Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Twitter photo of the day: Firefighters rescue pugs

It’s been a tough couple of days for Fresno firefighters. Captain Pete Dern fell through the roof of a burning garage Sunday into a horrific column of flames in a story that made national news. He has a long recovery ahead of him, but it’s pretty awesome to see the community’s outpouring of support for him. He deserves it.

Last night, Fresno firefighters once again showed that saving lives and keeping our homes safe is simply what they do. They rescued an 85-year-old woman in a wheelchair at a Tower District house fire, contending with two other burning structures and a broken power line to get to her. And they rescued the pugs. Twitter user @proper_exposure (Silva, Mario according to his Twitter page) tweeted this photo. If that doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies for our firefighters, I don’t know what will. Thank you for keeping us and our furry family members safe.

Does anyone know who these two firefighters are?

Grizzly Fest lineup announced; includes Fashawn, Fuzz and Delta Spirit

Locals music fans will get just over a month to recover from this weekend’s massive Catacomb Party before the Grizzly Music and Arts Festival hits downtown Fresno (Chukchansi park specifically).

The one-day music festival is the brainchild of rapper Fashawn and is a followup to the Grizzly Fest concert he staged at the Fresno Fairground in 2012.

Here, he’s teamed up with the Fresno Grizzlies and Heineken (and the I.A.N. Group and Sound N Vision Foundation) to pull in a killer lineup that includes hip-hop (Iamsu!, Omar Aura, Zee Will, The Kid Ryan), indie rock (Delta Spirit, Strange Vine), psych-rock (Fuzz, Slow Season) and more. See the full lineup here or on the jump.

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A trip to Berlin, Prague and Vienna

In Sunday’s paper I put on my travel-writer hat and finished a three-part series on my early January trip to Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria. If there’s one overall tip I can share, it’s this: If you’re able to plan a trip in the off-season (particularly if you’re using frequent-flier miles), the payoff is tremendous. There were practically no other tourists in sight. Sure, you might run into some cold weather, but since most of the things I’m interested in terms of cultural attractions take place indoors, who cares what it’s like outside?

Here are links to my stories:

A tourist-free Berlin (March 15)
History meets present in Prague (March 22)
Vienna is a cultural powerhouse (March 29)

Here’s my Top 10 list from my trip. Note there are no sausages mentioned:

10. Imperial Torte from the Hotel Imperial in Vienna.
9.  The Berlin Wall Memorial.
8.  Wandering the streets of Prague.
7. Abosrbing the quiet dignity of Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial.
6. Gaping at the riches of Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum. 
5. Hanging out at a pro-immigration demonstration in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.
4. Seeing Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutte” in Prague’s Estates Theatre, where “Don Giovanni” had its first performance.
3. The preserved Russian graffiti left after the fall of Berlin in the beautifully reimagined Reichstag building, home of the parliament.
2. Listening to the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert Blomstedt.
1. Taking in a production of “Salome” at the glorious Vienna State Opera house.  

April big month for comic book collectors

April is a big month for comic book, toys and movie collectors with both WonderCon going on in Ahaheim over the Easter weekend and the Big Wow in San Jose on the weekend of April 18.

If you can attend both, that’s great. But, if you are having a hard time deciding between the two, here’s a little information that might help you decide. This is coming from someone who has attended both in the past.

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Ann Friel goes on ‘American Odyssey’

One of my favorite shows that got canceled too early was “Pushing Daisies.” It was a sweet – and quirky – love story about to two people who can not touch because of a mysterious power that bring dead people back to life that aired in 2007.

Lee Pace, who currently stars in the cable series “Halt and Catch Fire,” starred with Anna Friel on the network series. Since the ABC show ended, Friel has had an interesting career. She starred in the painfully bad feature film “Land of the Lost” and the Scandinavian TV series “The Heavy Water War: Stopping Hitler’s Atomic Bomb.”

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Closures hit Fresno restaurants

There’s so many new restaurants opening lately, but sadly, there’s been a mini spate of closures lately too. Here’s the rundown.

