All towns seem to have the same problem. You hear it all the time from people; “I hate this town. There’s nothing to do”. And I think that can be true from a certain perspective. Fresno is a town full of “upscale” bars and “ultra lounge” wanna be’s. And I’m sorry but “bottle service”, valet parking, fluffy couches and trance music just aren’t my thing. Luckily Fresno’s got a thriving underground scene and thanks to guys like Mike Oz of the Fresno Bee, more people are starting to discover it.
Now it requires that you step out of your element to enjoy this scene. You gotta leave the safety of North Fresno and head downtown. For many Fresnans this can be scary. There are far less BMW’s and far more tattoos down there. But for the adventurous, the payoff is worth it.
So a few weeks ago we ventured to the Tower District and did the Rogue Festival. That was a lot of fun. This weekend we ventured downtown once again and here’s what we found.
Hero’s Sports Bar
Hero’s Sport Bar is a brand new restaurant/bar on Van Ness in the heart of downtown Fresno just a block or so from Grizzly Stadium. It’s a two level building with a bar and seating down stairs, and a stage upstairs where they have blues and jazz bands play. It’s a cozy place, but not cramped. The decor is typical sport bar, with autographed jersey’s and flat screen TV’s on every wall. The service is great and the prices reasonable. We went down Friday with friends and had a really great time. I highly recommend this place.
Yes, you read right. Roller Derby. If you’re not up on what exactly roller derby is, it’s a game played by women on skates. They race around a track in a pack and earn points by having a lead skater, called a jammer, lap the pack while at the same time trying to block the other teams jammer from doing the same. It’s fast paced and it’s very rough.
Now as a kid I was a huge roller derby fan. I used to watch it on TV back in the 70’s and back then it was more like big time wrestling. The had the big slanted track and the girls were always throwing somebody over the rail or getting in fist fights. It was far less of a sport than it was “entertainment”. Today’s roller derby is still the same game, but it’s much more serious. Gone is the slanted track and the theatrics, and in it’s place is a much more focused game. The girls still dress crazy and put on flamboyant alter-egos, but this is a real game and these girls take it seriously.
Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I gotta say I had a fantastic time. The match was held down at the Fresno Fairgrounds and the crowd ranged from 5 year old kids, to 80 year old couples. No lie, this event draws a very wide demographic, and there were far more poeple there than I expected; The place was packed. As an underground sport there were some rough edges with the presentation, but I’m sure that will get better as time goes on. They do provide the usual refreshments consisting of burgers, mexican food and beer, and there’s a “vendor village” with people selling t-shirts, etc. The coolest thing though was the game and I was pleased to see how seriously these girls take it. They are skating on solid, unforgiving concrete, and there were a LOT of bodies hitting the floor. But they were getting right back up and into the game. These girls play for keeps.
Now this is an event that’s probably not for everyone. If you are offended by the sight of lesbian couples, bikers, people with multi-colored hair, tattoos, and players who wear fishnet stockings and have crazy names like Betty Rocker and Whorechotta, then roller derby might not be for you. However, if you can check your attitude at the door, you’ll find that there are a lot of really nice people to be found out there, and you’ll also find a sport that is fast paced, exciting, and inexpensive to attend.
Here’s a link to the No Town Roller Derby MySpace page:
We won by the way.