Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

QnA with ‘Tea’ Gonzales of Fresno Bike Polo

Even in the world of outsider athletics, bike polo doesn’t have the cache of … roller derby let’s says. The sport has been around since the 1890s, but it took 100 years or so for it catch on here in the states and even then it was just a bunch of Seattle bike messengers who took up the sport.

So, it was pretty underground.

But bike polo is catching on. It is now played on roof tops, parking lots tennis courts in more than 400 cities and 50 countries. And there are hundreds of legit tournaments held every year, including Fresno’s “Smack in Da Middle.” The tournament, so named because of Fresno’s proximity to the rest of California, is its fourth year.

Hosted by Fresno Bike polo, this year’s tourney (which kicks off 10 a.m. Saturday in Cary Park) features 24 teams playing three-on-three in 12-minute matches. Saturday will be played in Swiss Rounds, where each team vies for seeding position. Sunday will be double elimination until the final game.

I emailed organizer Anthony “Tea” Gonzalez to find out more about the state of bike polo in Fresno.

For the uninitiated, what is bike polo?

    Bike polo is a fluid, strategic and fast-paced sport which combines technical bike handling skills and hand-eye coordination. It is a team sport, where individuals play polo on bicycles, using mallets to shoot the ball into designated goals.

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Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

Let me suggest the Clovis Craft Beer Crawl (say that five times fast) and also …

1. Shinzen Garden Spring Festival and bonsai show
Those beautiful tiny trees are so old.

2. Flower Tome Companion
This “A Prairie Home Companion” parody ran during the Rogue Festival. It’s been expanded for the Tower Theatre.

3. Smack in Da Middle

4. Record Store Day
For vinyl freaks, this might be the best day of the year (or the worst depending on your view of things).

5. Vintage Days
Fresno State’s annual student celebration. Time to go back to campus, I guess.

And a bonus five concert picks. They are all on Saturday. It might be a hard choice.

1. Fresno Jazz and Soul Festival
2. Dale Stewart Group
3. Smash Mouth
4. American Sanchez
5. Record Store Day After Party

For a full list of music specific choices, see my weekly BANDGEEEK roundup.

BANDGEEK!: Chris Tomlin, Smash Mouth and Three Bad Jacks

While you are waiting for the buzz from seeing the new Star Wars trailer to wear off (Chewbacca hasn’t aged a bit), take in one of the dozens of concerts happening this week. I have them collected here in your weekly BANDGEEEEEEK roundup.


Audra makes Time’s list of 100 most influential people

Not only is she a record-setting Tony Award winner, Fresno’s own Audra McDonald is recognized for her passions offstage as well. Time magazine today named her to its list of 100 most influential people. The magazine asked Carrie Underwood to write the blurb:

Never afraid to stand up for what she believes, Audra is a strong voice speaking out for humane treatment of animals, dignity for the homeless and marriage equality. I had the pleasure of getting to know Audra during our time on NBC’s telecast of The Sound of Music Live! and I can honestly say that simply being in her presence was a gift. She is mesmerizing. I would often find myself messing up lines or songs because I was in awe of everything she was doing as the Mother Abbess.

Anyone who follows Audra on Twitter knows how much she speaks out on topics that are important to her. She’s a powerhouse.

The ‘Janka’ Chronicles: reviews trickle in

In Thursday’s Life section I offer another update on Janice Noga and Oscar Speace’s “Janka,” which is continuing its remarkable off-off-Broadway run at New York’s June Havoc Theatre. While none of the New York daily papers or prestige theater publications such as Variety have reviewed the show, “Janka” has managed to receive some media notice.

Here’s a late (and not so kind) review that I didn’t find until after I filed my Thursday update. It’s from the Times Square Chronicles:

This one-woman show has come to New York thanks to $50,000 raised by supporters in the central San Joaquin Valley. It would have been better served going to the O’Neil where it could have been honed and shaped. The play comes off as disjointed with Janka going in and out of time.

But other reviews praise Noga and the play’s impact, including this one from the website Stage Buddy:

Noga switches from mild, storytelling mother to despair and anger flawlessly, creating a character onstage with depth and history and utmost realism.

I’ll get to see for myself two weeks from now. The Bee is sending me to New York to see the show and cover the final performance of “Janka.”

