Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

James Van Der Beek gets smart role

It’s clear from the first few episodes of “CSI: Cyber” that James Van Der Beek can handle playing a tough crime fighting character. His Agent Elijah Mundo is just as strong as all of the others agents and detectives who have appeared in the endless configurations of “CSI.”

I hate that.

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Cuthbert’s cougar days behind her

It’s a little confusing listening to Elisha Cuthbert talk about starring in he new NBC comedy, “One Big Happy.” She’s talking about how her previous series, “Happy Endings,” helped move her away from drama to comedy.

She was the best part of “Happy Endings” and showed a lot of comedic skill. But, I remember laughing at her series work before “Happy Endings” because of a comedy moment that is as hilarious today as it was then.

Who could imagine a drama like “24” could provide such a moment. But, there was that scene in the first season of the Kiefer Sutherland series where Cuthbert, playing Jack Bauer’s daughter, is threatened by a cougar. It’s considered the lowest moment in the history of the series.

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Ben Stiller’s Capital Punishment < Fresno’s Capitol Punishment

Who knew Ben Stiller and I have something in common: A love for punk rock.

In fact, the comedian/actor and sometimes male model played drums in a punk band when he was in high school. That band, Capital Punishment, self-released an album in 1982. According to Pitchfork, that album is now being re-released by the Brooklyn label Captured Tracks.

So there is no confusion, Capital Punishment (with an A), has nothing to do with the Fresno punk band Capitol Punishment, though they both existed at the same time. Weird, right?

No offense to Stiller, but I’ll go with Fresno punk band.

Take a listen and determine for yourselves.

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Mayor reads mean tweets about downtown Fresno

If you’re looking for a morning chuckle, check this out. You know how Jimmy Kimmel has celebrities read mean tweets about themselves on his show? Well, last night at the State of Downtown 2015 event Mayor Ashley Swearengin read some mean tweets about downtown Fresno. I can honestly say I never thought I’d hear the words, “I legit saw a hooker twerk,” come out of our mayor’s mouth. Take a look at the video student writer Rory Appleton shot.

QnA with guitarist Yonatan Gat

Avante-garde seems the easy description for Yonatan Gat.

The Israel-born guitarist was part of the punk trio Monotonix, which was infamous for live performances that were a sweaty mess of noise and bodies, thrown thrash and fire. The band played 1,000 shows in its five-year run.

As a solo artist, Gat tempers the punk angst with free-jazz freakouts and world-music sounds — from Chicano rock to Afro-Brazilian soul and Middle Eastern surf-rock. Still, his current project — with bassist Sergio Sayeg and drummer Gal Lazer — pushes the boundaries of the band-audience relationship, eschewing the stage and setting up amongst the crowd. Earlier this month the band released “Director,” an 11-track improv-psych-punk epic of an album and awed music critics at South by South West. I emailed Gat in advance of tonight’s show at Visalia’s Cellar Door.

People seem to freak out that you shy away from playing on stage and prefer to get right there in the crowd. Why do you think that is?

Sometimes, when we play smaller shows in smaller towns – people are not sure what to do with themselves in the beginning – it’s true. I usually just tell them they can come closer. Stand right on us. It’s just unusual for a band to set up this way. Although it’s pretty dumb that bands don’t. The stage is only needed for elevation when the place is too big and people can’t see you. And if you’re in front of the PA – well, that’s your monitors. When we play bigger venues, we use our own tiny stage and set it in the middle of the room and people can stand around us. The idea is that people can get close, stand in every position around us in an attempt to create a more direct communication with the audience. At the moment, I’m not interested in being an avant-garde band playing to themselves and other musicians. We are on the floor with the people because what we get from the audience goes into the show, into the songs we choose to play, into our musical decisions while improvising, into the length of the set, into the dynamic of the playing.

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Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

Aside from morning the loss of “Downton Abbey” …

1. “Dos Mundos
Omare Nare, bringing Mariachi back from the dead.

2. “Varekai
What the heck are the Russian Swings?

3. “Allegorical Portraiture
New work from Ronald Dzerigian and his first Fresno show since 2010.

4. Christopher Titus
Some of you no doubt watched his sitcom on FOX.

5. Old Town Clovis Antiques & Collectibles Fair
Hipsters love antiquing, I guess.

And a bonus five concerts.

