Festival Review // Festival No. 6

by TomKinney
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on 10 September 2015 in Features

Photography: Andrew Whitton

Still in only its fourth year, Festival No. 6 has already positioned itself near the summit of boutique music festivals in the country. The main allure of this festival is its extraordinary setting, Portmeirion. This outlandish Italian-styled village, located in the heart of North Wales, was the setting for the cult 1960s TV show The Prisoner and this is where the festival takes its name from – the main character was only ever referred to as Number 6. The festival constantly makes use of this spectacular setting, weaving itself effortlessly into the village.

A big draw of this festival is the unbelievable variety of artists just a small walk away from each other. Popping into the Clough Stage, a stage largely devoted to Welsh performers, we were lucky enough to catch the end of Band Pres Llareggub, a hip-hop inspired brass band featuring an M.C. who rapped in Welsh. Over in the i Stage, Spring King offered up a wonderfully loud and raucous set before Hooton Tennis Club give a surprisingly mature set for such a new band, balancing quietly emotional tracks like 'Jasper' with the pure pop of numbers such as 'Powerful Pierre'. Another rising band from the Wirral, The Sundowners, also impressed on the Clough Stage with a lively performance packed with genuine charm.

Saturday mainstage headliners Belle and Sebastian gave a joyous performance to an unfortunately rather static crowd. The set started with a couple too many tracks from their current album but came alive when they began to cherry-pick from almost two decades worth of material. Frontman Stuart Murdoch sat on the barrier to the crowd to serenade them with the gorgeous 'Piazza New York Catcher' but it was 'The Boy with the Arab Strap' that made the crowd finally wake up and witness a performance filled with warmth and happiness. Stuart Murdoch ordered dozens of fans onto the stage to dance along, much to the dismay of the security staff but to the delight of those lucky enough to vault the barrier and dance with their heroes. They finished their encore with the fantastic 'Me and the Major', a request from someone in the crowd that Stuart gleefully accepted.

The festival made the slightly odd choice for the proceedings on the main stage to begin quite late in the day – 4pm on the Saturday. The main stage is backdropped by the stunning mountains of Snowdonia and it’s a shame that on a delightful Saturday afternoon the crowd had to gather under the tarpaulins of the i Stage and the Clough stage tents rather than bask in the rare North Wales sunshine on the grassy verges overlooking the main stage. Saturday night provided a tough choice for the drunk and dancey as old timer DJ Harvey and his blend of ethereal, cosmic house clashed with festival favourite Craig Charles’ funk and soul set.

One of the best things to do at Festival No. 6 is explore. Down one little side path appears a tiny raised stage with a sumptuous view of the estuary which cradles Portmeirion village. Down another you arrive in the woods – a huge, sprawling forest, littered with stages such as the Village Limits. If you’re lucky enough to find this stage then you are greeted by a floating dance floor in a beautiful lilypad strewn pond.

It wasn’t just the music on show that made Festival No. 6 stand out. There were opportunities to hear from Steve Coogan, Irvine Welsh and Maxine Peake as well as a Q & A with Mark Ronson and director Asif Kapadia before a screening of the remarkable Amy. On offer during the day was the wonderfully fun Gospeloke, which gave audience members the opportunity to do karaoke with backing from a professional gospel choir. The festival never forgets its location with opportunities to learn Welsh during the day and stalls selling local produce, including one fantastic fruit stand with the remarkable ability to cure hangovers...

Undoubtedly the highlight of the weekend is the Brythoniad Welsh Male Voice Choir who give both an afternoon and an evening performance over the course of the weekend. Performing in the ludicrously picturesque central piazza, this local choir drew as big a crowd as anyone all weekend with people perched precariously on walls in an effort to catch a glimpse of the 50 man choir. Their set combined hymns, Welsh anthems, and covers of pop songs, providing huge emotional variety. The crowd chuckled and clapped along to their wonderfully clever cover of Muse’s 'Uprising' before being brought close to tears in a multilingual rendition of 'How Great Thou Art'.

This is a festival like no other in the country, presenting a tremendous line-up in the staggering Portmeirion village whilst never forgetting the debt it pays to this stunning location.


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