Festival No.6 feels like it has come of age and turned out to be something its parents can be proud of. All the tickets sold out this year, so there must have been about 10,000 of us. But the organisers made clever use of Clough William-Ellis’ unique holiday resort and so Port Meirion never felt over-full. Indeed,we managed to have a walk around the woods on Sunday morning in splendid isolation bar a troop of coal-tits and a pair of playful squirrels.
The setting certainly makes it and only a tremendous and diverse programme keeps you from just lounging in the sun by the estuary. Festival No.6 is an event to open your mind but relax your soul.
Headliners: Metronomy, Belle & Sebastian, Grace Jones.
Weather: Mostly sunny, with the rain judicioulsy only showing up at night.
Contemperanous events: the Tory government shames Britain by turning their back on refugees fleeing the ravages of war in Syria. Wales on the verge of qualifying for a major football tournament for the first time since 1958.
Utilising the tried and testd markontour methodology, herewith the ratings for Festival No.6 2015, starting at the top:
Kate Tempest (5-star) – An extraordinary set in which Tempest delivered 30-minutes of non-stop, powerful poetry, with only the repetition of the final line delineating the passage from one piece to the next. Her anti-war poem, in which she called for opposition to the men who start wars, not the soldiers who have to fight them, was the crowning glory. (4pm, Central Plaza, Friday)
James (5-star) – A real crowd-rousing set, with the newer songs fitting in impressively alongside classics like ‘Somtimes’ and ‘Come Home’ that got the full-throated chant-along treatment. Yoga seems to work because Tim Booth is in cracking shape & he still has the politics too, gaining a supportive response to an improvised a “Welcome refugees’ chorus. We didn’t wait to see if headlining Grace Jones could match them – no contest. (7.45pm, Stage No.6, Sunday)
Young Fathers – Intense and incredible, with a tremendous chemistry between the three band members. I like the albums but find they need more concentration than I can usually spare to enjoy them fully, so perhaps live performance is the best way to appreciate this inventive band. (8.45pm, i-Stage, Friday)
British Sea Power – By their own standards this wasn’t a stand-out gig, but compared with anything else BSP are always 5 out of 5. Starting with ‘Machineries of Joy’ and without the usual twiggy stage adornments or cinematic backdrop, it was ‘Waving Flags’ and its celebration of welcoming refugees that stood out. (7.15pm, i-Stage, Saturday)
Belle and Sebastian – Jaunty tunes and clever lyrics got the whole crowd dancing, and additional smiles were provided in our section courtesy of the man who shared glasses that turned the spot-lights into love hearts. (9pm, Stage No.6, Saturday)
Ghostpoet – An extraordinary performance, which deserved the ecstatic audience response that seemed to take the singer aback. I am now headingn out to buy everything I can from this edgy, rap-tinged performer, who seems now to have embraced the guitar. (5.45pm, i-Arena, Sunday)
Gypsies of Bohemia – A laid-back set to start proceedings, which nevertheless included a cracking gypsy jazz ‘Seven Nation Army’. (Noon, Central Plaza, Friday)
Rob Auton – Walthamstow’s finest, wearing his new, out-sized Edinburgh festival suit & asking: “Are there are crumbs in heaven?”. “Is Lurpak complimentary?”. Plus the sadder and more sentimental of his poems, including the wonderful one about holding a sign saying “Mum” as he waited to greet his mother from the station. (3pm, Central Plaza, Friday)
Gruff Rhys & Band – playing his soundtrack to ‘Set Fire to the Stars’, but without the spaced-out banter that usually adds an extra element to the SFA front-man’s best shows. (10pm, The Gatehouse, Friday)
Steve Coogan – I think he was repeating someone else’s joke when he said “Yvette Cooper sounds like the kind of car Jeremy Corbyn would have owned in the 1970s”, but it was funny nonetheless. A really engaging audience Q&A had its highlight when one woman posed the perfect Alan Partridge-esque enquiry, “Do you live in a hard or a soft water area?” (6pm, Central Plaza, Saturday)
Brythoniaid Welsh Male Voice Choir – I would come every year just to join in to ‘Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’, but this year’s highlight was a cover of Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This’. (3pm, Central Plaza, Sunday)
A Crushing Glow DJs – a perfect, left-field Sunday morning set as the sun came out over Port Meirion. I now have to find a copy of Gary Ogan and Bill Lamb’s ‘I Want to Live’. (11am, Estuary Stage, Sunday)
Roy Wilkinson’s Nature and Music Quiz – We came second. If only I could have dredged Bert Jansch’s name from my hungover skull we might have one a free pair of tickets to next year’s festival.. (1.15pm, Estuary Stage, Sunday)
The Orielles – A promising trio of shoe-gazing teenagers, who shly thanked us for getting up so early to see them. It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon. (2pm, Tim Peak’s Diner, Friday)
Mark Ronson – There were some great tunes in this DJ set to celebrate the performer’s 40th birthday, ending with a sing-a-long ‘Valerie’.
Chris Difford – An abridged version of the Squeeze-man’s life-story, which can hardly fail given that it includes ‘Labelled With Love’ and ‘Cool for Cats’. I missed the end to go for a high-tide swim in the estuary. (1.35pm, Central Plaza, Saturday)
Blossoms – A very young indie band with swagger and promise, but who used up half the stage-time in the sound-check. (5.15pm, Tim Peak’s Diner, Saturday)
Everything Everything – I’ve clealy missed something as this lot seem to have a dedicated following behind their big hooks, tight sounds and eighties stage outfits. It didn’t quite work for me, but I’ll have another listen. (8.45pm, i-Stage, Saturday)
Black Grape – we only caught the last couple of songs, but Shaun Ryder and Kermit Leveridge were enjoying themselves and so were the crowd.
Badly Drawn Boy – Someone needs to have a bit of a chat with Damon Gough. Fresh from flouncing out of Latitude complaining about his paltry £5,000 fee, here he stumbled through ‘Hour of the Bewilderbeast’, forgetting lyrics and chords, only to stop just when he was getting it right to ask us to listen especially carefully to “one of the greatest example of song-writing of the last two decades”. “Tosser” said my friend and this performance was only saved from total self-indulgence by a three-song closing resurgence in dedication to his much-loved manager, Jazz Summers, who died a few weeks ago.
Here’s what you could have won
It was a perfect festival so I don’t feel that I missed out on anything, but given the special power to be in three places at once I would have liked to catch Gaz Coombes singing from his new solo album, Maxine Peake in conversation with Stuart Maconie, Kevin Allen’s ‘Under Milkwood’, and was intrigued by Duke Garwood, but not enough to risk missing James.