Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

SUPPORT THIS: Supreme vinyl from Fresno-born musician MERCH


You should know by now, that I’m a sucker for a good crowd-funding campaign.

For instance, this one, from Fresno-born (now San Francisco-based) musician Joe Medina (or MERCH).

Medina, a self-described awkward kid who discovered music (records, actually) while shopping yard sales as a kid (Medina was born at Saint Agnes, went to Eaton until third grade, then Manchester GATE, Computech, Ahwahnee, Hoover and Enterprise before moving to the Bay in his early 20s), will travel to Europe to record his second album.

He’s enlisting the help of the Prague FILMharmonic Orchestra. The group specializes in film soundtracks (hence the name) and has recorded scores for the likes of Werner Herzog and Quentin Tarantino and worked with bands like Arcade Fire and Septic Flesh.

Obviously, the whole thing is an expensive endeavor, which is where the campaign comes in. Medina is looking for $6,000, which he says will pay the performance and recording costs of the band. Backers can get a digital download or vinyl copy of the final release (for $15 and $35 respectively) a dance lesson from Medina (he was an instructor once upon a time) or (this is the cool one) a an Audio Technica turntable (on which to play the album no doubt). That reward will cost you $1,000.

With four days left in the campaign, he’s half-way to his goal.

Listen to MERCH’s first album,”This Betrayal Will Be Our End.” It’s a cool blast of retro-fuzz pop.

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Five Things You Should Do This Weekend


Go follow the Queen on Twitter. Then …

1. Sudz in the City
Beer drinking on the Fulton Mall. Leave your Bud Light in the foam cooler.

2. Luxury ArtHop
For those who think automobiles are works of work.

3. Nosferatu
“Even after 92 years, ‘Nosferatu’ delivers chills like few other films.”

4. Tower District Zombie Crawl
Different from a normal night in the Tower, how?

5. Whitie’s Pet’s Pooch Parade
From my limited reporting on the subject, pugs love cosplay more than any other breed.

And a bonus five for music fans.

1. Twista
2. Joni Morris
3. Pre-Halloween covers show
4. Suicide Lounge album release
5. Feather On

For a more complete music-only list, see our weekly BANDGEEK post.
For Halloween specific events, click here.

Concert Announcement: Fresno Holiday Jam with Wiz Khalifa, T-Pain, E-40, and Jeremih


The Fresno Holiday Jam is being billed as the last big concert in Fresno in 2014.

And it just might be. The show, announced for Dec. 12 at the Selland Arena, will feature a headlining performance from hip-hop star Wiz Khalifa, a guy with some heavy pop-culture name recognition.

He’s been all over US Magazine and E Online this week for his possibly reconciliation with singer/model (and estranged wife) Amber Rose. He also just released an interactive video for the single “Staying Out All Night,” from the album “Blacc Hollywood,” which (by the way) peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200.

The rapper last played Fresno in 2013 on the “Light it Up,” tour with the neo-soul singer Miguel at the Save Mart Center.

And he will be joined by T-Pain (he of auto-tune fame), Bay Area rapper (and a Fresno favorite) E-40 and Def Jam Recordings artist Jeremih.

Tickets for the show are $38 to $118 and on sale 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Convention Center‘s main box office, through Ticketmaster outlets, including select Vallarta and Save Mart Supermarkets, online or by calling (800) 745-3000. Presales are available now, according to Ticketmaster.

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BANDGEEK!: Dustbowl Revival, Dead or Alive and Twista


For many, the big decision this weekend will be between baseball and figuring out what’s up with Renée Zellweger’s face (hint, it’s nothing). Of course, there are dozen of musical happenings through next week, if you’d rather. I’ve collected them here in another weekly BANDEGEEEEK! roundup.


  • Dustbowl Revival.
    W/Doc’s Holiday. At Fulton 55. 9 p.m. $8-$10. (Flier link)

  • Bear Hands.
    W/Fences. At Strummer’s 7:30 p.m. $12. All ages.


