Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

QnA with Ape Machine guitarist Ian Watts

You don’t need to consult the Map of Metal to track the direct lineage that runs from ’70s heavy metal to today’s doom and stoner rock.

Not when there’s Portland’s Ape Machine.

The band takes it name from the days when audio recording was done reel-to-reel with magnetic tape. It members use only vintage tech — it’s tube amps for these guys — and give tips of the hat to Zeppelin and Sabbath (and Judas Priest, as the case may be) and still manage to sound current and relevant.

Ape Machine is on the final stretch of three week tour in support of it latest album “Mangled by the Machine.” We emailed with guitarist Ian Watts in advance of the band’s show Saturday night at Audie’s Olympic with Styles Like Revelators, Moontrail and Beastmaker.

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Disney animated short real ‘Feast’

 In recent years, the Disney Studios have gone back to an art form that was once very popular – the animated short film. The company had great success with the 2012 short, “Paperman,” that earned an Academy Awards.

The latest animated short, “Feast,” will be shown with the feature film “Big Hero 6.” It’s the story of a dog and his master who share a food bond.

Executive producer, Kristina Reed, says that despite the success Disney has had with short films, they aren’t easy to get made because the company’s focus is making feature films. Often artists are only available for a short time because of their commitment to the feature film productions.

“You’re trying to sort of thread through and make a consistent, consistent progress with random resources becoming available at random moments in time. That’s a challenging way for a director to work on the short, but your job as a producer is to try and make that as smooth for the director as possible,” Reed says.

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The stars of today’s 7 section: the Bulldog Marching Band

In my cover story, the band — which of course in a football-centric world is rarely covered by the media — gets the ink it deserves. I sat down with the Fresno State Bulldog Marching Band’s new director, Steve McKeithen, to talk about his vision for his hard-working musicians, who sometimes only get four rehearsals to perfect a field show performed in front of tens of thousands of people.

If you’re at Saturday’s home game against Wyoming, you’ll see and hear the band perform a routine saluting America’s veterans. Says McKeithen:

We’ll be playing all the service tunes. There will be great designs on the field: You’ll see planes and tanks and submarines and all sorts of fun stuff.

Check out Bee photographer John Walker’s video of pre-game festivities at the Nebraska game:

Five Things You Should Do This Weekend


1. CalaGala
The reason for the season.

2. “Phantom of the Opera”
Silent horror film + pipe organ + Warnors Theatre = a step into the past. Seriously. When the theater screen this last year, 1,000 people showed.

3. Movember kick-off shave party
It’s not just for hipsters.

4. Offal Dinner
Can’t decide between the cow’s feet and the pickled tongue? Splurge and have both. It’s Halloween.

5. Arrogant Bastard Day
Drink up me hearties, yo ho.

Here’s bonus five for fans of live music.

1. The Purple Ones
2. Ape Machine
3. Flyleaf
4. Sleepover Disaster
5. The Cured

For a full list of music-specific choices see this week’s Bandgeek post.
And this is relevant for a few more hours at least.

Just in time for Halloween; a creepy books list

Because no holiday (or whatever is its we’re calling Halloween these days) is complete without a listicle, here are five creepy books. As chosen by me and in no particular order.

1.Frankenstein,” Mary Shelley
As the story goes, Shelley wrote this book at 19 years old, as part of a horror-story competition with a bunch of other 19th century authors. Looks like she was the big winner because, close to 200 years later the story — or some form of it — continues to be enjoyed. If you think you know Frankenstein and haven’t read Shelley’s version, make it a priority.
2.Bedbugs,” Ben H. Winters
As introduction, Winters may be best known as the guy behind “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters,” and “Android Karenina.” Don’t let that trick you. Here, he created a story of New York paranoia that rivals “Rosemary’s Baby.”

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‘Interstellar’ perfect fit for Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway’s teaming with Christopher Nolan has resulted in her wearing a wide range of outfits. When she played Catwoman in Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” Hathaway got to slip into a body-hugging black outfit and towering heels.

Her costume for Nolan’s latest production, “Interstellar,” is far less form fitting as she spends a major part of the film inside a spacesuit. Between the two, Hathaway loves the bulkier costume.

“The first time I put it on, I made up my mind that it’s my favorite costume I’ve ever worn. Thanks to Christopher Nolan, I have gotten to wear some pretty spectacular costumes but this one was the closest one to feeling like a little kid at Halloween. I love that feeling,” Hathaway says during an interview to talk about “Interstellar.”

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The Beehive Interview: Ruth Griffin on ‘The Maids’

In 1933 France, two maids who were sisters brutally murdered their employer and her daughter.

