Ah – the last festival of the season, for markontour at least, and there couldn’t be a better conclusion than Festival No.6. This year’s festival was slimmed down a little and was all the better for it. The Port Meirion setting is so exquisite – Clough William Ellis’ faux Italian village, nestled between the mountains of Snowdonia and the Irish sea – it needs a little space to be enjoyed properly. Some of my favourite moments this year included sunrise over the beach as the estuary tide powered in, wandering around the woods trying to find the Ghost Gardens, and finishing the festival on a moon-lit Stone Boat. You don’t get so many of those moments with 20,000 people knocking around.
The usual markontour rules apply to the following reviews: all scores are those made in the moment and unadulterated by post-event refelction; the aim is to remind myself what I saw in years to come, as much as anything else.
Band Pres Llareggub Brass Band, Tim Peaks, Friday 11pm
Day one highlights seem to have been all about covers band and the Llareggub Brass Band delivered the best of the lot, with raucous renditions to a packed crowd that was ready both to dance and belt out the lyrics, including to ‘Purple Rain’, ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ and ‘Beat It’.
Howling Rhythm & The Howling Horns, Tim Peaks, Friday midnight
The bar was a scene of devestation at the end, as the horn-section-enhanced DJ set induced euphoric table-top dancing until said furniture collapsed.
Public Service Broadcasting, Grand Pavilion, Sunday 6pm
The undisputed highlight of the weekend and now clearly a band in their prime. Mixing a stunning video show with a beefed up band and even inducing a little crowd participation, how things have moved on from early gigs when a 1950s television was the only prop and communicating with the audience was via computer generated messages (they still do a few of those to be honest).
Gypsies of Bohemia, Central Piazza, Friday 7.35pm
They are a bit of an institution at FN6 and although I’ve seen their set many times before it has to be said that they were on fire this year. Stand out moments in their gypsy jazz covers set included House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’, Backstreet Boys (you can’t expect me to know the name of the song), and mixing in a bit of Nirvana to The Prodigy’s ‘Out of Space’.
Brythoniad Male Voice Choir, Central Piazza, Friday 8.15pm
Port Meirion wouldn’t be the same without them. Sixty-odd soaring voices belting out Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This’ nearly induced tears, but nothing beats joining a Welsh choir singing ‘Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’.
Sweet Baboo, Lost in the Woods, Saturday 4.30pm
Lovely tunes with quirky themes – a campervan trip in Northumberland, badminton boasts etc – and funny inter-song banter, especially the chat about the benefits of living equidistant between two Maplins (electronics shop) in Cardiff.
Charlotte Church, Grand Pavilion, Saturday 6.45pm
A storming covers set during which Charlotte Church’s extraordinary voice embraced both Beyonce and Rage Against The Machine. “I’m sorry, my loves” she purred at the end to a crowd chanting for more, “this is our last song, then we’re coming out to party with you.” Top banana.
Jagwar Ma, Grand Pavilion, Saturday 7pm
Wow! Matching the joy and intensity of last year’s Crows Nest gig at Glastonbury, Jagwar Ma are a storming live band.
Simon Aldred, Gatehouse, Sunday 3.50pm
Sadly now devoting most of his energy to writing songs for other people (Rag ‘n’ Bone Man included), it was a rare privilege to see an admittedly rusty Aldred perform some of his Cherry Ghost highlights, along with a bit of chat. ‘Sacramento’, we learned, is an imagined correspondence between Raymond Carver and his wife. He wasn’t quite as good later on the Piazza with an orchestra.
Flyte, Stage No.6, Friday 2pm
Beautfiful harmonies in the sunshine from a band who thought their audience were mostly English Literature students.
Northern Soul Dance Class, Tim Peaks, Friday 1pm
Markontour is always going to be at the bottom of any dance class – the sort of student that gets ‘A’ for effort and ‘E’ for attainment. But this was fun & I might even remember the move with the L-shape, as well as pride about not falling over on the spins.
Rob Auton, Central Piazza, Saturday 1.15pm
Formerly Walthamstow’s leading performance poet (now priced out to Leyton), Auton interlaces one-liners and comic poems with moments of real poignancy. Did the right thing in conceding to crowd demands for a repeat rendition of ‘My Room’s Maroon’ (possibly not the real title). Have a look on his website – great poems about Glastonbury.
Cabbage, Grand Pavilion, Saturday 5pm
Full of angry energy, political message and blistering tunes. I like ’em.
Trojan Records, Castell Gardens, Saturday 6pm
Top ska and reggae dancing tunes.
James Veitch, Gatehouse, Saturday 7.50pm
Clever comedy from a nerdy bloke who likes to fool the ‘tinterweb spammers.
Henning Wehn, Gatehouse, Saturday 8.25pm
Mostly gently making jokes at the expense of his British audience, the German Comedy Ambassador was at his best when railing at being called an immigrant: “15 years I bin here and last I looked an immigrant is someone who leaves their homeland to go somewhere that’s actually better”.
What Mr Kite Taught The Beatles, No.6 Academy, Sunday 11am
A proper musicology lesson with Prof. Chris Collins, in which we learned that Sgt Peppers started out as a homage to the Beatles’ childhood, but ended up an attempt to recreate the thrill of the circus, with a bit of the Magic Roundabout thrown in. The swirling organ sound was apparently contrived by randomly stitching together tape of various classical organ recitals.
Plu, Lost in the Woods, Sunday 1.15pm
Lovely sisterly harmonies, mostly self-penned in Welsh, excepting a stunning cover of Black Keys’ ‘Everlasting Light’
Bob Delyn a’r Ebillion, Lost in the Woods, Sunday 2pm
Raucous stuff from a Welsh supergropu that channel the spirit of The Levellers, complete with fall-down drunk hangers-on madly swirling tree branches. They did a cracking Beatles sort-of-medley and got us all bopping in the rain.
Nicky Mulvey, Stage No.6, Sunday 4pm
A happy performer, mixing Asian beats with dreamy folk and beautiful melodies. Perfect for Sunday afternoon.
Professor Tim O’Brien, Tim Peaks, Sunday 5.30pm
Charting the success of the Voyager probes, one of which is carrying a golden disc to introduce aliens to Earth, although inexplicabley the only pop song included was Johnny B. Goode. Oh, and apparently we’re all happily walking about emitting our own personal radio waves..
Mogwai, Stage No.6, Friday, 9.30pm
They make a beautiful sound and I enjoy having them on in the background when working, but I have yet to understand why so many people whose musical opinion I otherwise follow get so worked up about the Scots instrumentalists.
Calfari, Wood Cutters, Saturday 3pm
David Gray-esque melodies on guitar, with a checked shirt and red dragon emblazoned acoustic.
Salena Godden, Central Piazza, Saturday 1.45pm
Arresting feminist poet. Not quite as powerful a performance as when we saw her at Port Eliot.
Jarvis Cocker and friends, Castell Gardens, Saturday midnight
I feel a traitor for criticising anything the wonderful Jarvis does, but a never-ending pounding bass-line was not what markontour was looking for.