Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

BANDGEEK!: KRS-One, Trash Talk and Punk Rock Karaoke

You might want to get downtown for that $10 cup of coffee you’ve always dreamed of. Let that fuel you through the rest of the week, which is chock full of live music. Here is your weekly collated list. It’s another BANDGEEEEEK!


  • Trash Talk.
    W/Ratking and Lee Bannon. At Strummer’s. 8 p.m. $12-$13. All ages.

  • You Knew Me When.
    W/Travis Brooks. At Peeve’s Public House. 8:30 p.m. Free. All ages.

  • The 25th annual City Jazz Festival.
    W/Eric Marienthal and the Fresno City College Jazz Ensemble. At FCC Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $10-$15.

  • Fresno’s Monthly Motown Night.
    W/The Experience, DJ Mr. Leonard and Conor Miles. At Audie’s Olympic. 9 p.m. Free. (Flier link)

  • Mr. Bang.
    W/Strange Ones, Acrylics and Chokeslam. At CYC. 7 p.m. $4. (Flier link)

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    THEATER REVIEW: ‘Water by the Spoonful’

    Sometimes a spoonful of water can turn into a cascade.

    The title of Quiara Alegria Hudes’ Pulitzer Prize-winning “Water by the Spoonful” might suggest a tranquil and contemplative outing. But this beautifully written play, which collides the stories of an Iraq War veteran and an online community of recovering drug addicts, is anything but a placid experience. It swirls together the fierce (an unblinking look at contemporary Latino issues) with the bemused (an extended nod to the way the online experience has changed the way we communicate), then adds nuanced insights into war, class, poverty, cyber etiquette, guilt and the way that family cultural dynamics can shape lives.

    Most of all, Hudes gives us gripping characters whose skins feel lived in, whose daily existences have the shopworn ambiance of everyday life.

    Director Kathleen McKinley crafts a Fresno State production that is thoughtful, sturdy and occasionally brilliant. Most important, I’m happy to see a work by a Latino playwright (Hudes prefers “Latino” in the same way that many women prefer to be known as “actors”) writing about Latino lives in a mainstage production on the Fresno State campus. In terms of issues of race: While the recent production of David Mamet’s “Race” was provocative and insightful, it also felt as if the playwright was pontificating from on high. “Spoonful” feels much more whole and organic. It aches — and celebrates — when it comes to issues of race instead of shouting at us.

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    Christopher Gorham lands film role

    Fresno’s Christopher Gorham has been signed to star in the feature film “Po” from director John Asher. Gorham will play a recently widowed man who must learn to cope with becoming a single father to his 9-year-old autistic son, Po (Julian Feder).

    Asher, whose directing credits include episodes of “One Tree Hill” and the feature film “Dirty Love,” is the parent of an autistic child.

    “I can’t wait to start working on Po.  It’s the best script I’ve read, to date, that dramatizes the challenges, and rewards, of raising a child with ASD.  My character’s journey, in this movie, will hit very close to home to a lot of folks, and the fantasy element, I hope, will help open some minds and hearts to the potential and promise of children whom are often overlooked,” Gorham says.

    Production begins in April during Autism Awareness month. No release date has been announced.

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    DIY: Bottle cap miniatures

    Bottle cap artI’m always looking for things to do with bottle caps, wine corks and bread tabs. Each has such an interesting design, and each serves such an important, vital function for such a short period of time — it feels somehow wasteful to just dump them in the recycle bin.

    A few years back while cruising the DIY section on Pinterest, I saw an adorable craft using bottle caps as picture frames. The crafter cut out a tiny picture, and glued it on the inside of a bottle cap. The wavy part of the cap acted like a tiny frame around the photo. Then, by covering the photo with a specific crafting glue, the image is protected by a clear, epoxy-like surface, similar to glass in a frame. The result is an adorable miniature that can be strung on a necklace, a bracelet, or turned into a refrigerator magnet.

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    Development and good design and planning are not mutually exclusive

    One might not expect a proposed development for an abandoned lot on one of the grittier stretches of Blackstone Avenue would cause much debate, but here we are.

