Festival No.6 2013 was a rather unique festival experience, not least because rather than camping in a damp tent, we were comfortably ensconced in a guest house overlooking the Central Plaza where the Brythoniaid Welsh Male Voice Choir sang nightly. But more than that, the Port Meirion setting is so special as to be worth the ticket price even without the music.
First there is Clough William-Ellis’ extraordinary Italianate village itself, which is every bit as bizarre as the 1960’s tv drama, The Prisioner, with which it is now inextricably linked. Then there are the views of the beautiful Dwyryd estuary to the west and the Snowdonian peaks to the east. Finally, festival-goers have the chance to wander around a magical little Welsh wood between performances, and I even managed a morning dip in the outdoor pool by the Estuary Stage.
As a result, unlike any other music weekender I have ever enjoyed, I came home from No.6 feeling relaxed and refreshed rather than just happily exhausted!
- Headline acts: James Blake; My Bloody Valentine; Manic Street Preachers
- Weather: Mostly cloudy with one day of half-hearted Welsh rain
- Contemporaneous events: A last minute Russian deal averts the US/French bombing of Syria
- Author’s festival credentials: Punter with Liz, Jane (my sister), Cousin Lis, Alex and Clare
See ‘Festival Anthology Explained‘ for an explanation of my scoring system
- Chic ft. Nile Rodgers (5-star) – hit after unbelievable hit. Rodgers felt compelled to tell the audience “we’re not a covers band” and he got an ecstatic response for each performance of the extraordinary songs he has penned, particularly a stunning version of ‘Let’s Dance’ with the band’s drummer standing in for David Bowie on vocal duties. [7.30pm Sunday, Stage No.6]
- Y Brythoniaid (5-star) – a storming Welsh Male Voice choir, who started with a traditional ‘Men of Harlech’ but then revealed a taste for indie covers. [8.45pm Friday, Central Plaza]
- Neon Neon (5-star) – a fizzing, enthralling blast of Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip’s tribute to Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, who inherited a fortune in post-war Italy but was converted to communism by the family gardener, became a mate of Fidel Castro, and launched the publishing house that brought Dr Zhivago to the world. [6pm Friday, Stage No.6)
- Luke Wright – the Aisle 16 performance poet treated us to renditions including ‘Jean-Claude Gendearme’, ‘Weekday Dad’, and ‘A shed of one’s own’. It’s just a pity that either he didn’t do his ode to fictional Norfolk antiques dealer, Lovejoy, or else we missed it while stuck in the beer queue. [4pm Friday, Estuary Stage]
- London Grammar – a ‘must see’ for my sister, Jane, and I’m glad I followed her. Singer Hannah Reid has an awesome voice and there were one or two stand out tracks that suggest a lot of promise. Extra points for having formed at my old university of Nottingham. [4pm Saturday, Stage No.6]
- Tim Burgess – his own special guest to an audience of 40 very luck people crammed into Tim Peak’s Diner. His set that made me go out and buy his fantastic solo album. Included a wonderfully slowed down version of ‘The Only One I Know’ from his Charlatans days. [2.30pm Sunday, Tim Peak’s Diner]
- Sweet Babboo – lovely heart-warming Welsh stuff in the mould of Belle and Sebastian, complete with anecdotes about making a tape of Paul McCartney’s ‘Pipes of Peace’ and paying to see Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee. Just the kind of thing you hope to stumble across on a forest stage. [1pm Saturday, Lost in the Woods]
- Cowbois Rhos Botwnog – they really didn’t need to do anything except turn up with a name like that, but actually managed to deliver country-rock joy tinged with a bit of Gorkys (minus Euros Childs’ jokes and stage presence). [5.15pm Friday, Clough Stage]
- Swica Carnival – I don’t quite remember this as a 4/5 but clearly the drumming did it for me at the time. [12.30 Friday, Central Plaza]
- Clinic – ‘Joy Division dressed as doctors’ is what I scribbled in my programme..[8pm Friday. Estuary Stage]
- Finisterre – I must have seen Saint Etienne’s ode to London twenty times and it’s still wonderful. [Noon Saturday, Pormeirion Screening Room]
- The Leisure Society – the only reason they don’t get five stars is that they were so amazingly brilliant at Latitude that this performance slightly suffered in comparison. Ukelele heaven. [5pm Saturday, I-Stage]
- Cherry Ghost – a genuine surprise as all we knew in advance was that they gained a performance on ‘Later with Jools’ before even releasing an album. [7.15pm Saturday, Town Hall]
- Caitlin Rose – Nashville’s finest and she’s always wonderful. I can’t remember why I didn’t give her 5/5. A lovely moment when we all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Eli the bass player, and a great cover by someone I think she called Jim Croce. [8.30pm Saturday, Estuary Stage]
- Norman Jay – I was left to go out on my own to this post-gig DJ set, as the rest of my lot opted for an early night. Great tunes and unusual moment when crowd-power persuaded Notting Hill Carnival’s finest to play a mix of ‘Tainted Love’ twice. [11.30pm Saturday, I-Stage]
- Musical Bingo – A success even though I didn’t come even close to winning, albeit partly due to my strategy of only crossing off the tunes I liked. [Noon Sunday, Tim Peak’s Diner]
- Bob Stanley – a lovely and engaging afternoon interview with the St Etienne song-writer about his fantastic new history of pop, ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’ (about which more another time). Drew gasps for casually admitting that he doesn’t like The Clash. [4.45pm Sunday Hotel Port Meirion – moved from the Estuary Stage due to weather]
- Johnny Marr – it wasn’t just the liberal smattering of Smiths classics that made this a great show – his solo stuff is really good. [6pm Sunday, Stage No.6]
- Manic Street Preachers – the impact of this triumphant Welsh headline performance was slightly muffled by the brilliance of the Nile Rodgers’ show that preceeded it, but songs from the new album sounded great and James Dean Bradfield belted out the back-catalogue from an opening ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ to a closing ‘A Design for Life’. I really should have given them an extra point for the prominent Welsh flags. [9.30pm Sunday, Stage No.6]
- Matt Sewell – entertaining the crowd between performances with his unique brand of ornithological painting. [Sunday, outside Tim Peak’s Diner]
- Bird – all my note says is “goth”. [1pm Friday, Lost in the Woods Stage]
- Radiophonic Workshop – interesting set based on radio theme tunes, all of which I think were written or originally performed by the band, including the Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy.
- Tricky – I love Maxinquaye and have fantastic memories of seeing him in Sheffield with Liz a decade ago, but this didn’t do it for me and we nipped out for food.