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Sacramento hometown plays large in Deftones legacy

Abe Cunningham of Deftones reflects on two decades of rock and roll

Abe Cunningham, drummer for the Sacramento-based band the Deftones, reflects on two decades of band history told through photographs.
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Abe Cunningham, drummer for the Sacramento-based band the Deftones, reflects on two decades of band history told through photographs.

The Deftones are about to play their largest hometown gig, and it’s a time of reflection for the group’s members who started the band in a South Sac garage.

The Sacramento-born group will rock out for upward of 20,000 fans Sunday, Oct. 25, which is Day 2 of Gibson Ranch’s Monster Energy Aftershock festival. The full lineup includes some of the heaviest hitters in hard rock, including Jane’s Addiction, Slipknot, Breaking Benjamin and many more.

It’s also nearly 20 years ago to the day, before the world tours and platinum records, that the Deftones released their major label debut. “Adrenaline” reached record stores (remember those?) in October 1995 via Maverick Records, the former Warner Brothers imprint co-owned by Madonna.

As Aftershock approaches, we invited Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham to The Bee for a nostalgia session. We showed him a series of Deftones photos from The Bee’s archives over the past two decades, from its burgeoning days to recent international accolades. In a video, Cunningham reminisces about these photos.

For now, here’s an abbreviated version of Cunningham’s memories:

▪ Photo: Baby-faced Deftones are captured at singer Chino Moreno’s midtown Sacramento apartment, shortly after the band’s major label debut, “Adrenaline,” was released in 1995.

“This is in Chino’s house across from the Press Club. He lived in two places. He lived right next to the Press Club, and also right across the street from Press Club awhile. We were on tour with the Bad Brains, and I think we played the Guild Theater (in Oak Park). This is a feature for The Bee back then, and wow, we look just the same. What a doozy.” (laughs)

▪ Photo: Deftones take a group shot following their sound check on “Late Show With David Letterman” in 2000. The appearance coincided with the release of “White Pony,” which entered Billboard’s album charts at No. 3.

“We had a midnight record release (the night before) at a record store. There were thousands of people out waiting to buy this record. It was pretty amazing. We were playing the David Letterman show and we’d just done sound check, or camera blocking and all that stuff to get this thing going. We were a bit fried. I believe that we’d been up until 5, 6 in the morning at that signing and release the night before, or morning prior. And here we are playing Letterman – (on) national TV, burnt – but oh so stoked.”

▪ Photo: Bassist Chi Cheng captured in 2005 at the Round Corner Tavern, one of his favorite local watering holes. Cheng died in 2013 following injuries sustained in a 2008 car accident that left him in a long-term coma.

“He’s on our minds constantly. His spirit soars through us, you know. There’s no doubt about that. He’s quite a spirit, quite a dude. I just miss his laugh. I hear it a lot lately. … I think about him daily, man. We all do. Chino and I recently had just been saying, ‘God I miss Chi, man.’ I miss his laughter. He was a brother, an older brother which I never had, someone who was looking out for his younger brother. We spent a tremendous amount of time, many, many highs and some serious lows, too. But he’s my brother and we had a great time. … I love you, Chi.

▪ Photo: Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, a Sacramento native and former U.S. ambassador to Hungary, presents the Deftones with the Ambassador’s Award for Cultural Diplomacy before a 2011 concert in Budapest.

“It’s a Sacto thing. Here we are on the other side of the world being presented this document for cultural diplomacy through music … and it was great. We’re swapping Sacto stories, regular and normal as can be. ... I put my hand out like, ‘This is great,’ and give her a little (pat on the shoulder) like, ‘This is amazing, thanks so much for this, and it’s great to talk about Sac.’ And then as I did that, her security detail (jumped in). ... It was pretty neat though, a very amazing experience. … After many years we’ve toured the world, and we still come back to Sac.”

Chris Macias: 916-321-1253, @chris_macias

Monster Energy Aftershock

What: Festival headliners includes the Deftones, Jane’s Addiction, Slipknot, Faith No More, Marilyn Manson, Breaking Benjamin and many more.

When: Noon-midnight Saturday, Oct. 24; noon-11 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25

Where: Gibson Ranch, 8556 Gibson Ranch Park Road, Elverta

Cost: $114.50-$134.50 weekend ticket; $64.50-$74.50 single day ticket; $15 parking

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