  • Introvoys.
    W/Vicki HL, Tata and Paul and Butch from South Border. At Fulton 55. 9 p.m. $25-$30.

  • Twista.
    W/Gillie Da Kid and Halo the Human. At Strummer’s. 8 p.m. $22. 18 + (Flier link)

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    ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ trailer released

    Even the mighty Avengers can’t stop the power of the Internet. The plan was for the trailer for next year’s Avengers movie, “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” to be released during next week’s episode of the ABC series “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

    The second-year drama could have used the ratings bumpas it is lagging behind last year’s numbers.

    But, the trailer was unexpectedly released early. Too bad for the TV show but the best part is that it gives fans an even earlier glimpse at what will unfold in May -  including the big screen debut of Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armor.

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    TONIGHT: The return of New York indie band Bear Hands


    When Bear Hands came through town in April, it was at the start of a summer’s worth of big-named festival gigs, including spots at Coachella, the Great Escape Festival in Brighton, UK and Chicago’s Lollopalooza.

    The New York indie-band hasn’t stopped since. They’re back in town 7:30 tonight at Strummer’s as part of a national headlining tour that runs straight through November. They play Conan on Monday.

    I emailed guitarist Ted Feldman to find out about band’s home-coming show at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom earlier this month, what it’s store for the band next year and making friends with the Fresno PD.

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    Pieology Pizzeria comes to Fresno

    Another chain restaurant has discovered Fresno. Pieology Pizzeria opened the first of what will be several locations in the Fresno area, this one in the former The Ripe Tomato Restaurant space in Fig Garden Village Tuesday. The pizzas are individual-sized — 11.5 inches wide — and made to order. Customers pick their own toppings, sauce, cheeses and “after bakes” such as dollops of fiery buffalo sauce. You can see the process in action by watching the video below. Pieology also has a gluten-free crust option and employees will ask if you want them to change their gloves (though things aren’t as GF-free friendly in the oven and the menu says Pieology can’t guarantee the final product will be 100% gluten free).

    The Southern California-based company has more than 30 locations in nine states. More are headed for Fresno, including one at the Campus Pointe development near Fresno State and the Marketplace at El Paseo near Highway 99 and Herndon Avenue. You may see even more outside of Fresno.

    Win tickets to: Joni Morris’ Patsy Cline tribute


    Before she died in a plane crash (at the age of 30), Patsy Cline had cemented for herself as one of most unique and inspiring voices in country (and pop) music.

    More than fifty years later, her voice (and music) continues to inspire artists like Joni Morris, who has been doing a tribute to Cline (and Connie Francis) for more than 20 years.

    Morris brings the After Midnight Band to the Tower Theatre, 7:30 p.m. Friday. We have tickets for a few lucky Beehive readers. To enter to win, leave a comment in this post. Who is your favorite country music voice? Male or female.

    This contest is a quick one. You have until 5 p.m. tomorrow (Oct. 22). Winners will be chosen at random, notified by email and must be able to pick up tickets at The Fresno Bee office (1626 E. Street) during normal business hours.

    Check out a video of Morris doing her favorite Cline songs on the jump.

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    Rene Russo very touching interview

    If everyone aged as beautifully as Rene Russo, getting older wouldn’t be such a bad thing. The 60-year-old actress looks exactly like she did in the ‘90s when she was starring in “Get Shorty,” “Lethal Weapon 3” and “The Thomas Crown Affair.

    After taking a break from acting, Russo returned to the big screen in 2013 in “Thor: The Dark World.” Her next movie, “Nightcrawler,” was written and directed by her husband, Dan Gilroy.

    During an interview to talk about “Nightcrawler,” Russo starts telling me about a very intense scene where her character gets into a verbal battle with the character played by Jake Gyllenhaal. He already had told me that the scene was difficult because he had all of the great lines and it was obvious that Russo’s character was not going to win the war of words.