1. Yonatan Gat
2. Pete Rock
3. La Barranca
4. Night School
5. Planet Booty

For all of the music-related event this weekend, check out the weekley BANDGEEEK! post.

National Crayon Day is coming

Mark your calendars as March 31 is National Crayon Day. It’s time to get out those raw sienna, peach, melon, almond, red, shamrock and asparagus colored crayons and do some coloring.

While you do, ponder these facts supplied by the Los Angeles-based Crayon Collection, a national initiative that collects millions of crayons from restaurants every year.

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Dennis Haysbert’s role very complicated

Dennis Haysbert has a very interesting character in the new FOX series, “Backstrom” starring former “The Office” star Rainn Wilson. Not only Haysbert’s role a very competent detective but his character also runs a church. This strange mixture makes the character very distinct.

The problem is, Haysbert’s character could also be a pirate, astronaut and weekend brain surgeon and the only think I can think when I see him is that he’s the President of the United States.

Curse you “24.”

And, even worse, when he opens his mouth, all I want to do is check to see if I have enough car insurance.

Curse you Allstate.

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Post-punk superheroes: Marvel vs. DC

Brazilian artist Butcher Billy answered a question I never knew I needed to ask; If Morrisey were a superhero, who would he be?

The answer is: The Hulk, obviously.
Also: Superman.

Billy recently reimagined a number of post-punk and new-wave icons as superheros from the Marvel Universe. He did the same with the DC universe in 2013.

I can’t say which set I like better. Robert Smith is the obvious choice for Nightcrawler and Plastic Man, but Billy Idol works better for me as Aquaman than Thor.

Aaaannnnnyway, this had me all giddy this week and thought I’d share.

Be sure to check out all of Billy’s work, because … Hellboy Elvis and Amy Winehouse Wonder Woman.

Also this which is

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10 things we want Ron Orozco to do on his Day

In case you missed his farewell column in last Saturday’s paper, our beloved colleague Ron Orozco is abandoning us retiring after 41 years of service to The Fresno Bee. In recognition of Ron’s myriad contributions to the central San Joaquin Valley, Mayor Ashley Swearingen declared today — which is Ron’s last in the Bee office — as “Ron Orozco Day.” We figure since he’s got this amazing amount of power for 24 hours, here’s what we’d like him to do:  

1. Charge lunch for The Bee’s features staff on Swearengin’s tab at the Downtown Club.

2. Check out 35 books from the library and never turn them in.

3.  Drive a firetruck.

4. Make high-speed rail stop at his house.

5. Declare war on Clovis.

6. Fresno State fans will now be known as “Ron’s Red Wave.” 

7. Bring back the Giants to Grizzlies stadium, with Ron watching from his in-perpetuity luxury suite always stocked with cupcakes.

8. Change city motto from “We’re Three Hours from Everything” to “We Love Piemonte’s.”  

9. Demand a role in Cirque show “Varekai” as guest trapeze performer.

10.  Find a way to rub some of his kindness, generosity, humor and compassion on every resident of Fresno. If we could do that, we’d definitely be the friendliest city in the world.

BANDGEEK!: Omar Nare, La Barranca and Yonatan Gat

In the midst of proving just how much of a “Sharknado” fan you are, be sure to spend some time at one of this week’s concert options. I’ve collected them here in another BANDGEEEEK! roundup.


  • Sweet Bump It.
    W/Amoret (acoustic set). At Peeve’s Public House. 8:30 p.m. Free. All ages.

  • KC & The Sunshine Band.
    At Tachi Palace. 6 p.m. $35-$75. (Flier link)

  • Giddens/Dana/Hamada.
    At the Landmark. 8 p.m. Free.

  • Vice.
    W/Swamps, No Authority, Make Way and Step-4-Change. At CYC. 7 p.m. $5 donation. All ages. (Flier link)

  • Iwanaga.
    W/T&A. At Audie’s Olympic. 9 p.m. Free. (Flier link)

  • EZ Mark’s Honky Tonk.
    At Full Circle Brewing. 5:30 p.m. Free.

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    ‘Downton Abbey’ will end with sixth season

    Sad news for “Downton Abbey” fans. The sixth season, currently filming in England, will be the last for the popular program that airs on ValleyPBS.

