Photo by Morgan Levy.
Lazyblood show us how it’s done
The night began awesomely well at Faktory on Saturday, with Lazyblood kicking things off in style. They played to an appreciative crowd, who gathered in a small group around the stage. No one danced but no one needed to, it wasn’t that type of concert. What Lazyblood dished up was what can only be described as pure power.
The band is a duo consisting of Reykjavík!’s Valdimar Jóhannsson and renowned dancer Erna Ómarsdóttir, who work together to create a disconcerting yet beautiful mix of grinding electronic sounds coupled with angelic vocals and the hair-raising growls of wild beasts. Or something of the sort.
Some musicians go up on the stage and do their thing and this is all good and well, but for these two this was not the case. Their set was not just a concert, it was a performance. When they sang or screamed or growled together, the force required in order to produce these sounds was apparent in the veins popping out of their necks. Erna often abandoned the stage in favour of the floor, performing in many a contorted position, at the feet of sometimes-stunned onlookers.
It goes without saying that their show was a highlight, whether or not you would listen to their music at home, and though there were very few people there, the whole thing flowed really well and was generally awesome.
Króna keep it real
After such a performance it is difficult to watch something else without feeling a bit let down, no matter what the gig is like. However, the show must go on and Króna were up next. They stood in pretty stark contrast to the arty performance of Lazyblood. These guys are all members of other bands and experienced musicians. They weren’t bad. They induced head nodding from some of those present, and they brought to mind kind of a strange comparison to milk. They aren’t exactly colourful in their performance and their music has this good, healthy, honest sound to it, as though if it was something you could consume you would feed it to your kids to give them strong teeth and bones.
Króna’s sound is not particularly original, but all their songs were in Icelandic which was cool. Although there are many non-Icelandic speaking people who attend Airwaves and therefore wouldn’t have understood anything, there is always something refreshing about those who forego trends and go their own way. Anyway, they were performing to a pretty minimal audience so if there were people who didn’t understand there, they were probably very few.
Borko tone things down
After the powerful presence of Lazyblood, and the everyday honesty of Króna, it was interesting to ponder what would come from Borko, who are a staple of the Reykjavík music scene. Their set was good, they drew a fair few people, though didn’t pack the place, and played chilled out music which could be as good at home as it was played live. The whole thing was really easy going and Borko didn’t go OTT with stage antics but had a few funny moments in his performance. That guy seems like a bit of a character.
Difficult to pin down, the band consists of, among other things, a brass section, synth, and acoustic guitar and produces a sound that builds slowly on itself and changes, sometimes ‘sorrowful’ (as they themselves warned before certain songs), other times expansive and almost euphoric. Borko gave a good if somewhat mellow performance and if nothing else served as a break after the harder sounds of the previous bands.
A little trip to America-town with Who Knew
Up next were Who Knew, who switched things back in a harder direction and impressively managed to persuade the smallish number of people there to actually come forward and dance, rather than hanging around the edges of the room and drinking beer (as most people had been doing). Their heavy rhythms and chunky guitars give them a ‘drinking music’ atmosphere. I can kind of imagine waving a bottle around and yelling out lyrics drunkenly to one of their songs at least.
The biggest problem with them was their identity. Their whole style, right down to their accents, was so American I had a hard time believing that this band was Icelandic. Naturally this is not necessarily a problem for them, or anyone else for that matter, maybe this is even what they aim for. However it was a bit disconcerting somehow, and seemed almost like there was an aspect to them and their performance style, which was not particularly genuine. This aside, they pleased the middle sized crowd, who obeyed their request to come forward and dance and generally have a good time.
Marius and the ocean
The room cleared out a bit at this point and by the time the next band started it was pretty empty. It’s really hard to know what it was, but there was something about Marius that brought to mind the ocean. Perhaps it was the way they all bobbed their heads while they played, which gave the impression that they were somehow playing from a boat or something. Or perhaps it was just the light, chilled out acoustic sound and steady rhythms that brought to mind the fancy-free mood of the seaside. Whatever it was, their set was fine, if a little unexciting.
In contrast to Borko which worked equally as well live as it would at home, Marius was much more home-style music. Mellow and inoffensive. The room was at this point pretty empty, with a few people scattered around sipping bear and I have a feeling Marius were losing out to Bombay Bicycle Club over at Reykjavík Art Museum, although maybe their relaxed style of music was just poorly suited to that particular time-slot.