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    TONIGHT: Oktoberfest at the Hook and Ladder


    I don’t always go out drinking in Clovis, but when I do, it’s at the Hook and Ladder. It’s the official bar of Team Fugly (that’s my league-night bowling team, FYI).

    Tonight the bar is running a Samuel Adams Oktoberfest special. It’s one of those take-the-glass deals. Six bucks gets you a pint glass and $3 refills for the night (while supplies last).

    So, if Tuesday is your Friday, or if you’re in your 20s and can handle week-night drinking, this could be a fun time.

    One can only hope that someone will lead the bar in a rendition of “Country Roads,” which is an Oktoberfest thing (at least according to this video. Watch it on the jump).

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    Bansky gets arrested (not at all, really)


    In ultimate proof that you should never (ever) take anything you on the Internet at face value, word comes today that Bansky was arrested.

    He wasn’t actually arrested, but someone concocted the story, which was instantly picked up (add shared around via social media as these things are wont to do). It popped up several times on my Facebook feed today.

    Bansky (check him out here) is an illusive street-art icon who is wanted by law enforcement. If he ever were arrested, there’s no doubt it would be news. Add to that, this cultural obsession we have with consuming mass amounts of information and regurgitating it as quickly as possibly (it’s actually a lucrative busy model) and you can see why people taking a quick read might pass it along as real news.

    And this is the world in which we live. Every scrap of news has to be vetted for authenticity, because even the obvious fake news gets mistaken as fact.

    On the same note, U2 singer Bono has ebola.

    DIY: Craft your Halloween party

    Halloween tutorials

    Halloween is not just a kids’ holiday anymore — it has become one of the most celebrated days of the year for people of all ages. If you’re planning on getting spirited with a shindig of your own,  check out these four simple ideas, each covering one of the essential cornerstones of any good Halloween festivity: decor, costumery, food and drink. Each of these projects need only a few items for completion and use things you likely already have.

    Decor: flying paper bats. Enlist the assistance of smaller helpers and infest your home with flying paper bats. Using only black construction paper and our downloadable template, you’ll have a cloud of bats flapping across your walls in no time.

    Costumery: sugar skull makeup: Get your costume in order with a step-by-step tutorial to create one of the hottest costume trends of the season: Day of the Dead sugar skull makeup. This classic, festive look may come together using makeup you already own. 

    Food: spiced pumpkin cupcakes. These cupcakes require two ingredients and when topped with cream cheese frosting, provide a quick solution to sate a monstrous hunger. 

    Drink: Brain Hemorrhage: Finally, need a creepy concoction for an adult-oriented festivity? Try making the ever popular Brain Hemorrhage. More challenging to look at than to consume, this sweet, visually-chilling treat will warm the cockles of your guests’ hearts.

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    DIY: Brain Hemorrhage shots

    Brain Hemorrhage shot

    The Brain Hemorrhage shot is super creepy looking, but really, is the only kind of enjoyable brain hemorrhage that exists. These shots do kick the party up a notch.

    What you’ll need:

    - 1 oz peach schnapps
    - 1/2 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream 
    - 1/2 tsp grenadine

    In a shot glass, add the peach schnapps, slowly add/float with the Bailey’s Irish Cream and top with the grenadine. Stand back and enjoy the looks on your guests faces. Drink.

    Enjoy (responsibly)!



    DIY: Day of the Dead sugar skull makeup tutorial


    Ornamental, intricate and bold, one of this season’s most popular costume ideas is the Day of the Dead sugar skull. Costume stores have intricate facial tattoos that can be purchased to take the place of hand drawn filials, but the avid crafter — usually out of an obsessive need to prove it can be done without resorting to purchasing some machine-created item – draws her/his own.

    And it’s not difficult; it’s really just about balance, or symmetry — but it doesn’t have to be. I enlisted my 11-year-old daughter for the project, and I wanted each side to match as well as I could get it. But I’ve seen many an online photo of sugar skull makeup where the artist chose to be asymmetrical. Up to you.