    “Millions of people around the world have followed the journey of the Crawley family and those who serve them for the last five years. Inevitably there comes a time when all shows should end and ‘Downton’ is no exception.” Gareth Neame, Carnival Film’s managing director and executive producer, says. “We wanted to close the doors of ‘Downton Abbey’ when it felt right and natural for the story lines to come together and when the show was still being enjoyed so much by its fans.

    “We can promise a final season full of all the usual drama and intrigue, but with the added excitement of discovering how and where they all end up.”

    The series debuted on public television in 2011 as part of the “Masterpiece” series. It quickly became the most popular series in the “Masterpiece” 44 year history. It has earned 48 prime-time Emmy nominations and three Golden Globe awards.

    Season five was seen by 25.5 million viewers and episodes were streamed more than 12.6 times. 

    The final episodes will begin to air in January.

    Swingin’ through Cirque opening-day rehearsal

    The setting: The newly set up “Varekai” stage at Save Mart Center on Wednesday afternoon. It’s a Cirque du Soleil tradition to open the rehearsal on opening day briefly to the media, who tend to ooh and aah at the sight of sculpted bodies flying through the air and ask things like, “Is that dangerous?” (Seriously, I heard that question.)

    The showcase act: The Russian Swings, which is not 1) evidence that Vladimir Putin has fallen in love with American swing dancing and made “Chattanooga Choo Choo” his hotline ring tone; nor 2) the Moscow TV version of “Celebrity Wife Swap.” Instead, various young men take turns being pushed on giant swings that are basically the burliest version of playground equipment you’ll ever see. Sometimes the men fling themselves at one of two large pieces of canvaslike material acting as nets that hang from the roof of the Save Mart. Other times the men actually are launched off one swing to land on the other, otherwise known as every school yard duty’s worst nightmare. The men are divided into fliers (slim-bodied and aerodynamic) and pushers (with legs as thick as TOPOL-M intercontinental ballistic missiles). Talk about typecasting.

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    You can be an extra in ‘Steve Jobs’ movie

    Here’s your chance to be in a movie.

    The Universal Pictures’ movie, “Steve Jobs,” is currently filming in San Francisco. Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet star.

    Men and women who are 18 and above are being sought to be extras for a scene in the movie. Attendees will receive free parking, free food and drink and a chance to win giveaways including four tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood and two tickets to the premiere of the film.

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    Miller, Purcell love being bad on ‘The Flash’

    Almost 10 year years ago, I sat in the same bar at the Langham Huntington Beach Hotel talking with Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell about their roles in the under-appreciated FOX series “Prison Break.” They played brothers who through an elaborate plan escape from prison and go on the run.

    Now, I’m talking to them about playing criminals again. 

    They aren’t portraying brothers on the under-appreciated CW series, “The Flash,” but they are criminal cohorts as Captain Cold and Heat Wave. Their work is so good, there’s talk the pair will be part of a new comic book-based series for the network.

    The actors were excited about the opportunity to work together again because they had become close friends during their days on “Prison Break.”

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    Big businesses opening, closing in Fresno

    It’s been a busy week on the retail front, with lots of highly anticipated stores announcing they’re coming, and at least one that said it’s leaving. Here’s the rundown.

    Closing: Fresh & Easy announced Monday that it’s closing all three of its stores in Fresno and Clovis by April 3. The sales have already started at the stores (and are apparently quite crazy). It’s an end to the grand experiment of bringing a British-style, small-format grocer to the U.S. — at least in the Fresno area. The retailer never quite found its niche. The company lives on under a new American owner, and stores in Reedley and Lemoore will remain open. 

    One Fresh & Easy store that closed in recent years has been converted to a Grocery Outlet downtown and the one on Cedar Avenue near Shields Avenue is on track to become a library. It’s a little too early to tell what will happen to the two stores that are closing in Fresno and one in Clovis. Any ideas?

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    CONCERT ANNOUNCEMENT: Summerland tour 2015

    The dream of the ’90s is alive … on the Summerland tour.

    The annual alternative rock tour was created by Everclear’s Art Alexakis and Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath and features some of the biggest alternative rock acts of the time. Past tours have included Gin Blossoms, LIVE and Soul Asylum.

