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, 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 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)

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