‘Janka’ update No. 2: Official opening night (April 9, 2015)
‘Janka’ update No. 1: First preview performance (April 2, 2014)
With funds raised, ‘Janka’s is Broadway-bound (December 2014)
Dreaming of New York: ‘Janka’ kicks off its biggest journey ever (October 2014)
The Beehive Interview: Janice Noga (February 2011)

THEATER REVIEW: ‘Nine Armenians’

I got to see Leslie Ayvazian’s “Nine Armenians” in a performance bought out by an Armenian church. I sat there in the Fresno Art Museum’s sold-out Bonner Auditorium surrounded by approving audience members who murmured appreciatively at every Armenian joke, mannerism and mention of delicious sounding dish that came their way. I even heard some whispered translations of Armenian words. In the midst of all this goodwill, I felt like I was at a big party.

In terms of the actual production, however, “Nine Armenians” struggles to reach the minimum level of competence that I’d normally associate with a community-theater production worthy of review. (The production continues April 17-19 at the Fresno Art Museum. Details: (559) 435-4478.)

What stands out in the production of this extended-generation comedy-drama — done in conjunction with the community-wide commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide — is the sturdy and insightful quality of Ayvazian’s writing. Set in 1992 New Jersey, the play draws a powerful parallel between the 1915 Armenian genocide and events unfolding in the struggling, newly independent Armenia.

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Max Brooks makes best of bad situation

Max Brooks – the author of “World War Z” – was at Fresno City College as part of the school’s speakers forum. His main topic was his latest book, “The Harlem Hellfighters” (Broadway Books, $16.95), but he got around to the topic of the movie made from his “World War Z” book.

It’s not fair to say the book was adapted into the movie. That would suggest more than just the title was used to make the 2013 film. The movie version is as close to the book as “Hogan’s Heroes” is to what really happened in World War II.

When the movie premiered, Brooks decided to hold his tongue and not talk about how far afield the movie went. Other writers had told him that the main point was the movie would bring more attention to his book and that would be a good thing.

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Motherhood changes Blake Lively

My interview with Blake Lively is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. She’s meeting with the press to discuss her feature film, “The Age of Adaline” where she plays a woman who stops aging at 29.

It’s been a few years since Lively has done a film or TV show so there’s plenty to discuss.

It gets to be 10:10 then 10:15. It’s at this point a fear creeps into my head. Maybe she’s become a prima donna and this interview may take place anytime between now and midnight.

At 10:30 she arrives and immediately starts to apologize.

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You can win tickets to see ‘Age of Adaline’

If you have missed seeing Blake Lively since “Gossip Girl” ended or just can’t wait until December to see Harrison Ford in the upcoming “Star Wars” movie, the film for you is “The Age of Adaline.”

Lively plays a woman who in the ‘20s is magically transformed to where she doesn’t age. She remains 29 until present day. Ford plays a man from her past.

You don’t have to wait until Friday, April 24, to see the movie. The Fresno Beehive is giving away 15 pairs of passes to see the advance screening of “The Age of Adaline” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 21.

Here’s what you have to do. Leave a comment telling me at what age you would like to stop aging. Be sure to post by noon Saturday, April 18. A random drawing will be held and the 15 winners will be notified by noon Monday, April 20. 

These passes mean you won’t have to stand in line but can go directly to reserved seats. 

Rules for the contest follow.


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Survey ranks Fresno at bottom of bike-friendly cities list

This just in from the department of “duh:” Fresno isn’t a bike-friendly city.

That’s according to anyone who’s ever tried riding down Fruit Avenue (I’m joking. Sort of). Also, a recent survey from the consumer healthcare site

The survey evaluated cities across the U.S. and ranked them based on the number of commuters who cycle to work, the number of bike fatalities and the amount of federal dollars spent (per capita) on bicycles infrastructure. Fresno ended up 43 on a list of the 52 largest cities, just below Las Vegas and only a few places above Detroit.

Forth Worth, Texas was the least-friendly city according to the survey. Portland ranked most friendly for cyclists (surprise, surprise). Oakland and Sacramento both ranked in the top 5.

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Kanye jumps in a lake and it’s kind of awesome

I’m not sure what to think about Kanye West.

The rapper/pop-star/mogul is a total maniac who seems to act mostly (if not solely) on impulse. Sometimes that can be uncomfortable to watch (his Grammy outburst, for example).

Other times, like during the free concert he did in Yerevan, Armenia on Sunday, it ends up being awesome.

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QnA with The Artourage promoter Art Silva

Photo Credit: Nash Jacquez

Art Silva is one of those guys who’s been around the local music scene forever. He’s been playing in bands and booking and promoting shows since he was 16.

