sing 'Happy Birthday' to the birthday girls, as they cut the cake. Someone had loaded the cake with those trick candles that reignite after you blow them out, so that was pretty fun watching the two gals trying to blow out their candles. I was concerned the singer wouldn't have any breath left, but she proved me pleasantly wrong as we went into our next set, opening with 'I've Got The Music In Me,' which she does very well. However, the fluorescent overhead lights were on and the crowd hadn't had enough alcohol to loosen it up enough to for the next number, 'Love Shack' (my personal fave of all the songs we do--I only have to sing and play tamborine on it) we asked if the management could turn the lights down a bit. They obliged--and left us standing in the dark. I could see the Colonel and the bass player exchanging concerned looks, the bass player more so because he wasn't wearing his reading glasses either, and so he was laboring under a double whammy. ;-) The lights were fixed by the next song, though, and the second set went much smoother than the first--with the exception of one song, 'Hippy Hippy Shake,' which starts off with me saying, 'For Goodness' Sake--' but the drummer forgot this. So we started that one twice. The crowd was much more lubricated by then, and in a forgiving mood. We then launched into 'I Saw Her Standing There,' and the rum & coke kicked in--and I was channeling Jimmy Page, and banging away on my Taylor solid body for all I was worth, and feeling like a ROCK STAR!
Well, the rest of the night was pretty much more of the same--we won some, we struggled on some. But we did get a lot of positive feedback.
The worst part was the lack of roadies...we had to stop at 11pm, and the crowd evaporated like beer at a Superbowl party. We generously told the singer to leave (since after all, it *was* her birthday) and spent the next hour deconstructing and loading our stuff from room to elevator to elevator to floor to cars (parked about 50 yards away--and those were the closest spots available.) Oh, the glamorous life of a cover band! But every gig brings lessons, and this one was no exception--probably the most important being 'Check the pedals, especially when changing from the acoustic to the electric guitar' and secondly, 'Get to the gig extra early to set levels.'
'Til the next show!