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The best kept secret in music


"Chingus celebrates CD release"

Chingus celebrates CD release
Austin Houlding
Staff Writer
October 27, 2004

Ordinarily, Mark "Gonzo" Gonzalez, frontman of the funkalicious quartet of jam-junkies known as Chingus, never gets pre-show jitters.

But there Gonzo was early Friday night, two hours before his band took the LaSalles stage during Chingus' CD release party, pacing the bar's back deck with a Pale Ale and paler face. Considering it was to be the first big show held entirely in the band's honor, and the introduction of its long-awaited first album "Butter and You Like It," there was much to be jittery about.

For one, the company entrusted with manufacturing the CDs and cover slips "screwed up," leaving Chingus to burn promo discs, which were sold like IOUs to be exchanged when the real ones finally come. For another, bass player Marcus Schmidt, who was supposed to sing lead on two songs and backup on all others, was suffering from a raw throat, which made his voice too ripped for stage that night.

On top of that, all the band members' parents were there to watch them play, as was the near-capacity crowd steadily streaming in while local jam band Jack Shat and the Know-it-Alls got things started.

But the biggest stress looming over Gonzo's head was that this show -- more than any other in the band's three-year history -- was to be less a gig than a milestone symbolizing that Chingus had finally made it in this tiny world known as Chico's music scene.

"More than anything, we just have to be really, really good tonight," Gonzo said.

When Chingus made it on stage, any built-up anxiety must have swept away like sandcastles in the tide because, musically, the band was at the top of its game.

Schmidt bobbed and weaved on the bass like a fighter in his prime. Pianist Glenn Kiethly stirred the keys like a mad scientist possessed, and drummer Zack Bowden was the perfect beat machine hunched in the back. Gonzo on guitar, as his name implies, went absolutely gonzo on guitar, one second bringing funk a la Curtis Mayfield and the next blazing the frets like Carlos Santana's bastard child.

The crowd, packed tightly around the stage, was a sea of movement from the first note. It was one of the largest audiences Chingus had ever played -- a turnout three times what the bar expected, said band manager Joe Reynolds.

Joining Chingus onstage, the three-piece horn section Tu Madre lent its musical muscle to nearly half the night's songs. And conga ensemble S.L.A.P. brought a percussive punch to one song coming out of Chingus' brief intermission.

Gonzo's Frank Zappa-esque goofy croon melded well with the feel of the music, but for an added soulful touch, singer Marquesa Versola of Chico's The Loose Booties graced the stage with her golden range and sultry sass.

Highlights of the show included Chingus originals like "Multi Purpose Dome" and "Crystal Ball." But the real fireworks were the perfectly transferred jam versions of '80s and '90s pop classics Naughty by Nature's "O.P.P." and Paula Abdul's "Straight Up," which they retired as the last song of the night.

"We've been haunted by this song since the first time we played it," Gonzo said. "So now we're going to put it to rest with the best goddamned version we've ever played."

When the show ended at 2 a.m., the real celebration was only getting started. Inviting as much of the audience as they could, Chingus marched over to the after party at Schmidt's house three blocks away.

The keg in the kitchen was decimated by a hallway of friends and fans, and the smoke settled in the living room as most of the party-goers rallied outside around the sidewalk and grass.

Key master Kiethly wandered off with a doe-eyed cutie not to be seen again, and drummer boy Bowden was MIA situating his parents for the night. Gonzo, Schmidt and Chingus manager Reynolds were all smiles.

The tensions were gone.

"I'm on top of the world," Reynolds said. "This is what we'd been waiting for for six months. We had to show our balls."

"We were awesome," Schmidt said, his voice reduced to a vapor after singing anyway though his throat was shredded.

Gonzo was on the porch chatting with Tu Madre's tenor saxophonist Adam Walter.

"I'd say it was the best Chingus show I've ever been to," Gonzo said, chuckling over a Pale Ale. "The energy was so intense, it blew me away."

Gonzo's dad Richard climbed up the steps and extended a firm handshake to his son.

"Am I proud?" Gonzalez asked reaching an arm around Gonzo. "I'll put it this way: this is my son, this is my boy."

The first milestone has been reached, but it may only be the first of many along a path leading to bigger better things.

"It's like me and Marcus [Schmidt] promised the first day of practice, three years ago," Gonzo said. "We're 'in it,' meaning we're going to put our hearts into it. We weren't going to stop and we were going to take Chingus as far as we could or die trying."

Austin Houlding can be reached at
- Synthesis

"Chingus prepares for first album"

Chingus prepares for first album
Nathan Anderson
Staff Writer
November 19, 2003

During the last two years Chingus has reigned as the most crowd-pleasing jam band in Chico. Through the combined talents of four Chico State students, the group is determined to play the best live shows deliverable.

Saturday at Stormy's Off Broadway will very likely be Chico music lovers' last chance to see Chingus at a bar before it enters the studio in January to record its much-anticipated debut album.

On the back patio of La Salles, frontman Mark "Gonzo" Gonzalez, bassist Marcus Schmidt, keyboardist Glenn Keithly and drummer Zack Bowden spoke about the drive behind their sound, as they prepared to take the stage for that night's concert.

"I'd say most bands today sell themselves short to get a sound that just reflects what's popular," Gonzalez said. "We try to create every night we perform."

The four look like other Chico State students dressed in blue jeans and casual buttoned shirts. Although they have a show in a little less than an hour, none are dressed in an eccentric manner that screams for rock star attention. The members instead focus on sound and agree that real music isn't about image or impressing the audience with mere gimmicks.