    The project (which includes space for the grocery/supply store Smart and Final) goes before the planning commission review on Wednesday and will likely test the limits of the city’s new general plan and set precedence for how developers will be treated moving forward.

    Or, as George Hostetter put it: “Who is in Fresno’s development saddle, business as usual or high ideals?”

    As is, plans for the development don’t jive with either The Tower District Design Review Committee (the lot is on the edges of the district) or the general plan set by the City of Fresno.

    Those are the “high ideals,” I guess.

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    ‘The Breakfast Club’ is old and so am I — 10 more classics turning 30 this year

    The Breakfast Club” turned 30 on Feb. 15 and now I can’t get that song out of my head.

    To celebrate the anniversary, the South by Southwest film festival kicked-off the week with an screening of film (which got press for days. Well, for one day, at least).

    The movie will also screen at select theaters this month (including Edwards on March 26 and 31).

    I get it. The film is classic and the characters are archetypes and the whole things is quotable pretty much from beginning to end. Then, there’s that song. Still, 1985 was a great year for film. Like, better than might remember.

    Here are 10 other films that turn 30 this year (as chosen by me, based mostly on my nostalgia).

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    Celebrate St. Patrick’s day with Irish food and green drinks

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Irish or not, this is an excuse to eat some delicious Irish food — maybe even some green food — and drink some Guinness. Here’s a rundown of what restaurants in the area are serving in honor of the day. This is not a comprehensive list, so if you’ve got something to add, tell us in the comments.

    Swiggs starts celebrating when the doors open at 11 a.m. with $1 Guinness. As part of the “Guinness waterfall,” the prices get higher as the day wears on. Details here. (And sorry, that delicious looking corned beef sandwich at right isn’t available locally. It’s a pic from photographer Andre J. Jackson of the Detroit Free Press.)

    Of course a place called Irish O’Sullivan’s is celebrating St. Paddy’s Day today. They have an outdoor beer garden, a DJ and live music, specialty drinks and Irish nachos. See their menu here.

    Shenanigans Irish Pub & Grill

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    Alton Brown having more adventures in Fresno

    Not only is celebrity foodie Alton Brown, who is town for his  “Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour” show tonight, tooling around the Tower District, he’s having quite the adventure while he’s here. He’s hitting up all kinds of local restaurants and coffee shops and posting the pics on his Twitter account, Facebook and Instagram. Check out that sexy cinnamon roll from Cafe Corazon!

    But, he also posted this picture on Instagram of what appears to be him at a dentist for a chipped tooth. The caption says, “Not something I thought I’d be doing in fresno. #someonefedmearock” Uh oh! If that’s indeed what happened, Fresno apologizes.

    But it doesn’t appear to have slowed him down much. On his Facebook page this morning he posted what appears to be coordinates to a flash mob signing at noon today. I don’t say book signing here because he says “I’ll sign anything that doesn’t bite.” Anyone know where it is? Anyone going?

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    CONCERT REVIEW: Fresno Philharmonic gives Beethoven his due

    While listening to the Fresno Philharmonic’s memorable concert on Saturday night — the second installment of a three-part weekend series presenting the noted soloist Antonio Pompa-Baldi performing all five Beethoven piano concertos — I imagined the following conversation:

    Antonio Pompa-Baldi’s Brain: “Hey there, Fingers, you’re doing just fine. No whining, OK? Just two concertos to plow through tonight, and then one tomorrow, and then you can all clench into a fist and pump a victory salute.”

    Antonio Pompa-Baldi’s Fingers: “Easier said than done, Brain. Sure, everyone coos about all those thousands of notes rattling around your synapses and what an accomplishment it is to perform three-hours-plus worth of music from memory, but the real work comes from us. We’re tired! When we’re done, you owe us a massage!”

    Seriously, though: It was mesmerizing to watch and listen to Pompa-Baldi play. He’s not a showy performer: no grand flourishes, thunderous motions or theatrical grimaces meant to put on a visual show. Just amazing artistry and concentration. During moments of repose during Beethoven’s Piano Concertos No. 2 and No. 4, Pompa-Baldi slumped his shoulders and head, resting his arms by letting them dangle almost to the floor. You could sense how taxing, both mentally and physically, this endeavor was. The effect was that of a musician completely dedicated to the performance.

