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, March 28, 2010

Link to Easter Bunny getting down!

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

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:)

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 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 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!