Sacramento musicians offer hard-rocking tribute to Deftones Chi Cheng

Published: Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1D
Last Modified: Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2013 - 12:25 pm

They remembered him with a mix of quiet introspection, camaraderie and intense headbanging.

Family, friends and fans celebrated the life of Deftones bassist Chi Cheng with several services this past weekend. Cheng, a longtime member of the Grammy-winning rock band from Sacramento, died April 13 following injuries he suffered in a 2008 car accident.

Cheng, 42, was laid to rest Saturday in Stockton with a private service for family and close friends. A public gathering was held Sunday in Stockton's Oak Grove Regional Park, with a memorial concert following that night at Harlow's in midtown Sacramento.

Organized in just three days, the Harlow's show drew more than 200 people and included all-star Sacramento musicians paying homage to Cheng.

Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham took the stage to play with his former group Phallucy – one of Sacramento's most popular bands of the early 1990s – as well as the power-pop group Daycare.

On stage, Cunningham bashed his drums with such intensity that the kit nearly toppled over.

"Chi Ling Cheng, I love you, brother," said a sweaty Cunningham into the microphone.

The show itself was a loose affair, with many groups scrambling to rehearse with just a few days' notice. But any technical issues or bum notes were eclipsed by the heartfelt and hard-rocking music.

Dominic Garcia, the Deftones' original bassist, sat in with Sacramento's Kai Kln and pounded through "Punker Than Thou." Tinfed, the local electronic-rock band once signed to Hollywood Records, reunited for Cheng's show. Sacramento's Will Haven, which toured with the Deftones and formed a kinship with the band, played a brief but explosive set that ended with Cheng's favorite Will Haven song, "Foreign Film."

Jeff Irwin, Will Haven's guitarist, said memories of Cheng ran through his mind during all his ferocious performance.

"Chi would've loved this," Irwin said following the set. "If he was here, he would've been the guy buying drinks for everyone. He would've been stoked."

Well-known rock stars including Rob Zombie and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello, and local musicians alike have openly mourned Cheng's death, but Sunday night's show wasn't a time for tears.

While organizers placed flowers at the foot of the stage and musicians signed a "Chi Cheng" banner, the show felt more like a rocking 20th reunion of the Cattle Club, the defunct Folsom Boulevard club that was the heart of Sacramento's music scene throughout the 1990s and helped launch the Deftones to stardom.

"It's been a very heavy weekend, but I feel very grateful for being here," said Frank Delgado, the Deftones' DJ. "As sad as it is, it feels good to see old friends and come together."

A more formal memorial concert is expected in coming months, but attendees of Sunday night's show said it was a perfect send-off for the much beloved bassist.

"It's a celebration," said Andrew Blaskovich, the local food truck entrepreneur and longtime friend of the Deftones. "Everybody's happy, and that just shows you what kind of person (Cheng) was. Music heals the soul."

Call The Bee's Chris Macias (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias.

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