Ready To Rock Out
Off the road and away from the stage, Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham lives a very un-metal like existence in Sacramento. He cooks for his boys. Attends their baseball and soccer games. Pays bills.
For the past three months, he’s been a domestic dad, tethered not to drums but doldrums. “I’m just doing normal stuff,” he says, “and I’m going batty. I need to play, man. I am beyond ready to cut loose.”
He’s about to get his wish. Cunningham and the Deftones unleash their genre-bending metal Saturday at the second annual Bud Light River City Rockfest, a full-day outdoor festival at the AT&T Center that expands on the inaugural event.
Rockfest 2013 featured 18 bands on three stages. This year’s lineup, headlined by Kid Rock, features 25 bands on four stages, including Five Finger Death Punch, Seether, Black Label Society, Killswitch Engage, Black Stone Cherry and The Heroine, a San Antonio band making its second appearance at the festival.
The goal is for River City Rockfest to evolve into a signature music festival, a San Antonio version of South by Southwest (SXSW), if you will. Excitement is building.
“We have far surpassed last year’s sales at this time,” says Lori Warren, senior vice president of finance and strategy for Spurs Sports & Entertainment. “We think attendance could reach 20,000, which would be a huge success for us as we continue to try to grow this festival into an annual must-see event.”
Active and retired members of the military are helping drive ticket sales. Kid Rock and Five Finger Death Punch boast strong military connections, having played at bases in the U.S. and overseas. Then there’s The Heroine frontman, Lynnwood Presley King, who has his own connection. The long-haired, black-bearded, screaming rock ‘n roller served four years in the Marines in the 1990s and another four in the reserves.
“Proudly,” he says.
King is full of surprises. On Saturday, for example, he will perform double-duty. He’ll front metal-grinding The Heroine as well as The Lynnwood Presley King Revival, a nine-piece Throwback Blues Gospel band.
“‘Revival’ is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time -- play music that’s really kind of my roots,” King says. “I have an organ player and some awesome background singers. It’s like a throwback, an old school, blues gospel group.”
The Heroine rocked the AT&T Center last year and enjoyed the rest of the Rockfest, which included Guns N’ Roses and Alice in Chains.
“Last year was awesome,” King says. “The number of people there was amazing. From an artists’ point of view, the production was flawless. As a fan, watching our favorite bands perform was satisfying.”
The Heroine’s appearance coincides with the release of their new video, “Who Do You Love,” directed by a Frenchman, Sebastien Antoine. “When he found out we were from San Antonio,” King says, “he was raving about the Spurs and Tony Parker and wanted to be part of our video.”
King is a native who has performed in San Antonio forever. In a way, it seems Cunningham has too. The drummer made his first appearance here before Tim Duncan became a Spur. In the mid-90s, the Deftones played wild, memorable gigs at the Showcase and Sneakers, defunct local rock clubs.
“They are totally def -- defiant and deafening,” the San Antonio Express-News wrote in 1996. “Be forewarned: A distorted, noisy, high-energy assault on the senses is in store from the Sacramento-based metal outfit. … The raging grind makes Nine Inch Nails and Filter sound like choirboys.” Once the Showcase and Sneakers closed, the ‘Tones played at larger local venues, such as Sunset Station, Freeman Coliseum and a sold out show at the AT&T Center’s Bud Light Courtyard in 2010. Cunningham fondly recalls their performance in 2000 at the Sunken Garden Theater.
“It was electric,” Cunningham says. “It was a warm evening, the venue was entirely lit up. The foliage was beautiful. It was a great gig, a magical night.”
The core of the ‘Tones began playing together in high school. Cunningham, vocalist Chino Moreno and guitarist Steve Carpenter began jamming in Carpenter’s garage in the late 80s. “Chino and I were sophomores, 15 at the time,” Cunningham says. The Deftones have produced seven albums. Three have gone Platinum. A fourth went Gold. Their original bassist, Chi Cheng, died in 2013, four and a half years after suffering serious injuries in a car accident.
“We’ve gone through a lot of experiences,” Cunningham says. “From marriages, to births of children, divorce, death -- all the things that happen in life. We’ve traveled the globe together. We’ve fought and bickered. But they’re my brothers.”
Cunningham misses the brotherhood. A three month break has left him fidgety and frustrated. Stir crazy. If days could be counted like his beats -- fast and furious -- he’d be drumming at the Rockfest in no time.