There are some nights when you look at the line-up at a venue and know pretty much what to expect. I thought that was the case Saturday night at Faktorý, but I was proven wrong. And I’m glad I was. With acts that ranged from electronic to rap, I expected the night would end with me having to fight my way through a crowd of shirtless Breezerheads with a broken bottle. However, the crowd and the mood of the acts were continuously upbeat, electric and alive.
Starting us off was Asonat, comprised of a female vocalist and two guys with laptops, keyboards, and some various electronic bric-a-brac. This is not an uncommon set-up for an electronic band from Reykjavík, and I feared this was going to be another carbon-copy. However, Asonat delivered chill, smooth vocals carried on waves of bass so fat it made my gut shake. Crackling codas, understated yet fully present, this was a very satisfying electronic act I could see performing in a cocktail lounge on a spaceship.
Following them were Sometime, a band I’ve personally enjoyed for years now, although I have to admit I’d been negligent in following their career since 2006. It turns out that this electro-pop band have been refining and enhancing their sound, with a vocalist who sounds just as comfortable crooning as she is belting out hard disco. Her old fashioned charm is an appealing contrast to the decisive delivery of the pared-down synth pop, and her vocals really shine during their more chill numbers.
So after getting into this futuristic disco groove, you can imagine how the crowd reacted when the stage filled with dry ice and a powerful light shone through it, commencing the reptilian, cerebral-cortex-tearing doom of Legend. Sick, unforgiving beats rolled over the crowd like a giant tank made of concrete and skulls as the vocalist wailed with pathos. This is the band you want on your iPod when you’re walking through the post-nuclear wasteland with a feral dog and a shotgun. I don’t think anyone was ready for these guys, but they left everyone shocked, awe, bloodied and howling for more.
Cleansing the pallet was the musical sherbet of Sykur, a band that is clearly aiming to be a mainstream, radio-friendly pop band; Club Lite, I guess you could say. This isn’t said disparagingly, though. They put on an honest, solid performance and the singer was quite adept at engaging the crowd, getting people moving even as they held their smartphones aloft. Maybe they wouldn’t exactly pull your ear if you heard them playing from a passing car, but hey – this is dance music, and best heard live, on a dance floor. And to that end, they did not disappoint.
Next up was disco queen Thorunn Antonia, a singer I’d always enjoyed for her powerful vocals and consistent delivery. Her set this night, however, was a bit of a let-down. She honestly didn’t seem like she was 100% present in the performance; that we were rather watching a trailer for an up-coming Thorunn Antonia set. Her delivery seemed more like she was thinking of something else, or on her way to another club, and that was reflected in the general nonplussed reaction of the crowd. Which was a real shame, to be honest, because when she’s on she’s amazing.
Berndsen, fortunately, was there to remind people what fun means. This rock-informed robo-pop was led by a bearded giant who whipped the crowd into a dancing frenzy. Farty bass and kick-snare beats drove the good times along, and there was an almost teenage charm to how much the singer loved the crowd and wanted to be loved by them. This is a singer you could call an all-rounder: put him in front of any band of any genre, and you can guarantee no one would forget the performance. He tirelessly sang, scampered (not easy to do for a big guy) and danced with the boundless energy normally only seen in Labrador retrievers.
Following this up was Úlfur Úlfur. Here’s the thing about Icelandic rap: rap is about the beat, in both the music and the vocals. You need to have percussive delivery. So it helps if the language you rap in is already very consonant-oriented. This is why rap in Spanish, Italian and even Japanese sounds awesome, but in Icelandic – where there is more emphasis on the vowels – you have to try a lot harder to make it sound good, as great as your lyrical content may be. Fortunately, Úlfur Úlfur do understand this, with flows that sounded shamelessly lifted from Busta Rhymes. The delivery was passable, if suburban, but not really distinguishable from any other Icelandic rap act I’ve seen before.
In fact, I can honestly say that I’ve only seen two Icelandic rap acts who made me step back and say “Oh shit!” – Blaz Roca and, the final act of the night, Emmsjé Gauti. Say what you want about the almost comical posturing of this guy, his live show has never disappointed me. Dude leapt into his set with the delivery of a Gatlin gun and did not slow down for a second. The energy pulsed through the leaping, hand-waving crowd, and he kept going long past the point the a few people had to catch their breath. He never tripped up, and didn’t hold back. The years of experience behind this guy definitely paid off this night.
I left Faktorý around the time that the alcohol was turning people mean, but I headed downtown in a fantastic mood. This was a great night for dancing, and the highlight – Legend – is an act I’ll be sure to follow.