Depending on your age, you may remember him selling concessions, or booking, promoting and running street teams for the all-ages venue Big Game. Or The Exit (or later, The Belmont). You might known him as that guy from the “Overnight Spotlight” show on KRZR, or the “Homegrown” shows he did with New Rock 104.1. He’s now helping with the “Here and Now” show on 105.1 Blaze. You might recognize him from Five Pointe Productions or Art Silva Productions (ASP) or Art Silva Presents and A Work of Art.

For the last three years he’s been the man-in-charge of the local promotions team The Artourage.

I reached out to Silva in advance of the team’s three year anniversary gig tonight at Fulton 55. He got deep with me, and for the first time opened up about booking his dream show, the difficulties of being a promoter and the real reason he got into the business.

Explain The Artourage.

This is one of those things I thought about; How to let people know what that name means.

It’s given is has my first name in it.

The word entourage, means a group of people surrounding someone of rank or importance. I’m really too humble to go by that definition, or claim I have any sort of importance here. But I took the meaning and created my own term and name. The Artourage is “Art and his group of friends,” which without sounding too corny here, is my family. Anyone who supports me in any way, I see them part of the family, of The Artourage. Without my family, I literally could not do what I do. They all keep me going. So, collectively everyone is part of The Artourage.

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Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

Aside from contemplating how something like this could happen (it’s just a house, but it’s William freakin’ Saroyan’s house) …

1. Fresno Mini Makers Faire
April is Maker’s Month in Fresno. So, go create.

2. Tower Classic Car Show
Hot rodding with the hot rods!

3. Big Hat Days
Hat sizes will be judged.

4. Led Zepagain
Just imagine Zeppelin playing at the Warnors!

5. “Our Lives” screening
A documentary on Fresno’s homeless, filmed with help from CMAC (for those who wondered why CMAC exists).

And a bonus five from the concert front.

1. Mushroomhead
2. High on Fire
3. Chon
4. Built to Spill
5. Revisit Steppenwolf

For a (fairly) complete list of music events, check out my weekly BANDGEEEK post.

‘Censored’ at Fresno State

Here’s an academic conference with some bite to it: The Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Fresno State this weekend is sponsoring the conference “Outlawed: The Naked Truth about Censored Literature for Young People.” From the organizers:

The conference will examine the various means of censorship in literature for the young and the ways in which it affects their reading choices. Both domestic and international perspectives will be explored. Submissions from over forty teachers, librarians, and academics have been accepted. Attracting international attention, proposals for talks have been received from academics in six countries in addition to those from across the United States. 

Censorship can manifest itself in a multitude of ways, from blatant challenges and bans to more subtle forms of pre-and self-censorship occurring at the selection level. The conference’s seven featured speakers (Joan E. Bertin, Michael Cart, Matt de la Peña, Margarita Engle, Leonard Marcus, Lesléa Newman, and Jacqueline Woodson), who will present during plenary sessions, are all very familiar with censorship.

The conference is open to the public, but you have to register. There is one free public event, however. “An Evening with Sherman Alexie,” featuring the author, poet, and filmmaker (pictured above), is 7:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday, April 9) at the Fresno State Satellite Student Union.

Opening tonight: ‘Nine Armenians’

As part of the community-wide commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the play “Nine Armenians” by Leslie Ayvazian opens tonight (Thursday, April 9) at the Fresno Art Museum. The play is produced by Joyce Kierejczyk, a local community volunteer, and her daughter, Pam Thielman, a dramaturg living in New York who works with Ayvazian. We made “Nine Armenians” Friday’s 7 cover story, so look for my interview with the playwright. Pictured at right: Tessa Cavalletto plays a recently widowed grandmother. 

Pssst … I hear that the play is already sold out the first weekend, but tickets are available for performances April 17-19. Tickets: (559) 435-4478.

Bandgeek!: Strange Vine, Mushroomhead and Led Zepagain

While some of you will no doubt be travelling to Coachella to be hot and in the desert (and surrounded by dozens of great bands no doubt) The Valley has some great concert picks this week, too. I’ve compiled them here in your weekly BANDGEEEEEK! roundup.


  • H Street Festival.
    W/Strange Vine. At Chukchansi Park in advance of Fresno Grizzlies opening night. 4 p.m. Free. All ages. (Flier link)

  • Andrew Jackson Jihad.
    W/The Smith Street Band, Jeff Rosenstock and Chumped. At Strummer’s. 8 p.m. $15. All ages. (Flier link)

  • The Lower 48.
    W/Hor Prowl. At Peeves’ Public House. 8:30 p.m. Free. All ages.