From that real-life event, Jean Genet in 1947 crafted his provocative play “The Maids,” a feisty and (at the time) scandalous show that emerged as a scathing comment on relations between the social classes. The maids regularly indulge in a ritualized game in which they act out a revenge fantasy involving the death of their mistress. Will this be the time they play the game to its conclusion?

Fresno State theater professor Ruth Griffin is directing the Genet classic. Known for her interest in physical and avant-garde theater, Griffin is describing her production, which opens Friday, Oct. 31, as a melodrama. We caught up with her via email to talk about the show. There’s an excerpt of the interview in Friday’s section; here’s the extended version.

Question: What is “The Maids” about?

Answer: “The Maids” constellates a situation between the haves and the have-nots, the entitled and the outcasts. They are a duality that exists together. Genet was inspired by a case in the news of 1933. The Papain sisters were maids who committed two brutal and ritualistic murders, slaying their mistress and her daughter. The French intellectuals of the time interpreted the murders as a compelling symbol of class relations.

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Celebrate 17 years of arrogance at BC’s Pizza and Beer


OKAY. This is the best named-event of the week: Arrogant Bastard Day.

The event, in honor of Stone Brewing Company’s Arrogant Bastard Ale, is being celebrated this Saturday at BC’s Pizza and Beer in Clovis with tap-takeover.

Arrogant Bastard was first released by the San Diego brewing company Nov. 1, 1997, and according to lore its introduction was “a shot across the bow of fizzy yellow beer, fortelling the craft revolution ahead.” If you’ve ever tasted the (capital B) Bastard (or any of Stone’s brews for that matter), you understand.

This is your chance to get some Stone swag (more than 20 specialty men and women Stone Brewing t-shirts will be available, along with Stone pint glasses). More importantly, this is your chance to taste 15 different Stone brews. And on tap to boot.

Be warned, this ain’t your papa’s session ale.

The list includes: 2012 “Vintage” Double Bastard Ale; 2014 Double Bastard Ale; Bang Bang – Bourbon Barrel Aged Amber Ale; Lukcy Basartd Ale; Old Guardian Oak-Smoked – Barleywine; Arbalest – Belgian Pale Ale; Arrogant Bastard Ale; Bourbon Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard; Imperial Russian Stout; Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers; Stochasticity Project: Hibiscusicity; Stochasticity Project: Quadotriticale; Stone 18th Anniversary IPAl; Stone Passion Project and Xocoveza Mocha Stout Collaboration w/Chris Banker and Insurgente.

If the list needs some explanation, you should probably just go and ask.

Scary (and not so scary) Halloween eats

Halloween is all about candy, of course, but if you’re looking for a meal on Halloween here’s two options. They couldn’t be more different. Peeve’s Public House is hosting a “Very Offal Supper.” Offal as in the entrails and organs of animals used for food. A sampling of the small plates on the menu includes pickled cow tongue salad with chimichurri sauce, chicken gizzards, cow liver and onion hoagie and cows feet soup with cow leg, tendons, cow honeycomb tripe, eggplant, potatoes and a beef coconut broth. Honeycomb tripe, by the way, is part of a cow’s stomach. And you should not Google it unless you have a stronger stomach than mine. Here brave ones, I’ll save you the time. Click here for images.

If that image gave you the shivers, let’s change the topic to a nice, friendly chain restaurant pancake with candy on it, shall we? IHOP Restaurants is offering a free scary face pancake to kids 12 and under on Halloween, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The buttermilk pancake comes with whipped cream smile and eyes and a strawberry nose. Kids get candy corn and mini Oreos to finish the decorating.

BANDGEEK: Ape Machine, the Purple Ones and Pierce The Veil


Well, the series is done. So, that leaves Halloween.

If you are not in for all costume-party bobbing-for-apples stuff, there are plenty of live music options to get you through the weekend (and into November).

We present them to you here (in list form) in another installment of our BANDGEEEK roundup.


  • HR7.
    W/Iwanaga. At Fulton 55. 8:30 p.m. $6-$8. (Flier link)

  • The Adicts.
    Dantes Boneyard. At Strummer’s. 8 p.m. $22. All ages. (Flier link)

  • Immigrant Union.
    W/Dirty Limbs and Ted the Block. At Audie’s Olympic. 9 p.m. $5. (Flier link)

  • Ron Thompson.
    The Central Valley Blues Society’s weekly dance party. At Pino Wine Bar. 6 p.m. Free.

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    Call for entries: Swede Fest 14


    Organizers of Fresno’s Swede Fest have opened submissions for the fourteenth edition of the low- or no-budget parody film festival, taking place 5 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Tower Theatre.