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    Rick Bentley through round one of Fresno Famous Bobblehead Tourney

    The world is one step closer to getting that Rick Bentley bobblehead I talked about last week.

    The Fresno Bee’s TV/movie/radio reporter moved through round one of the Fresno Grizzlies Fresno Famous Bobblehead Challenge, beating out former Beehiver Mike Osegueda, who may have been a bit busy with promoting the FresYes Fest to devote time to this contest. (Fresno Famous is a registered trademark of The Fresno Bee.)

    Bentley now goes up against James Bond villain Richard Kiel, who already has his own bobblehead (and an action figure too boot). Just saying. If he moves beyond this round, Bentley will likely face Tony-winner singer Audra McDonald.

    The eventual winner will have a bobblehead made in their likeness to be given away to the first 1,500 fans through the gates at Chukchansi Park on Saturday, Aug. 22.

    The round two match ups aren’t quite as interesting as they were in round one (with the exception of Steve Perry versus Mayor Swearengin and Derek Carr versus Pat Hill). Celebrities still in the competition include McDonald, TV-personality Kopi Sotiropulos, rapper Fashawn, Fresno photographer Pop Laval and the late basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, among others. Second round voting continues through Wednesday on the Fresno Grizzlies website.

    Michael Bolton slays it as ‘Michael Bolton’ in ‘Office Space’ tribute

    Office Space with Michael Bolton from Funny Or Die

    This video (from the comic site Funny or Die) cinches it: I am a Michael Bolton fan.

    Not that I particularly love his music.

    What I love is the amount of self awareness he seems to possess. What I love is that he doesn’t take himself (or his career) too seriously. Real artists, those with staying power, are able to reinvent themselves at opportune times.

    Bolton did it when he cut his hair is 1997. He did it again on “Dancing with the Stars” and “Two and a Half Men” and “Jack Sparrow,” the hilarious hip-hop parody from Andy Samberg’s musical comedy group The Lonely Island. There’s also these ridiculous(ly cool) personalized birthday and Valentine’s Day e-cards from American Greetings.

    Read the interview I did with the singer prior to his sold-out show at Table Mountain last month.

    Watch the video for “Jack Sparrow” on the jump.

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    Is Old Town Clovis the new Tower District?

    Old Town Clovis is evolving. No longer just the land of antique stores, my story on the front page of the Bee today detailed many of the changes happening there. A sampling: A new law allowing wine and beer tasting rooms, next month’s craft beer crawl, an influx of young people — hipsters, even — along with a new plaza for events. A growing number of businesses are catering to a younger generation, including Kuppa Joy (pictured at right) and The Lounge at DiCicco’s. And Old Town has a less than 5% vacancy rate, with businesses scrambling to find space to open.

    You can read the full story here, but here’s the thing that kept sticking in my brain as I did this story. Several times during different interviews, sources would say to me, sometimes in hushed tones, “Old Town is the new Tower District.” Or, “Old Town is what the Tower District should have been,” or some variation on that sentiment.

    Interesting, huh?

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    Opening tonight: ‘Water by the Spoonful’

    As a culture, we are so immersed in the online experience that we forget its influence. It’s hard to see the impact that cyberspace has on the way we communicate. The Fresno State theater department opens a play tonight (Friday, April 13) that incorporates the issue. In my 7 section preview story, director Kathleen McKinley describes Quiara Alegria Hudes’ “Water by the Spoonful,” which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize:

    In 2009, four diverse strangers have found laughter, safety and tough-love in an online addiction recovery chat room. The administrator of the chat-room is the estranged birth mother of an Iraq War veteran named Elliot Ortiz. A death occurs in the Ortiz family that sets into motion unexpected reunions, confrontations, confessions and discoveries.

    “Water by the Spoonful” runs through March 21(note corrected date) at Fresno State’s Woods Theatre.

    Pictured: Amanda Valdez, left, and Reshma Meister in Fresno State’s “Water by the Spoonful.”

    Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

    Relax. Dave & Busters ain’t open yet. In the meantime …

    1. FresYes Fest 2015
    Go for the dozen (or more) specialty brews. Stay for the music (and the food trucks).

    2. Monster Jam
    If Bigfoot is your idea of a monster truck, you need to see this.

    3.Fresno City College Renaissance Festival
    After 7 years, Fresno City’s ren faire is back.

    4. Laser Fantasy
    Ninety minutes of synchronized laser animation. It’ll be trippy, man.

    5. Fresno Filmworks, “Two Days, One Night
    If seeing foreign films in an actual theater is important to you, support Fresno Filmworks. Especially seeing as this specific foreign is good.

    And a bonus five concert events.

    1. Ape Machine
    2. Ani-Me Rock N Dance Festival
    3. Tom Brosseau
    4. Metalachi
    5. Survey Says

    For more concert-specific happenings, see this week’s BANDGEEK roundup.

    Kenneth Branagh keeps ‘Cinderella’ fans in mind

    Whether it’s a fairy tale character or a character from the comic book world – as was the case with his “Thor” – director Kenneth Branagh brings an understanding of how important it is to respect the mythology behind the character. These are the elements fans are going to expect when they see a big screen offering based on the character.

    In the case of “Cinderella,” there was only one question Branagh was asked when he would say he was directing the movie.

    “Everyone wanted to know if GusGus would be in it,” Branagh tells me during an interview at the Four Seasons Hotel.

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    ‘Frozen’ sequel in the works

    “Frozen 2” is in development at Walt Disney Animation Studios with directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and producer Peter Del Vecho, the Oscar-winning filmmaking team behind “Frozen.” 

    No release date for the sequel has been announced. 

    Don’t look for “Frozen 2” anytime soon. When I talked to Buck and Del Vecho a couple of weeks ago for their work on the animated short, “Frozen Fever,” that is featured with the live-action movie “Cinderella, they had another project that was taking up their time.

    They are mounting a Broadway show based on the animated film that has their full attention.

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    BANDGEEK!: Ape Machine, Ani-Me and a FresYes Fest

    For radio music, check out some classic hip-hip on FM 105.5. The station gets an official name and kick-off party next week.

    For live music, there are a few more choices, which I collate each week in my BANDGEEEK roundup.

    It’s the least I can do.


  • Dengue Fever.
    W/Amoret. At Strummer’s. 8 p.m. $12-$14. All ages.

  • Enter into Atonement tour.
    W/Inanimate Existence, Wryth and Amenthes. At Strummer’s (GRILL SIDE). 10 p.m. Free. (Flier link)

  • Hollow Wood.
    W/So Long Williamsburg and A.Lone. At Peeve’s Public House. 8 p.m. Free. All ages.

  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
    At the Tower Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $33.50-$43.50.

  • Jacque Babb.
    W/Tore Lane. At Audie’s Olympic. 8:30 p.m. Free.

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    THEATER REVIEW: ‘Always a Bridesmaid’

    The quips keep coming in “Always a Bridesmaid,” the latest Good Company offering from the playwriting machine of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten.

    Typical gag: One woman character jokes that she “had” two men at once. The punchline: One was cooking, the other cleaning.

    After hearing that joke, a woman in the audience sitting in front of me leaned over and told her party: “I just sent that in a birthday card.”

    Which pretty much sums up “Bridesmaid,” continuing at the 2nd Space Theatre through April 19. The humor is the kind you’d expect from a well-meaning but anemic TV sitcom. Aimed squarely at 50-year-old-plus women, the play boasts a few good laugh lines, but mostly it’s a recycle of warmed-up Southern witticisms, inoffensive one-liners and gags about clueless husbands and retaining water.

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    The Atlantic makes a stop in Fresno

    James Fallows, a high-pedigree writer for The Atlantic, the high-pedigree magazine, has been having a grand time with a couple of other writers traveling to medium-sized and smaller cities in the U.S. for an online project titled “American Futures.” The series examines “the people, organizations, and ideas reshaping the country.”

    The focus this week is Fresno.