  • Ozmosis Happy Hour.
    W/Amoret. At Tioga-Sequoia Beer Garden. 5 p.m. Free. (Flier link)

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    The ‘Janka Chronicles: Official opening night

    You’ve got to feel for the dozens of off-off-Broadway productions playing in New York at any given time. Producers can’t afford advertising in the ultra-expensive New York market, and the automatic coverage lavished upon any Broadway opening rarely holds true for smaller productions. It’s a big deal even to get a short review in one of the major newspapers or magazines. And if you can entice the New York Times to cover a show — or (hope beyond hope) get a positive review — it’s like landing the Holy Grail.

    “Janka” — the scrappy one-woman Holocaust drama brought to New York by Janice Noga, Oscar Speace and a bunch of local donors — is crossing its fingers tonight. The show, produced by the Roust Theatre Company, officially opens at the June Havoc Theatre after a week of preview performances.

    Will it be a hit with critics? Will critics come?

    Time will tell.

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    Win tickets to: Fresno Filmworks

    This month, Fresno Filmworks presents “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter.”

    It sounds like one-trip of a film; inspired as it was by an urban legend of a Japanese woman who, after discovered a VHS copy of “Fargo,” leaves Tokyo in a hunt for the movie’s buried treasure. The film has two showings (at 5:30 and 8:45 p.m.) tomorrow. After the 5:30 showing, filmmaker David Zellner will join the audience for a film discussion.

    And we have passes to give away.

    To enter, just leave a comment on this post. What urban legend do you have a suspicion might be real? This is a super short contest. You have until 5 p.m. tonight to enter. Winners will be picked at random and notified via email and able to pick up tickets at the Fresno Bee (1626 E. St.) during normal business hours.

    Watch the trailer for the film (and get full contest rules) on the jump.

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    Win tickets to: CHON at CELLAR DOOR in Visalia

    UPDATE: This show has been moved to Cellar Door. It will remain all ages.

    Here’s one for kids (by kids, I mean the 21-and-under set who typically get nixed from the club shows).

    Oceanside prog-rock band Chon (or CHON, I suppose), plays an all-ages show 7:30 p.m. at Amigo Row (the spanking-new vintage shop/venue) on Main Street in Visalia with Fresno’s (totally-awesome-and-worth seeing indie-band) Conversation.

    This is the first official show at the venue and we have a set of tickets to give away. To enter, leave a comment on this post. Tell us which is your favorite all-ages venue and why. You have until 5 p.m. Friday. A winner will be chosen at random at notified via email (so check yours if you enter).

    Promoter Aaron Gomes describes Chon as “an insanely talented group of young Oceanside, Ca. progressive rippers that will captivate you live.” The band recently released its debut album “Grow” on Sumerian Records (home of Asking Alexandria, Body Count and others).

    You can stream the album (and get full contest rules) on the jump.

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    Tatiana Maslany back in ‘Black’

    The third season of one of the best shows on television, BBC America’s “Orphan Black,” has launched. Just like in the first and second seasons, the work of series star Tatiana Maslany continues to be amazing.

    For those of you who haven’t seen the show (and shame on you for that), it’s about cloning. Maslany plays multiple characters all made from the same genetic parts. The roles have her going from playing a top scientist to a housewife and every extreme between.

    She knew when the series started she would be playing the characters named Beth, Sarah, Alison and Cosima

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    Here’s the teaser trailer for the Amy Winehouse documentary

    There was a time when Amy Winehouse was the go to for Beehive posts. This was the early-to-mid ’00s and Winehouse existed in the pantheon pop-culture — at least on this site.

    If you doubt it, find a a Beehive T-shirt and look on the back.

    So, when the teaser trailer for “Amy,” the documentary on the life (and eventual death) of the British pop singer, made the rounds last week, I knew had to share.

    The film is directed by Asif Kapadia (who did the 1010 film “Senna”) and produced by James Gay-Rees (“Exit Through The Gift Shop”). The trailer runs a minute and a half and features Winehouse’s own words on her impending fame (and a foreshadowing to her tragic end?). The film is schedule for release this summer, possibly around the anniversary of Winehouse’s death. If it doesn’t make it to local multiplexes (and let’s face it, chances are slim), someone will need to make the pitch to Fresno Filmworks.