    The announcement comes just in time for Halloween, which means you may have your costuming done. That’s two birds with one stone.

    For consideration in the festival, films must be no longer than four minutes and suitable for all ages and entered by 11:59 p.m. Nov. 17.

    Swede Fest, is an internationally known festival loosely based on Michael Gondry’s 2008 film “Be Kind Rewind,” and spawned several satellite festivals on the East Coast. A “sweded” film is a summarized recreation of a popular movie. It takes the best (and often the worst) of Hollywood and combines it with the creativity and ingenuity of the biggest film fans. The results can be epic, as in the case of Dumb Drum’s series of scene-for-scene movie-trailer recreations.

    Swede Fest is free and open to all ages thanks to the generous sponsorship of Fresno Filmworks, The Tower Theatre and Geekwise Academy.

    Check out previous festival submissions.

    THEATER REVIEW: ‘Jersey Boys’

    What happened in Jersey didn’t stay in Jersey. It finally made it to Fresno.

    Which makes fans of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons very happy.

    The central San Joaquin Valley waited a very long time indeed for the national tour of “Jersey Boys” — which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary — to get to the Saroyan Theatre. And judging from the enthusiastic reception at Tuesday’s opening night performance, I’d say there’s a lot of pent-up demand for the smooth harmonies and Garden-State-sized angst that this jukebox musical provides. Valli and his bandmates over the years churned out an amazing number of No. 1 hits, and the evening at the Saroyan floated along in a sort of nostalgic cloud of goodwill, with songs like “Sherry” and “Walk Like a Man” eliciting appreciative murmurs from the audience.

    This national tour features an Equity cast — the same union to which Broadway performers belong — and the depth of talent is clear from the beginning. Compared to some of the other smaller, non-Equity tours that come through Fresno, this production is clearly a rung above. (It plays through Sunday Nov. 2.)

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    Hard work behind Mark Harmon’s success

    Mark Harmon is proof that all an actor needs is one role that resonates with the viewing public and life is very good.  Even with a successful program, Harmon’s not letting up.

    The star of “NCIS” has been working in television for more than 41 years. You can see some of his early work as “Emergency!” and “Adam 12” repeats continue to air. He found some success with “St. Elsewhere” and “Chicago Hope” but nothing has impacted his career like his current CBS drama.

    Not only is the series the top-rated drama in its 12th season, Harmon’s an executive producer of the new spinoff series, “NCIS: New Orleans.” The Louisiana-based series starring Scott Bakula is one of the bigger hits of the fall season.

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    Fresno goes crazy for banh mi sandwiches

    If it seems like we at The Bee have been getting a little excited about the Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches lately, it’s because it’s true. The sandwiches, popular among Vietnamese folks for years, have been making their way into the mainstream in Fresno — and with good reason. They’re downright yummy. The sandwiches feature a crisp French bread (stemming from the French rule of Vietnam from 1883 to 1954, by the way), with cold-cut style meats and sometimes head cheese, a pate of ground meat, and vegetables such as daikon, cilantro, jalapenos, carrots and cucumber.

    You can learn how to make them at home here. You can find out more about banh mi is driving Huong Lan restaurant’s expansion here. Huong Lan now has two locations, one at 4965 N. Fresno St., behind the CVS at Shaw Avenue and the new one at Clovis Avenue and Kings Canyon Road next to the new Food Maxx.

    If you’re like me, you’ve been pronouncing banh mi wrong. According to “The Banh Mi Handbook” author Andrea Nguyen, it’s pronounced “bun mee.” (Luckily, restaurant owners are used to us pronouncing “pho” wrong and they’re pretty nice about it. Here’s the right way to say pho.)

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    TONIGHT: Theremin virtuoso Vincenzo Vasi + Valeria Sturba


    For fans of avant garde music (I’m not talking about whatever people are calling “experimental” these days): Audie’s Olympic Tavern is hosting Italian theremin vurtuosos Vincenzo Vasi and Valeria Sturba, 9 p.m. tonight.

    Vasi is a composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist who collaborated with Mike Patton on his “Mondo Cane” project. Sturba is a musician and composer, who attended the Theremin Academy in Colmar (who knew such a thing existed) and plays the theremin, violin, voice, electronics, looper, effects and toys.

    The duo, performing as Ooopopoiooo, create a mix of electronic, ambient noise and minimalism, with a strong focus on improvisation.

    I haven’t seen much information on this show, other than a couple random posts on Audie’s Olympic’s Facebook page with links to this video (watch it on the jump), but this won’t be your typical rock show (and I mean that in the best possible way).

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    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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