    As mentioned previously, I’m personally not a fan of Halloween makeup. Apart from not providing an even finish, it’s too greasy and wipes off the second it’s touched. As an alternative, I sought out the (old, no longer used) makeup in my own collection. Here’s how I did it:

    What you’ll need:

    - eye shadows in various shades (I used white, black and a compact that had turquoise, pink, orange and yellow)
    - black eye liner (I had a great old water-proof pencil that worked well)

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    Organic Fresno restaurant to close

    Organic Fresno, the farm-to-fork restaurant with dinner theater and a market, is closing. The last day to get goodies such as kefir mixed with hibiscus tea and “breakfast burrito (not!)” crepes will be Monday, Oct. 27.

    It’s been a tough few months for the restaurant, says owner Tara Hamilton, who goes by “Ta-raw” these days. “People have less money so they eat out less and we have a very small market that we cater to,” she says. You can read more about her reasons for closing the restaurant on her blog here. The restaurant will have a meal and party Friday.

    The restaurant attracted a lot of out-of-towners — hence its location on Parkway Drive close to Highway 99, between Belmont and Olive avenues — along with locals who were into healthy, local, seasonal food. Its sister restaurant, raw food place Revive Cafe, closed a while ago too.

    Hamilton still has a lot going on. She’s written a book called “Cook Grow Love” that features personal stories and healthy recipes, including a cinnamon chia bread. She’s launched an IndieGoGo campaign to pay for self publishing the book and donating 1,000 copies to low-income families.

    Although many people are sad to see Organic Fresno go (just check out the outpouring of comments on its Facebook post), check out what Hamilton plans to do next: “I think I’m going to go to Santa Barbara and live on my sailboat,” she says.

    Concert Announcement: Eric Church


    Eric Church will be the first performer to hit the Save Mart Center in 2015.

    The outlaw country rocker will play the arena Jan.22 on the second leg of his Outsiders World Tour. County icon Dwight Yoakam and rock band Halestorm open the show. Tickets are $25 to $59.50 and on sale 10 a.m. Oct. 24 at select Save Mart Supermarkets, the Save Mart Center box office, online at or by phone at (800) 745-3000.

    Fan club and VIP presales start 10 a.m. tomorrow, with radio and venue presales staring 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

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    Can Fresno send ‘Janka’ to New York?

    I have an in-depth Sunday Spotlight column for Oct. 19: a look at a push by people in the Fresno community to send the Holocaust one-woman play “Janka” to New York for an off-off Broadway run. From my column:

    That dream is coming together thanks to a core of Fresno-area supporters. In a move that’s quite novel in the theater world, Noga and Speace are raising the $40,000 needed to finance a run at an Off-Off-Broadway theater. To kick off the campaign, benefit performances of the show will be held Oct. 25 and 26 at the 2nd Space Theatre.

    “Janka” is a remarkable story featuring remarkable people, including the title character herself — who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp while most of her family died — to Janice Noga, Janka’s daughter-in-law, who has played the role for 12 years. I’m excited to think that “Janka” could be playing at the June Havoc Theatre on West 36th Street in Manhattan next May.

    Bee photo: Eric Paul Zamora

    KFSR hosts Fresno Grand Opry fundraiser


    I almost let this one slip through the cracks:

    KFSR presents another installment of the Fresno Grand Opry, its semi-regular fundraising-concert series that has local musicians and bands paying (and playing) musical tribute to traditional country music.

    The show, which coincides with the end of the station’s fall pledge drive (they will still take your money), is 7 p.m. Saturday at the Fresno Scottish Rite Center and features Brad “The Dudeboy” Rogers, The Roger Perry Band and Mofo Party Band. Tickets are just $10, and are available at

    So, slide on them boots, snap up that pearly buttoned shirt and go on, get to it.

    Be warned: You’re not gonna hear Florida Georgia Line or Rascall Flatts (or Garth Brooks or Brooks & Dunn, for that matter). This is for fans of Waylon, Willie and the boys.

    And likely George Jones, Hank Williams and Bob Wills, too.