    This year’s tour, dubbed Summerland 2015: Alternative Guitars II, features Everclear plus Fuel, American Hi-Fi and Toadies. The tour just announced dates, which includes an Aug. 15 stop at Blackbeards Family Entertainment Center in Fresno.

    The concert, presented by the local promotions company The Artourage, will be part of a full day of entertainment that includes more than 25 local bands (including Stoneshiver), playing on multiple stage through out the park, plus other surprises to be announced in the following weeks. Prices have not been announced, but tickets are on sale Friday March 27, according to the tour’s website.

    The tour stopped at Visalia’s Fox Theatre last year.

    Click to the jump to stream the Summerland playlist.

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    Foie gras is back on Fresno-area restaurant menus

    Update: One group dislikes foie gras and how it’s made so much that it canceled a reservation at Guri’s because it serves the delicacy. You can read the full story about the California Democratic Council canceling its meal for 100 people here.

    Love it or loathe it, foie gras is back on Fresno-area restaurant menus. A ban on the fatty duck or goose liver was overturned by a judge in January and has steadily been making its way back on local menus (for some, it may have never really left, despite the ban).

    Guri’s GrubHouse began promoting what it calls “Fresno’s most luxurious burger” last week. The foie gras burger has a patty made with 50% ground chuck and 50% bacon topped with seared foie gras, apple butter and pickled red onions. It’s served on a brioche bun from Max’s Artisan Breads. It costs $24. The burger is in limited supply to ensure freshness of ingredients. It’s pictured at right.

    “It’s going to be ducking delicious,” Guri’s chef Megan Beck said in news release. The burger is her creation and Beck has been itching for the chance to return foie gras to the menu after serving it regularly at her previous restaurant, Urban Solace in San Diego.

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    An emotional ‘Alzheimer’s Stories’

    I kept the tears from coming as long as I could, but I couldn’t hold out on Sunday when the Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale neared the end of the second movement of Robert Cohen’s “Alzheimer’s Stories.” Here’s the moment in the libretto that did it:

    This is my story. This is how pieces of a life were lost.
    These are the pieces of a life recalled. This is my story.
    Love and compassion repair every loss, one by one, time and again.

    Cohen wrote the music and Herschel Garfein wrote the libretto for the 2009 oratorio to raise public awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease and celebrate the caregivers who devote so much time to tending those afflicted with it. The piece is filled with piercing personal details (“As she lay unconscious I would whisper that I loved her”) and uplifting exhortations (“Find those you love in the dark and light. Help them through the days and nights”). At turns somber, jaunty and inspirational, “Alzheimer’s Stories” connects on both a cerebral and emotional level.

    As I listened to some of the statistics recounted in the piece – by 2050, one in 85 people worldwide will have the disease — I couldn’t help but think that a percentage of people in that hall, both on stage and in the audience, will one day experience its effects. A sobering moment, indeed.

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    On this day in 1991, Timmy T had a No. 1 hit

    Exactly 24 years ago today "One More Try" was number #1 on the Billboard charts with a bullet! Woop woop! #timmyt #onemoretry #1991 #90s #tbt #billboard #throwbackthursday #throwback #freestyleexplosion #iphone #retrorewind #mtv #vh1 #selfie #me #hmu #classicrock #classic

    A photo posted by Timmy T "Prince of Freestyle" (@therealtimmyt) on

    I realized today that Timmy T. was conspicuously absent from the Grizzlies Fresno Famous Bobblehead contest (round of 16 voting ends 5 p.m. tonight). I say conspicuously, because Timmy T. (real name Timothy Torres) was born and raised in Fresno and was particularly famous for a quick moment in 1991 with his song “One More Try,” which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

    On this very day, in fact.

    We haven’t mentioned Timmy T. much of the Beehive lately, but he was of particular interest on the site for awhile, especially after rappers Fashawn and Omar Aura gave “One More Try” this awesome (and Fresnocentric) makeover in 2012.

    Having a No. 1 single is no small feat, especially one with such a damn catchy chorus. So, my hats off and respect to Timmy T. Click through the jump to see a video of the original track.

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    CONCERT ANNOUNCEMENTS: Dierks Bentley, Peter Murphy

    When country singer Dierks Bentley last came through town, he played the Paul Paul Theater as part of the Big Fresno Fair.