California Wok on West Shaw Avenue by the movie theater has closed. The booths and tables are gone and the granite counter tops were in a pile on the floor last time I was out there. I was hoping to have more news about it to share, but haven’t been able to reach the owner. Word that the restaurant was going to move to the corner of Shaw and West avenues was circulating, but the landlord for the space in question said the California Wok folks toured the place, but never made a proposal. I’ll keep you updated if there is more news.

Big D’s Tri-tip downtown closed after about a year in business. This was the place in the funky brick building with the little entrance that turned into a much bigger restaurant at 1950 E. Divisadero St., near the hospital. It got great reviews on Yelp, but it’s closed now.

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CONCERT ANNOUNCEMENT: Marco Antonio Solis returns to SMC June 27

It’s a busy day for the promotions department over at the Save Mart Center.

On the heels of the Ariana Grande announcement this morning, we get word that Latin superstar Marco Antonio Solis makes a return trip to the arena June 27 on his “Pour Amor Amor” tour. Tickets for the show are $45-$125 and available 10 a.m. Friday at the SMC box office at select Save Mart Supermarkets, online at and or on the phone at (800) 745-3000.

Solis is a one-time teen heartthrob and a star singer-songwriter in Mexico and Latin American. He’s known for his pop love songs and his regional Mexican music. His last album “Gracias Por Estar Aquí” was No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Latin albums chart in 2013. Solis was as a judge on “La Voz… Mexico,” the Mexican version of the the TV talent show “The Voice.” He last played the Save Mart Center in 2011.

Watch a video of Solis on the jump.

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Fresno Famous Bobblehead Tourney announces final four

I mostly quit caring about Fresno Grizzlies Fresno Famous(TM, The Fresno Bee) Bobblehead Tournament after Rick Bentley got booted. And that was before Tarkanian got beat by Sheriff Mims.

Still, its down to the final four and I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that voting runs through 5 p.m. Wednesday with only one vote per person.

The final winner will be announced April 6.

As it stands: KMPH Great Day anchor Kopi Sotiropulos takes on Portland Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez.

Former NFL player Ickey Woods will duke it out (for votes) with Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

From the go, Sotiropulos was a final-four shoe-in. In terms of Fresno psuedo-celebrities there is none bigger (sorry, Chuck). Lopez may be an NBA star but seems a bit unexpected in this final four. Woods, a little less so. That dance (and a recent Geico commercial) no doubt helped. The Mayor is the real wildcard for me. It feels a bit like Portlandia here. Our mayor (aside from being mayoral) is actually hip. Hip enough to beat out a TV-newsman-turned council member, a classic rock-star and a couple of radio DJs, anyway.

My logical mind says this is anybody’s game. I could easily see any of the four winning.

Still, my vote (and again I only get one) is for the mayor.

CONCERT ANNOUNCEMENT: Ariana Grande’s “Honeymoon” tour to play SMC Aug. 31

The honeymoon is hardly over for TV-star turned pop sensation Ariana Grande.

In fact, the People’s Choice award winner, just announced another round of dates for her “Honeymoon” tour, which kicked off in February.

The tour’s summer dates start July 16 and include an Aug. 31 stop at the Save Mart Center.

Tickets for the Fresno show are $29.50-$69.50 and on sale 9 a.m. Saturday April 4 at the SMC box office and select Save Mart Supermarkets, online or on the phone at (800) 745-3000.

Pre-sale tickets will be available to Citi cardmembers through its Private Pass Program starting 10 a.m. tomorrow.

Grande is in the midst nice run of success. Her album “My Everything,” debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 and earned her two Grammy nominations (best pop vocal album and best Pop duo/group performance). She won the Billboard Women In Music Award, and MTV Video Music Award and recently announceg recurring role on the FOX television series “Scream Queens.

Grande last played Fresno at the Fresno Fair in 2012. The show included Clovis native Ryan Beatty.

The video for Grande’s single “One Last Time” is on the jump.

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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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