    Ska talk with Eric Dansby of King Sugar


    On the spectrum of ska music, King Sugar sits somewhere in the middle, with ’80s 2-Tone bands (the Specials, Madness) on one side and ’90s third-wave (Skankin’ Pickle, Let’s Go Bowling) on the other.

    “With a z-axis of soul/mod thrown in for good measure,” says Eric Dansby, who has played drums for the Fresno band for the last decade.

    Kings Sugar plays the opening slot for Dave Wakeling’s English Beat 9 p.m. Saturday at Fulton 55.

    Here, Bansby talks about the genesis of the band and the (possible) future of ska.

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    Weekend pick: Collecting Rollin Pickford

    There’s an intriguing underpinning to the new exhibition of works by famed Fresno watercolorist Rollin Pickford at Fresno State’s Madden Library. From my 7 cover story:

    Collectors are an integral part of the artistic process. When they buy, the artist eats. Through the decades, the prolific Pickford always appreciated the people who supported him (and his family) by buying his art. The artist’s son Joel, who curated the show, tracked down 21 watercolors from 21 different collectors for the exhibition, held in the library’s Leon S. Peters Ellipse Gallery.

    I’m making this my weekend pick, but there’s plenty of time to see the show: It runs through Jan. 16.

    Above: one of my favorites from the show, a 1948 watercolor of the unfinished Friant-Kern Canal. 

    Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

    Aside from revisiting the Civil War

    1. Zappcon
    Geeks (and nerds) of the world united and take over.

    2. Zumba Under the Stars
    Everyone is getting fit without you.

    3. Breakfast Ride to Kearney Park
    Don’t worry, you’ll get to the park before the first Civil War shots are fired.

    4. Lunafest
    The documentary “Viva,” seems particularly interesting. It tells the story of 82-year-old punker Viva Hamnell.

    5. Glorious Junk Days
    One man’s trash and all that.

    An added bonus for those seeking music-oriented events:

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    Erna’s Elderberry House celebrates 30 years with Austrian chef, dancing butlers

    Four-star restaurant Erna’s Elderberry’s House in Oakhurst is already known for going all out for its meals. So what does such a restaurant do when it wants to celebrate its 30th anniversary? Throws a dinner that goes even more all out. For a celebration dinner at 6 p.m. Sunday, Erna’s will:

    • Fly in chef Toni Moerwald from Austria to prepare a five-course meal that includes potato soup with truffles, filet of “young venison” and a main course of wild char (that’s a fish).
    • Have dancers dressed up as butlers, maids and chefs and performing to “Be Our Guest” from “Beauty & the Beast.” The dancers will present the dessert, an anniversary torte, at the end of the meal.  
    • Have a gymnastics group of 7- to 10-year-olds tumbling on the lawn and handing out gifts as guests stroll through the gardens.

    The dinner costs $195 per person and reservations are a must. You can see the full menu here (the dinner also celebrates Erna’s affiliation with Relais & Chateaux, an organization of fine hotels and restaurants).

    QnA with Cristobal Carrillo, organizer of Orosi’s Spanspek Festival


    The Spanspek Music and Arts Festival is a teach-by-doing kind of endeavor.

    Founded in 2006, the annual event brings locally created visual and performing arts to the community of Cutler-Orosi with the hope that it will inspire the youth in the area on their own artistic paths.

    Dozens of local visual and performing artist will put their work on display 6 p.m. tomorrow at the Orosi Memorial Hall. All festival proceeds go toward funding Orosi High School scholarships, commissioning new works from local artists and ensuring the continuation of the event in the future.

    Over the years, organizers Cristobal Carrillo and Israel Flores have developed a knack for spotting new local talent — such as Visalia psyche blues band Slow Season and the Dinuba hip hop collective, Roach Collection. Both play this year, along with local heavy hitters Patrick Contreras and the rock duo Strange Vine.

    I emailed with Carrillo to find out more about growing up as an artist in a small, rural town and why this year’s lineup of musicians seems so great.

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