Gonzalez, who also plays in local favorite Brown House, is the key songwriter and chief spokesman for the band. A guitar-performance major in school and a musician for more than 12 years, Gonzalez said music is the foundation for his life and can't imagine doing anything else.

"Even without being rich and famous, if I could stay afloat and make music like this my whole life, I would be happy forever," Gonzalez said.

The members of Chingus describe the band as unlike anything anyone has ever heard in Chico. It's a combination of many types of music fused together to paint a picture that can be understood by a variety of people from different walks of life.

Although its primary concentration is jam-based rock, jazz plays a huge role in the musical composition of the band. Keithly and Bowden grew up with a jazz-based foundation and are currently members of the Chico State Jazz Express.

Keithly, who's an electronic engineering major, is also a classically trained pianist. Gonzalez is currently working on his classical training. Improvisation and knowledge of the true nature of music is fundamental in the makeup of Chingus.

"We jam every night and try not to sound monotonous," Gonzalez said. "The really fun part of it all is to be onstage with four guys in the middle of a song and not know where it's going to go."

Gonzalez and Schmidt started the band in 2001 with original drummer Daniel Reynolds and eventually convinced Keithly to join. Early in summer 2003, Reynolds broke his hand shortly before a gig. Bowden immediately picked up the fallen beat.

"Zack had been wanting to play with us for a while and he's a monster," Gonzalez said. "Really good."

The four-piece has continued with that lineup ever since. On average, the band plays about 50 shows a year.

Covers are also a large part of the band's live show. The band plays original versions of songs that are easily recognizable, with a special twist of Chingus spice.

"The first Chingus song played onstage was 'Straight Up' by Paula Abdul," said Schmidt. "Just to get people's attention."

American Idol judges aside, the band also covers tunes by Tom Petty, Green Day, Stevie Wonder and Pink Floyd.

"The No. 1 reason to come to a Chingus show is to have fun," Keithly said.

A mystery to many is the origin of the band's name. To put the enigma to rest, Gonzalez said that "Chingus" was the catch phrase of a good friend who died in a car accident.

"There's a big story behind the whole name thing, but it's basically Spanish slang with a 'U' in the misspelling that comes from his whiteness," Gonzalez said.

The word is also tattooed on Schmidt's back, possibly representing the pain that real musicians must put into their craft when passion is involved. In this band, there is sometimes so much emotion, the fingers of its members bleed because of the ferocious attack on their instruments.

"We really give it our all," Gonzalez said. "I bleed, Marcus bleeds, Glenn's even bled onstage and I'm sure Zack will bleed. That's not from jumping around or anything, it's just from the intensity of the playing."

Unfortunately, money is also a large factor in any band's survival.

Chingus has been saving cash for a while in an effort to produce the band's first album. The majority of the proceeds generated from its live shows and merchandise cycles back into funding the expensive recording process.

During the next couple months, the band plans to practice intently to ensure that it knows what it's doing when it hits the studio.

"So it doesn't end up costing us everything we own," Gonzalez said.

Although Chingus now plays its share of bars, Chingus was originally a party band, keeping music lovers of all ages entertained.

"The party scene is something we've slowly gravitated away from, but we still make sure to play a good one every now and then," Gonzalez said. "Otherwise you're not going to get anyone hearing your music that's under 21."

Even though he says it's obvious that Chingus is far from mainstream, Gonzalez doesn't describe his band's sound as "underground."

"There are so many different ways to describe 'underground,'" Gonzalez said. "We would love to have something poppy enough to be played on the radio, but still have our sound be obscure enough to impress true fans of music who really know what's going on."

Nate Anderson can be reached at
- Orion

"Crossing over many genres, Chingus and Global Funk bring improved styles to The Bean Scene Thursday night"

Matt Shotland
Staff Writer
February 18, 2004
Funk is growing some roots in Chico.

Once again Bobolink Music, the new production and promotion company based in Chico, provided quality musicianship and a late-night party when funk bands Chingus and Global Funk rocked their audience into a frenzy Thursday night at The Bean Scene Coffee House and Gallery.

With an improvisational blend of jazz, funk and rock, local band Chingus jumped into its set headfirst, focusing mainly on extended jams with consistent grooves.

Solid guitar work was shown by Mark Gonzalez, who demonstrated constant variety in his playing.

Whether it was making cosmic sounds with a wah-wah pedal or playing sharp and clear solos, he never seemed to repeat himself.

Keyboard player Glenn Keithly added a classical, calm element to Chingus sound but also exploded in furious playing when the tempo increased.

The rhythm section was solid as Marcus Schmidt played his five-string bass with a consistent funky groove, while drummer Zack Bowden, who joined the band over the summer, played with intensity and precision that matches the bands groove-oriented style perfectly.

Through Chingus playing, the members of the audience began to jumble toward the stage to show their appreciation.

Keyboard player Glenn Keithly said thats the bands goal when playing.

"We try to play a variety of styles to see people dance and have a good time," he said. "When we have time well take them all over the place."

Chingus set ended with an excited crowd that didnt want the funk to stop.

- the Synthesis


ep: Debut Album - Butter and you like it
Numerous live shows- date back to 2001

Radio - KZFR- and others


Feeling a bit camera shy


Chingus is a band that knows how to turn a crowd
upside down. From backyard parties, to sold-out
clubs, Chingus has been cultivating an ever-flourishing
fan-base, over the last three years. Remarkable
songwriting, the synergy of these four incredible,
young, musicians, and a mind-blowing live show,
has proven to be their template for success.
the recent explosion of web traffic arriving from
coast-to-coast, and around the world, shows that
these hometown-heroes are ready to spread their
wings, and fly.