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In Memoriam – Chi Cheng (1970-2013)

The Deftones were one of the first concerts that I ever saw. In early ’98, the band was playing a radio show at Red Rocks, but they were still fairly small at the time. Around The Fur was still a fairly new album and they were gaining steam, but not quite there. I went to the show (which also featured Megadeth and Biohazard) not really knowing what to expect.  If you’ve never been to Red Rocks in Colorado, it features bench seating and is fairly steep, making it less than ideal for moshing, crowd surfing and the typical jostling you might expect at a metal show. None of that mattered when the Deftones got on stage. People started going nuts, jumping around and crowd surfing, in spite of the certain danger they faced. I had never seen anything like that!The crowd had more energy for the Deftones than any other band playing that day, and the Deftones returned the favor. I was particularly mesmerized by their bassist, Chi Cheng. He was running around, jumping and headbanging with his waist long dreadlocks. He also provided backing vocals in the form of a perfect, high pitch scream (which I would try to emulate throughout the years, with no success.) The Deftones made me a life long fan that day, but Chi made me a believer in the power of live music. Any concert after that, regardless of the genre, I would carefully study whichever band I was seeing, and measure how much they put into their performance. Chi set the bar high that day. Almost too high, because very few artists I’ve seen since have played with the passion and energy that he had.

I didn’t see the Deftones live again until 2010. By that time, Chi had already been out of action for a couple of years, following his unfortunate car accident in 2008. While the show was incredible (as expected) there was a hole on the right side of the stage where Chi used to be. The bands new bassist Sergio Vega is an incredible musician and is a great performer in his own right, but again, Chi just set the bar way too high for anyone to be able to live up to what I saw on that early summer day back in 1998. Last week, Chi’s body finally succumbed and his fight to live had ended. While I never knew Chi personally, I will miss him immensely. In the 45 minutes I spent in his presence that day, I learned more about passion for performance and music than I have in the fifteen years since. For that, I am eternally grateful. Thank you for the fantastic show that day Chi. I’ll never forget it!

When I started Gutter Bubbles, my intention was mainly to have an outlet to talk about music with people. As a lifelong music lover (and nowhere near talented musician) I’ve always had respect for music of all genres and backgrounds. That being said, I can be very opinionated with my viewpoints and I’m sure I’ve rubbed some people the wrong way. That’s OK. That’s all a part of the discussion. I hope you take it all for fun, just like I do. But today, with this posting, there is no agenda or viewpoint. Just my thoughts about a musician that changed the way I watch live music. I’ve never been a very spiritual man, but I hope (and believe) that Chi has found the peace and comfort he sought. “Headup” has always been a favorite track of mine, and now it takes on an even deeper meaning for me. Let your soul fly free Chi!

If you are interested in learning more about Chi Cheng’s life or would like information about how you can help his family, visit the website His family and friends frequently post info there and it’s the best source of information to celebrate Chi’s wonderful life.

What are your memories about Chi? Let me know in the comments section below, or follow me on Facebook and Twitter and share your memories with me there!

Twitter: @Gutter_Bubbles

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About the author:
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I am absolutely and unabashedly in love with music. If I could eat a huge bowl of songs for breakfast every morning, I totally would. I'm obsessive about categorization (don't mess with my chronological or alphabetical) and can't stand an unorganized iTunes library. Outside of music and writing, I love baseball (go Rockies), coffee, corgi's and going on fun trips with my girlfriend!


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