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, February 28, 2010

It wasn't a gig, but it sure beat the 4377 out of karaoke!

On Saturday 2/27, the Colonel & I were invited to a jam session/house party by a friend at work whose hubby has the pipes from Hell. MAN that dude can sing! He's in a band that plays private parties, etc. It was great fun. I was invited to sing with them, and what a BLAST. My 2nd rock n roll wish came true, as I sang the (low) harmony to 'Straight On,' one of my all-time favorite Heart songs. (The first? To sing 'Rock and Roll' by Led Zeppelin on the stage of the Hard Rock in Las Vegas...but that's another story. ;-) I sang back-up for 3-4 more songs, notably 'Heat Wave,' which I hadn't done in front of people since I was 15!, 'Rain' by The Cult (another of my favorite bands,) a Doobie Brothers number, and a couple of others I can't recall right now, due to the generous and tasty amounts of wine that were flowing. The Colonel volunteered to drive home, so I took full advantage! :-)
I thanked our host (well, hopefully he felt that way) by performing 'I Can See Clearly Now,' originally by Johnny Nash but covered by (yet another) of my fave bands, Soul Asylum. I borrowed an Ovation 12-string guitar and warned the crowd I would be screwing it up, but they were in a very forgiving mood.
We had such a good time! And we didn't have to lug 80,000 pounds of equipment back home! *And* they told us to come back! So I count this as more successful than many gigs we've performed. ;-)
Stay tuned for the saga of the next Upcoming Moose Lodge tale...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gig Called On Account of Rain :-)

Well, despite gale-force winds and some rather critical technical difficulties, we got through our gig. It was a rather overcast day, but when the sun came through, it was really pretty. The Colonel and I were at the Ventura College baseball field at 9 am sharp, and spent the next 2 hours setting up our brand-new Behringer POWERED speakers (the ONLY way to go, folks!) and our Harbinger (of doom?;-) monitors. This was by far the easiest setup we've EVER done.
There was a crowd of at least 200 people for the Tri-County Girls' Softball League Opening Ceremonies Day. The little T-ball girls (about 6 yrs old, maybe 30 of them) sang the National Anthem, and did a very good job! There were then announcements, introductions, etc. etc. I stood in line for the snack bar for 10! MINUTES! to get 2 hotdogs and an apple.
We went on about 12:45. Opened with our standard, "Big Me" and ran "Runaway Train" onto it. Ooooooh, professional! ;-) We did around 18 songs, and at that point we had another 9 to go, but 2 hrs had gone by and Pat was in need of a little "her" time (meaning she needed to visit the facility. ;-) Rob was starving, too. We took a 10-minute or so break. I was so pleasantly surprised to see some friends from work show up! Met my friend Laurie's hubby Bruce (who also sings in a band) and we will be checking them out next Saturday. Also my 'work neighbor' and good friend Marla, my good friend Victory, and my darling student worker Melissa showed up. I am always very grateful when I know there are friendly faces in the crowd!
I also want to mention that this gig was historical because this was the first time I played 'Smoke On The Water' on the keyboard in front of a crowd. That went really well, too, if I do say so, because I also had to sing the darn song as well. I was very pleased with the results, and it's true what they say, "practice, practice, practice!" I practiced my keyboard sets for around 9 hours last week, and another 3 for the guitars, and it paid off.
I played the lead on 'Black Magic Woman' and was very smug with myself. I had some issues with feedback (as usual) but there is an explanation. Yesterday during practice, my usual guitar, the Taylor solid body electric, broke a string. I was rather nonplussed by this, but ran in the house and grabbed the Fender Showmaster instead. This guitar has a very trebly, twangy sound which I kind of liked for a change, so I was lazy and instead of changing the strings on the Taylor, just took the Showmaster. I was punished for my laziness by having all kinds of trouble with the darn thing--it didn't want to stay in tune, nor would it tolerate too much gain on the amplifier without squealing in protest. However, I persevered and 'Black Magic Woman' came off OK. Nothing fancy, but at least I hit 90% of the notes right, despite having to run over and hold onto the drummer's canopy while it was trying to blow away (while playing, I might add.)
We then played the fastest version of 'Cinnamon Girl' you have ever heard in your life. We took a 3 minute song and turned it into about a minute and a half. Not sure what happened there...
We closed the set with 'Evil Ways.' I play keyboard on this one, and started the opening 'dum, ta dum' part, then realized--my mike was about 5 feet away. I started singing really loud, and Pat looked over at me and realized why I wasn't accompanying her--then she started laughing, and lost her place briefly! I too started laughing, but grabbed the mike and filled in for her. Good times, good times.

We started the second set with 'Listen to the Music' by the Doobie Bros (no doobies were harmed during the playing of this song.) Pat does a great job singing, and Rob and I harmonize pretty well for this one. It's a crowd pleaser, too.
Here's the Colonel and a good shot of his rig
We ran into some more of those 'technical difficulties' when we followed up with 'I Got the Music In Me' by Kiki Dee. The Colonel's reverb pedal was dying, and it gave the song a strange new sound.

We did better on 'Hey Baby Que Paso,' also a crowd-pleaser. I used an accordion sound on my keyboard and it really gave the song a new dimension.
Spatters of rain on my keyboard indicated that it was time for us to wrap up and get the electronic equipment out of the wet! We did 'I Saw Her Standing There' and 'Twist & Shout,' then decided we had one more before it started to come down. We closed with 'Get Down Tonight' by KC & The Sunshine Band. This was the debut for this number, and it was received very well. We even had some calls for an encore!

Overall we did 22 songs from 12:45 - 3 pm. Not too shabby. Now, we're gearing up for our next visit to our good friends at the Simi Valley Moose Lodge on March 13th... stay tuned!

I'm covering my $500 keyboard with a trash bag. DAMN I've got a lot of gray hair!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Almost game time!

OK, I'm starting to get nervous now. I've spent 9 hours practicing keyboard and 3 hrs practicing guitar this week, you'd think I'd KNOW these damn songs! Especially considering I've only been playing them for the last 4 years! LOL! The Colonel's suggestion to new bands just starting out? "GET POWERED SPEAKERS *FIRST.*" The passive speakers are a MAJOR pain in the butt (and a drain on your wallet) not to mention require a swift crash course in electronics! What's a parallel switch? What are OHMS? What are powered amplifiers (they weigh a frickin' TON, that's all I know about them.) We set up the lovely new Behringer POWERED speakers (that we got at our favorite store, Guitar Center, last month) in the living room tonight, along with the 16-channel Yamaha mixer--badabing, badaboom, they work like a CHARM. All we have to do now is get the seats out of the Element tomorrow morning and load up the car. And not suck. Wish us luck! The good kind, please! ;-)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gig on Sunday, 2/21/10 at Ventura College Softball Field (1-4 pm)

If you've got nothing better to do and happen to be in the Ventura College area, and are hankering for family-friendly classic rock, stop on by. The Tri-Counties' Girls' Softball League is having their opening ceremonies and will have a plethora of activities going on that day, and the Element of Surprise will be the background noise!