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 :-)

Thursday, May 27, 2010


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 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, 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.....