At this point I jumped out for an hour and Anna Margrét stepped in to fill my shoes in the mean time while Alcoholic Faith Mission played.
[Enter Anna Margrét Björnsson, who as it turns out also reviewed Marius! So fancy that! Marius get two reviews!
Faktorý was almost empty when Faroese singer/ songwriter Marius and his band took to the stage. I met a Faroese friend on arrival who told me that Marius was a pretty popular local singer and had been producing lots of music over the past years, with his latest musical effort being by far the best. Now I’m not sure if Faktorý was the best place for this six-piece band led by Marius who sat in the middle strumming his guitar and I found that the sound turned out rather tinny and enclosed. Musically, Marius is basically indie. I could hear doses of Fleet Foxes and in one song a beautiful Fleetwood Mac style slide guitar. Marius is obviously a talented musician and singer and his strong vocal style sometimes brought to mind Icelandic singer Högni from Hjaltalín. Unfortunately, probably also due to the lack of audience, Marius failed to rise to any great heights.
Danish band Alcoholic Faith Mission were next up on stage. “Come closer, please help us out,” whispered the Marilyn-esque blond singer/synth player. The slowly gathering crowd obeyed and moved in front of the stage, suddenly creating the atmosphere that had been completely lacking when Marius played. The five band members hail from Copenhagen, they all play instruments and they all sing, creating a lively attention grabbing set. As for the music, it’s indie, and it’s not very interesting. I can’t help but thinking that Danish bands of late just keep copying stuff that was trendy a couple of years back. Alcoholic Faith Mission just sounded too much like Arcade Fire or any of those indie hipster bands. That said, the crowd seemed fairly content and band members made up for musical innovation with a dose of Danish exuberance and charm.
[Thank you Anna! We now give the reigns back to Bergrún] ‘Tantrums’ from Simon Says No!
I arrived back in time for Simon Says No! who hail from Norway and played a set of angry, heavy guitars and beefy rhythms. There were lyrics but it was hard to catch them and the audience was still pretty minimal at this point. I don’t think anyone was really hanging out to know what he was saying anyway.
While they have had quite a lot of success in Norway, somehow their set didn’t work particularly well at Airwaves, it seemed like their music would have been better enjoyed by a larger crowd than by a tired few. However, the guy next to me said he was pretty impressed by them and they received wild applause from the small audience they had.
The lead singer, however, didn’t seem to be happy with things and pulled a classic ‘rock star’ stunt and threw his guitar around a bit and stormed off the stage at the end of the set, though it was difficult to know if this was genuine or just theatrics. Either way, it would probably would have worked better with an audience there to view it, as it was it just seemed silly.
Sykur sweeten the night
People started to trickle back in and by the time Sykur started their set there was a pretty good crowd there. They are a rather aptly named band (“sykur” is Icelandic for ‘sugar’) and they bring to mind that sweet sweet sugar coated candy, with their crunchy synths and twinkly electronic tones. They gave a lively show to say the least and got a whole bunch of indie kids there stamping their trendy little feet and waving their trendy little hands in joy and rapture. As they do.
Generally they were good, though the hair flicking of Rakel Mjöll got annoying, as did her repeated need to point out that the guys in the band were her cousins. Who cares?! However they managed to heat the place up and got everyone moving, so it wasn’t so bad.
UMTBS finish the night on a high note
The last set of the night rolled around and UMTBS ( Ultra Mega Technóbandið Stefán) finished things off in style, creating chaos on the dance floor with their old school electro feel. Covering MGMT was a good move and got everyone singing and the dance floor quickly became a mass of flailing limbs and pineapples (yes, pineapples…at least one anyway) and there was even some good old fashioned crowd surfing going on. They provided the perfect energy to end the night on a high note and everyone seemed more than satisfied with their high-energy madness.
Their set proved to be one of the best of the evening at Faktorý, and their crazy synth-y sound and high energy on stage combined to create a great atmosphere. They rounded off the night really well and although between them and Lazyblood there were a few duds, the high quality at both ends of the night meant that it didn’t feel like a complete waste of time to be at Faktorý.
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