    Fallows, a longtime national correspondent for The Atlantic and a former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, in his first post rounds up many of the usual suspects that national media emphasize when they visit Fresno: the bounty of our agriculture, the gap between wealthy and poor folks, the relentless sprawl. But this series is supposed to be different. Fallows posted a photo of a noticeably people-free Fulton Mall and had this to say: 

    This looks, and seems, pretty bleak. And that is why the people and groups we’ll be chronicling in coming days were both surprising and impressive in their determination that downtown Fresno would be the place where they would start their companies, realize their ambitions, and help rebuild a community. This is the hardest-hit area in a hard-pressed town in a region the rest of the state relies on but generally ignores.

    I’m told by Rogue Festival sources that The Atlantic folks spent time at the festival and were impressed by what they saw. We’re looking forward to that post — as well as others in the series. 

    Iggy Azalea’s “Great Escape Tour” rescheduled

    If you were super excited that Iggy Azalea would be in town for her “Great Escape Tour” in a little more than a month — prepare for disappointment.

    The tour has been postponed. It will now kick off Sept. 18 in San Diego before stopping at the Save Mart Center, Sept. 20. Tickets will honored for the rescheduled dates, though shows in Baltimore, Las Vegas and Sacramento will not be rescheduled.

    Opening acts for the rescheduled dates have yet to be announced, either. Originally, Nick Jonas and Tinashé were scheduled to play.

    According to a release from the Save Mart Center, the tour was rescheduled “to accommodate for creative team availability and tour production plans …”

    “It is extremely important to Iggy that she delivers the show she envisaged to share with her fans and that requires more time in development.”

    Or, according to Iggz HQ:

    Azalea was easily one of the biggest pop stars of 2014. Her single “Fancy” broke all sorts of airplay records and was the longest-leading No. 1 by a female rapper. It was Billboard’s 2014 Song of the Summer, iTunes Best Song of 2014, the year’s most-streamed song on Spotify and the most-watched video on VEVO (and also a parody hit for Weird Al). Azalea was nominated for (but did not win) four Grammy Awards this year, including best new artist, best rap album, record of the year and best pop duo/group performance.

    Rescheduling a tour like this seems like a major undertaking, though some news outlets saw it coming. And Azalea’s management seems to have taken over her Instagram account, which leaves one to wonder, “what’s up with Iggy?”

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    Can we get a Rick Bentley bobble head??!!

    Stop what you’re doing and go vote in Fresno Grizzlies’ Fresno Famous Bobblhead Tournament.

    Never mind the specific details of the March-madness style tourney, which pits Fresno pseudo celebrities (and some actual celebrities) in head-to-head match ups. Forget that it’s oddly similar to ValleyWho tournament the Beehive did in 2012.

    All you need to know is that there’s a chance we may see a Rick Bentley bobblehead.

    We need a Rick Bentley bobblehead.

    Of course, Bentley has a tough road if he’s to be immortalized (the winner’s bobblehead will be given away to the first 1,500 fans at the Fresno Grizzlies’ Aug. 22 game.) He’s in a first-round bracket with former Beehiver Mike Oz (Fresno’s blogfather wouldn’t make a bad bobblehead either, now that I think about it). He would face Richard Kiel or William Saroyan in the second round. Either could easily end up in the final four.

    Other interesting first-round match-ups include David Carr vs. Derrick Carr, Sheriff Mims vs. Police Chief Dyer and Fashawn vs. Cher. The first-round of voting runs through Sunday, so check out full list of nominees, then head over to the Grizzlies website to cast your vote.

    OPERA REVIEW: ‘Carmen’

    I had performances and obligations for seven out of the last eight nights, and I was so swamped I allowed one review to slip through the cracks. But I still want to post it. I saw the opening night of Fresno State’s “Carmen” on Friday, Feb. 27 and was impressed on several fronts.

    This co-production from the Fresno State Opera Theatre and the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra was an indication that the opera program at the university is stretching and finding its wings. Voice professor Anthony Radford, who produced “Carmen,” brought together two figures at Fresno State known for their innovative and passionate work: the ever-busy Thomas Loeweneheim, who conducted the orchestra with the razor-sharp determination that we’ve come to expect from him; and Ruth Griffin, a crossover from the theater department, who gave the production an innovative flair with her stage direction.

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