    When he returns this August, it will be as a full-blown arena act, with a headlining show at the Save Mart Center.

    Bentley’s “Sounds of Summer” tour kicks off June 5 in Raleigh, NC. and stops Aug. 20 at the Save Mart Center. Kip Moore, Maddie and Tae and Canaan Smith will join as touring support.

    “Kip, Maddie and Tae and Canaan are three of the hottest rising artists out there right now and I feel fortunate to be spending the summer with them,” Bentley said in a release. “If our first ‘tour meeting’ is any indication, they are up for anything, which is awesome. No one is going to have more fun this summer than us.”

    Tickets for the Fresno date are $31.75-$52.75 and on 10 a.m. sale Friday, March 27 at the SMC box office, select Save Mart Supermarkets, online or on the phone, (800) 745-3000. Fan club pres ales are available Tuesday March 24 on Bentley’s website.

    Bentley is known for mixing elements of modern and classic country with bluegrass and rock. His latest album “Riser” debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard Top 200. It was his seventh top ten album was nominated for Best Country Album at this year’s Grammy Awards.

    Also announced:

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    QnA with hip-hop DJ (and MC) Derrick Mcelroy

    Aside from being one of the best hip-hop performances you’ll see all year, tonight’s sold-out concert with legendary MC KRS-One also serves as a kick-off party for just-named Rewind 105.5 FM.

    The station, part of the local conglomerate that also runs Jewel FM, 940 ESPN, KYNO, 95.7 The Fox and New Rock 104.1, recently switched formats to classic hip hop.

    Think: Jay-Z and Tupac, Outkast, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys and the like.

    Already the station has gotten an amazing amount of buzz and general good feelings from fans, with much thanks to Derrick Mcelroy, a local DJ (and MC) who is currently the voice of the station. That’s him on all the commercials and promos. He also serves as consultant to the Music Director — a position he has no problem filling.

    Some will know MCelroy as Aesop, the rapper/MC who was part of the Bay Area rap collective Living Legends.

    Here, I ask Mcelroy about “classic” hip hop, and get his take on current state of the genre.

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    Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

    March Madness is happening.

    Also …

    1. TaikoProject
    Japanese for drums. There’s also shouting.

    2. FresCon
    For once, Fresno State celebrates geek (not greek) culture.

    3. Punk Rock Karaoke
    Dude! You can front a band with guys from Social Distortion and Bad Religion.

    4. Winter Guard International’s Western Championship
    It’s color guard for the off season.

    5. Heroes and Villains art show
    Not this, but still cool.

    And a bonus five concert picks, because I can.

    1. KRS-One
    2. Music for Moustaches and Bands for Beards
    3. The Focke-Wolves
    4. Rock and Worship Roadshow
    5. Bill Amatneek

    For more music-specific choices, check out my weekly Bandgeek roundup.

    Win tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Varekai’

    I know there are a lot of Cirque du Soleil fans out there who would love to get their hands on a pair of tickets to “Varekai,” which opens Wednesday, March 25 and continues through Sunday, March 29 at Save Mart Center. I can make that happen. In fact, I can make that happen for two lucky winners. We have two pairs of tickets to give away for the 1:30 p.m. show on Sunday, March 29. I wrote a package of stories in Friday’s 7 section about the show, which picks up the story of the Greek myth of Icarus after that chap’s, um, aviation calamity. (He’s the guy who used feathers and wax to make wings, but he flew too close to the sun and made an emergency water landing.) 

    To enter, leave a comment on this post answering the following question: Tell us where you’d fly if you had Icarus’ wings for an afternoon. (We’re assuming you won’t pick the sun.) One entry per person, please. Entries must be received by 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 25. When you enter, please include a valid email address so we can contact you if you’re a winner. I’ll be informing our winners by email on Thursday, so keep a watch on your inbox.

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    Fresno Famous Bobblehead tourney moves to round of 16

    Let me start with this: I am disappointed that Rick Bentley didn’t make it to the round of 16 in the Fresno Grizzlies bobblehead tournament.

    That said, at this point in the competition we are beginning to see hints of the eventual outcome.

    The Round of 16 match ups are:

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