Grooving at Gabe’s with funka-delic band, The Iceman Special

With their unique sound of funk, rock, and metal, the New Orleans-based band kept the groove coming on Tuesday night.


Tate Hildyard

The Iceman Special perform at Gabes in downtown Iowa City on Tuesday, January 28th, 2020. The Iceman Special is a New Orlean’s funk band that has rock and roll and disco roots along with a “Fucka-Delic” sound.

Jacob Shafer, Arts Reporter

In an interview before the show, one member of The Iceman Special jokingly named P-Diddy as the biggest influence for the group’s unique blend of funkadelia and metal sounds. At a performance at Gabe’s on Tuesday, the suggestion did seem out of the realm of possibility for the New Orleans-based band.

The Iowa City show marked another stop on The Iceman Special’s tour across the country. Known for their Southern roots, the band also uses of funk, rock, disco, and metal to create a sound that is uniquely theirs.

As the show started up to a not-very-crowded Gabe’s, sound effects spewed from the speakers like something from a sci-fi movie — buzzers, lasers, and windy whooshing noises.

Drums softly built along with the sounds, starting with just the kick and light cymbals. Then the bass joined in and long guitar notes that evolved into licks rattled off during the build-up. Finally, all band members were all playing together.

In their first song of the night, The Iceman Special’s music sounded like it was telling a story. Bassist Charles Murry played so fervently it felt as though he were running away from something monstrous, yet the drums kept a steady beat. The slow, powerful guitars acted as the beast — exactly what was being run away from.

Throughout the night, the lyrics to the songs didn’t seem like the main focal point of the music. And for almost all the songs, the lyrics didn’t start until well into the track or close to the end. I liked how that made the music tell the story and express the emotion rather than just saying it through lyrics— it provided an interesting listening experience.

I could hear all the different genres bleed into the music. On one of the bridges during the song “Expectations,” it seemed like each instrument had an assigned genre — the bass guitar gave listeners fat, metal notes, the drums pumped the funk shuffle forward, all while the guitar sang a rock ballad until all three blended into one.

Heads immediately began bobbing up and down to the drum’s open hi-hats on the next funk groove tune, “Parade.” If you scanned the room in Gabe’s, you could see all of them bobbing in unison to the music.

The Iceman Special really expressed their mix of genres, and I could see from the crowd’s reaction that it was almost like everyone was hearing something that sounded new. I also wondered how they figured out what way to head nod to the next groove.

The crowd could be visibly seen adapting to each new sound they heard. There wasn’t a chance to get too comfy listening to the funk because punk and metal were next. Pairs could be seen in the crowd turning to each other in shock when the song switched to psychedelic cries from the guitar.

That type of variety is exactly what The Iceman Special goes for, according to lead singer Will Murry. In an interview before the show, he said that the band “[tries] to invoke new aspects to our sound for our live show. And make it sound theatrical for the audience.”