    [Via AV Club]

    ‘Daredevil’s’ Elden Henson has double success

    Actors are lucky if they can land one hit TV series or one blockbuster film franchise. That lone production can turn a little know performer into a star.

    Look at the career of Kristen Stewart before and after ‘Twilight” if you don’t believe me.

    It’s amazing if an actor can get both as in the case of Elden Henson. Not only did his stock rise way past his days of being known for “The Mighty Ducks” movies with his portrayal of Pollux in both parts of “The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay,” but he’s also in the new Netflix series, “Daredevil.”

    He’s now got fans of the “Hunger Games” books interested in his life but he’s also entered into the world of comic book fanatics. They closely will examine his work as Foggy Nelson – lawyer and best buds to Daredevils’ secret identity, Matt Murdock.

    Henson was in Berlin shooting the “Hunger Games” movies when he got contacted to audition to play Nelson. He tried out for the part via Skype and it was good enough to land him the role.

    Filming started quickly after he was cast so Henson was a little worried that he didn’t get to do a lot of research before going in front of cameras.

    The 37-year-old Henson has been acting since he was 2. When he wasn’t working. Henson spent his youth in movie houses. 

    “I was more of a movie nerd when I was growing up,” Henson says. “I loved Kurt Vonnegut books and Stanley Kubrick movies when I was 10. I took myself way too seriously, even at a young age.”

    That means he didn’t have a lot of time to read comics when he was younger. As soon as he was cast – just days after becoming a new dad – he started reading about Nelson.

    With little time to spare, what Henson decided to do was tap into the elements of Nelson with which he could relate. The key element is his love of his friends and his community.

    He knows his character doesn’t slip on a mask and beat up thugs in alleys but he sees Nelson as much of a crime fighter as Daredevil. They just work in different ways.

    The fans will tell Henson if they think his approach is right or wrong.

    Robin Lopez wins Fresno Grizzlies bobblehead tournament

    Well, it’s been decided:Robin Lopez eeked out a final win in the Fresno Grizzlies Fresno Famous (TM, The Fresno Bee) Bobblehead tournament.

    Eeeked … he beat former NFL dance-icon Ickey Woods by more than 1,000 votes.

    For those who weren’t following, the tournament pitted 64 Fresno celebrities (both real and pseudo) in an online vote-off. The winner gets a bobblehead version of themselves. Well, Grizzlies fans get the bobbleheads, which will be handed out during to the first 1,500 people through the gate Aug. 22. For the winner, it’s more of an honor thing. And to be fair, he did beat out the Mayor, William Saroyan and Jerry Tarkanian.

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    Fresno State library the 25th best in country?

    When I read a few weeks ago — first in a Fresno Bee story and then in a press release online at Fresno State News, the university’s public relations site —  that Fresno State’s Henry Madden library was ranked among the 25 best university libraries in the country, I thought to myself: That can’t be right.

    I love the Fresno State library, but I got suspicious at the idea of it “beating” the libraries of such universities as USC, Princeton and Johns Hopkins.

    The ranking came from a website called College Rank, which I had never heard of. So I did a little checking. I wrote about the experience in my Sunday Spotlight column. (Short version: College Rank didn’t list any criteria, Fresno State News changed the accolade from “amazing” to “best,” and the “honor” comes from a site that seems to specialize in breathlessly written lists meant for click-bait.)

    Let’s put it this way: The website doesn’t even to bother to use an updated photo (above) of the Madden Library, instead running an old one of the new addition with no landscaping.

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    YOU REVIEW: Catacomb Party

    If only The Atlantic were around to witness the out-and-out creative-party madness that was this weekend’s Catacomb Party.

    The magazine was recently in Fresno for a series of reports on the city’s across-the-board efforts at revitalization.

    The festival pretty much proved the point.

    Sixty local and touring bands played in various venues along the Fulton mall and while I haven’t seen the official numbers on how many people showed, there are videos (like this one from Nick Kennedy) and photos like this:

    @Fashawn acknowledging and thanking the people of Fresno for coming out and supporting music and @CatacombParty. Grizzly Fest is May 16th. Get your Free tickets at this Thursdays Grizzly home opener. #GrizzlyFest #fashawn

    A photo posted by Aren Hekimian (@hecktik) on

    The festival ran the length of the mall (from Fresno to Inyo streets) with the bulk of the action at Mariposa Plaza. It was a larger footprint than 2014′s party and lost some of the excitement that came with having so many bodies packed in such a tight space.

    It retained that sense of place.

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