Festival No. 6 newcomer Terri-Anne Baker takes her diary to Portmeirion and finds the most memorable festival experience yet, Getintothis charts her Welsh wonderland voyage of discovery.
Festival No. 6 review tour diary
Being a newbie at No. 6, this writer wasn’t sure what to expect. Arriving late on the Thursday night, excitement was high as we were quickly put on a shuttle bus, belongings in tow.
Then almost immediately we were faced with what could have easily have dampened the party mood when the door to the luggage compartment swung open while in transit. We were blissfully unaware until…BANG! The coach screeched to a halt. As we filtered off the bus to investigate, we discovered that not only had the door come clean off its hinges, but it had floored an unsuspecting electricity pole leaving a string of luggage in the busses wake.
Looking tentatively to our driver, we expected the inevitable long delay, spirits started to descend and collective moans began to rise. However we were quickly ushered back on board and assured by the driver that the luggage would be picked up by the next bus and more importantly there would be no hold up. This was music to our travel weary ears. This no problem, can do attitude was to be a staple from the wonderful folk at No 6 and we quickly discovered that nothing was getting in the way of this being a weekend to remember.
Come Friday morning, we were feeling fresh, rested and raring to go. After a quick glance over the days schedule it was off to Castell Park, the stage that was to be the bread and butter of the day. Tibet are a cute bunch of Indie kids from Cardiff and kicked off proceedings with a formidable set. A trickle of faces turned into a steady flow of smiles and tapping feet as acoustic duo Seafret gifted the audience with a set of pleasant songs delivered with a voice as crisp as the autumn leaves. Ghost Culture warmed up the tent a little more with his unique style of fuzzy electro pop as a warm mood settled over the afternoon heated up by the atmosphere as much as the sun.
Feeling the need for more punch than pop, The Clough Stage pulled us into its orbit with the charmingly insane and wonderfully wacky titanic sound of Titus Monk. A Wales native, Titus Monk’s massive lungs delivered an ensemble of sounds from funk to post-rock. Fast, furious and full of soul, this was a set like no other. Backed by a hoard of musicians and donned in a golden shining full face mask with matching cloak, Titus Monk’s enormous sound was mirrored by a loyal buzzing and bouncing crowd. No-one stood still.
We then found ourselves at the main stage greeted by a sound in complete contrast with Titus Monk; the enchanting Stealing Sheep. An eccentric beautifully sublime and tranquil sound complimented with inventive arty visuals, a sweet desert after that meaty feast of a set.
Fired up it was back to the I Stage for Young Fathers’ typically raucous set which was undoubtedly one of the most enthusiastic performances of the weekend. The mood set and spirits soaring, ready for a stomp we were well and truly ready for Andrew Weatherall who as to be expected did not disappoint, but it was B2B Optimo who stole the show for me packing out the tent with ravers, hands in the air having it large. Not bad for a first night.
We had the pleasure of encountering the ethereal sounds of Jane Weaver on Saturday, who looked simple and stunning in her white kaftan which reflected the purity and angelic quality of her voice, she was supported by a small army of fans. But to be honest we have to admit we were lost in the woods for most of the day. Literally. Lost in the Woods was the name of one of the many stages tucked away in the trees.
The stand out band for us at Badly Drawn Boy’s stage had to be The Walk who had people bopping around. However the psychedelic hobbit hole that was The Dugout Stage became a personal favourite with hosts Audio Farm smashing it, literally every DJ delivered and the stage was in constant party mode. Young and old alike united, throwing shapes in the forest and not a single individual a bit put off by the fact it was daylight or that the music stopped at 8pm. If their very own Audio Farm Festival at beautiful Bangor venue Hendre Hall this weekend wasn’t a sell out before it is sure to be now!
Sunday and feeling slightly more subdued it was all about the Main Stage. Black Grape had the crowd eating out of their hand, with Shaun Ryder being…well…Shaun Ryder. Really struggling to keep it clean. James were a pleasant surprise surpassing my expectations of a band we thought we knew little about, turns out we know more of their songs than we thought. They didn’t do Sit Down, but then that would be far too cliché.
Finally the penultimate act the one and only Grace Jones. We expected nothing less than theatre however it was much more pure carnival. The Jamaican singer (and songwriter and supermodel, no less) was electrifying. Jones was decked out head to toe in body paint, along with and a basque and a golden skull crowned in feathers adding to her tremendous height. Grace’s voice more than matched her outfits as she blasted out well known classics like Pull Up to the Bumper alongside more recent material.
The crowd were in rapture. And what a crowd it was, happily keeping dozens of huge inflatable white orbs bouncing above their heads as her set and the festival drew to a close. Festival No. 6, you certainly know how to create a finale, and if we weren’t that enamoured with Grace Jones before we certainly are now.
But Festival No. 6 is about so much more than the music. Quirky surprises await around every corner in this stunning picturesque setting, it really is as its tag line proclaims ‘a festival like no other’. Art, poetry and performance drench the site. Like the Pony Ladies; statuesque, prancing polo queens armed with a wheel-barrow of horse shaped space hoppers, grabbing unsuspecting festival goers racing them up hills in the village with lines of spectators forming the track cheering on “come on red”.
Troupes of hula hooping girls in the woods tossing their shining rings into the trees and encouraging children and parents alike to join in (Dads were definitely having more fun). Marching bands appear from nowhere, led by a beat boxer in tweed. Their sound supplied by huge speakers transported by bicycles. One beautiful sight etched into our brains was the view from The Lookout, one of the highest points on the site, way up in the hills of at least a hundred people hand in hand snaking around The Central Piazza to the strains of a violin.
This is a festival full of surprises with something for everyone. It is spectacularly well organised without appearing so. Clean and tidy with excellent facilities, grown up, mature but also young, fresh and fun. Through it all, it remains inherently Welsh and incredibly proud of it (rightly so!), with the Welsh language filling the festival. With not a miserable face in sight, this is a proud county and full of patriots. One lady we encountered draped in a fully sequined Welsh flag gown and looked so fantastic that we felt serious dress and country envy!
We could go on for days about the extraordinary Brythoniaid Welsh Male Voice Choir. Their colossal sound soared over the sea of faces that filled The Central Piazza the crowd stood shoulder to shoulder as did the choir, these guys really were the giants of the weekend putting a spin on songs by Elbow and New Order like only The Brythoniaid Welsh Male Voice Choir can. It was a truly magical moment that even the rain that uncharacteristically only made an appearance once couldn’t dampen.
Diversity is key to No. 6’s success. It’s impossible to see everything. We’ve not even touched on the beautiful beachside setting of The Estuary Stage (if only there were more hours in a weekend), and yet this writer still experienced more than we have in several previous festivals rolled into one. How often do you get the chance to hear living legend Irvine Welsh read an extract from his latest novel (although, we must say Justin Robertson’s questions following the reading were a little disappointing. As interesting as it was to hear Welsh’s opinion on Scottish Independence, the underlying feeling was that audience wanted a bit more grit)?
How many festivals have a full sized cinema screen such as that in The Gate House that will screen such films as AMY followed by a Q & A session with Mark Ronson?
Festival No. 6, you have out done yourself and have created something that can’t and won’t be imitated. Long may your reign continue.
Getintothis’ Peter Guy selects his Six from Festival No. 6
Pictures by Getintothis’ Michelle Roberts and Carousel PR.