Metal bands always have been quick to lend a helping hand. From G.L.U.G.’s support of the Susan L. Blair Memorial Fund to Luxt and the Beat Officers’ periodic Mustard Seed School benefit shows, the metal scene consistently has displayed a remarkable sense of philanthropy.
One such recent display of goodwill is represented in the new series of concerts being held at Iceland ice-skating rink (1430 Del Paso Boulevard, near Arden) through August. The brainchild of Chad Kern, guitarist for local metal act Sinfest, the series is meant to bring attention (and an increased cash flow) to Iceland, a long-standing local business that reportedly is entering dire financial straits. It’s no wonder; the skating facility is essentially part of the old world. It’s a huge, cavernous space decorated with skating trophies, photographs and, in the attached cafe, a corner fireplace. It is representative of the history of the area and the history of an America crumbling to dust in the face of cookie-cutter land-development projects and urban renewal.
Last Friday’s show debuted Iceland the venue with a show by Tiny Monster Invasion, the South Bay metal act Sled and headliners (and series organizers) Sinfest. The scene itself was surreal. For obvious reasons, rinks are very, very cold (not just on the ice, but throughout the entire building). On one side of the rink are carpeted bleachers that overlook the ice. Directly in front of these bleachers, the bands are set up on a makeshift stage directly on the ice, meaning that, if the audience is kept at the temperature of a refrigerator, the bands are in the freezer itself. In essence, the venue could have been a stage set for Happy Days, but rather than a rockabilly band, the ice rink was festooned with cages, glowing skulls and flashing red laser lights.
The stage props are essential to live music at Iceland because the rink isn’t really that conducive to live music per se. The most pressing problem is that the bands are separated from the audience by a half wall and 20 feet of ice. But the props and stage antics can make the music compelling, even from a distance. Furthermore, Sinfest’s Tym Harsh immediately stepped off the stage, carrying his wireless microphone into the audience and walking up and down the stands as if on an afternoon stroll. In this way, he was able to make the gap essentially disappear.
Many of Sacramento’s metal bands understand that audiences expect a “show.” Sinfest is one such band. It performed much of the set in masks, brought its own light show and, at one point, invited a zebra-striped go-go dancer into one of the two cages that stood on the ice in front of the stage. It is comic-book metal mayhem, to be sure, but knowing that and embracing it can make for a compelling visual presentation at the very least.