Great nights and long goodbyes

Deftones bassist Chi Cheng, in a coma since 2008, died April 13.

Deftones bassist Chi Cheng, in a coma since 2008, died April 13.

Went Postal: The first time I saw Ben Gibbard, he was standing alone at a party in San Francisco, holding a brown bottle of beer in each hand. But I didn’t know who he was. It was 2002, right around the time he was probably exchanging recordings with Jimmy Tamborello in the mail, which would eventually be meshed together and released the following year under the moniker the Postal Service. Since I didn’t know anybody there except the host, I approached the sandy-haired stranger and made some sort of lame quip about him drinking two beers at once (he was holding on to it for his buzzed redhead friend in the bathroom). Our dialogue went something like this:

Me: “So what do you do?”

Gibbard: “I’m in a band, Death Cab for Cutie.”

I had heard of the group, but had no idea that iTunes would be rolling its eyes at me for playing “What Sarah Said” 173 times in the ensuing decade.

Me: “What do you for a day job?”

Gibbard: “Just the band.”

In retrospect, it was a cringe-worthy query, but an otherwise pleasant conversation followed.

So, the last time I saw Ben Gibbard, he was busy at work on Wednesday, April 10, at the Mondavi Center. He, Tamborello, redheaded (not the same one at the party) Jenny Lewis and blond Laura Burhenn (of the Mynabirds) were welcomed by the overwhelming explosion of 10-years’ worth of pent-up adulation. This time, Gibbard’s dialogue went like this: “Feel free to stand up and shake your butts!”

The band is on tour supporting the rerelease of its only album, Give Up, which includes a few new singles, all of which were played that night as tall, vertical light panels flashed a rainbow of colors, adding extra electricity to this basically electronic band’s performance. The sold-out crowd’s energy during the middle of the set seemed to lull, though, as it collectively witnessed how this introvert’s album translated live. In the end, however, there was no love lost. The strategically placed “Such Great Heights” closer made the walls of Jackson Hall shake again with millennial nostalgia. They seemed rather pleased Gibbard stuck with his day job—and moonlights.


Color of change: The band may have relocated to Oakland, but Sister Crayon hasn’t forsaken Sactown. This weekend, the band hits LowBrau to celebrate the release of its new EP, Cynic. There’s been at least one significant change since the band’s move: What was once a four-piece has been whittled down to three. Sister Crayon now comprises singer-songwriter Terra Lopez, synth player Dani Fernandez and, for its live shows, drummer Omar Barajas.

Lopez says the changes reflect a new approach.

“There’s still a live aspect, but there’s also a more intimate focus.”

Sister Crayon on record is, for all intents and purposes, Lopez and Fernandez. The duo hunkered down together to write the songs for Cynic, which was recorded in Sac at the Hangar. More intimate doesn’t necessarily mean less, Lopez adds.

“We’re stripped down—but the sound isn’t.”

Indeed, the five-song EP is replete with gorgeous keyboard swells, meditative percussive beats and, as always, Lopez’s dramatic vocals.

Their relocation also had significant influence.

“I lived in Sac my entire life; it was time to get a different perspective,” she says. “Here, we don’t know too many people, we can hide out and just work on music.”

Check out Sister Crayon at 8 p.m., Sunday, April 21, at LowBrau (1050 20th Street, http://aceofspades The all-ages show is $10.

Goodbye, Chi: Deftones bassist Chi Cheng, 42, died Saturday, April 13, more than four years after a head-on collision put him in a coma. I only met Cheng once or twice and could hardly profess to have known him well. What I do know is this: Cheng was a great musician, an esteemed poet and someone who made a profound impact on Sacramento music. So many of us held on to the hope that Cheng would eventually recover from that November 2008 accident. Now, even after all these years, there are no words to describe the sense of loss we all feel—those who knew and loved him, as well as those who simply admired him from a distance. Chi, you will be missed.

—Rachel Leibrock