After six glorious seasons, Festival No.6’s North Wales run appears to have come to an end. It’s a musical tragedy because there is no other festival quite like it. Hosted in the bizarre mock-Italianate village of Port Meirion, with the peaks of Snowdonia as a back-drop and a schedule liberally dotted with Welsh acts, including a male voice choir as the top attraction – outshining even superb headline acts like New Order, Noel Gallagher, The Manic Street Preachers, and The Pet Shop Boys, Festival No.6 has had a spirit all of its own.
It would be wrong top say it went out with a bang, although there were a few fireworks to light up the mountains at the end of Franz Ferdinand’s closing set. But the last Festival No.6 stayed true to form and delivered a unique Welsh Rarebit of music, comedy and theatre, with classes in everything from ukelele, to Charleston dancing and paddle-boarding, and four days of chilled out fun.
Thank you to everyone who has made Festival No.6 the annual highlight of markontour’s year and here follows my 2018 review. Be Seeing You in festival heaven one day.
Authors festival credentials: punter
Contemporaneous events: Trump meltdown
Headline acts: Friendly Fires, The The, Franz Ferdinand
Brythoniad Male Voice Choir – seventy-three dinner-suited men with a combined age of 4,500 singing pop songs and Welsh standards in glorious harmony. Their set has been the beating heart of FN6 & this year was no different. ‘A Design For Life’, ‘O Sole Mio’ and ‘One Day Like This’ got the heart thumping, but nothing can beat the rousing finale of the Welsh national anthem, ‘Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’. (Saturday, Central Piazza, 7.30pm)
The Mysterines – at the opposite end of the age scale, the Mysterines are young band with a blistering set, some teenage angst (‘I Just Love to Hate You’) & a lead singer who was born to be a rock star. We’d wandered in to chill out to Nick Drake influenced folk, but thanks to a programme error we got something altogether more exciting. (Friday, Tim Peaks, 4pm)
John Bramwell – mercurially brilliant as usual, laughing like a madman and loving every minute of it, we heard part of the I Am Kloot frontman’s set drifting down to the estuary, where we were paddle-boarding. Back on dry land, the finale was sheer beauty, including gorgeous versions of ‘Proof’ and ‘Northern Skies’ (the intro to which Bramwell revealed is a straight copy of the riff from Elvis’ Caught in a Trap, but as Guy Garvey advised him, “no-one will notice”). (Friday, Central Piazza, 8pm)
A Bard’s Eye View of Wales – a two-person dramatisation of the history of Wales, told through the eyes of generations of bards. We learned that “cwcw” (cuckoo) means “whither” in old Welsh & so the sound of the bird is a signal to remember lost ones; that Elizabeth I spoke Welsh (being a Tudor), & we skipped centuries of Welsh subjugation thanks to the myth of the shepherd who closed his eyes & whistled a tune, only to wake up 400 years later. I missed Rob Auton for this, so it had to be good. (Saturday, Dome Gallery, 1pm)
Hak Baker – mixing reggae, folk & almost-rap, Baker moved from prison ballad, to coming of age recollections, to a raucous legs-akimbo shout-along. A new east-London talent. (Saturday, Grand Pavilion, 4.30pm)
The Everly Pregnant Brothers – Sheffield humorists who are somewhere between Leeds-rival, Mik Artistik, and Half Man Half Biscuit. We were treated to Reggie Sprayed My Car to the tune of Spiders from Mars, Stuck in Lidl With You out of Stuck in the Middle With You, & a sing-along finale of ‘No Oven, No Pie’ to ‘No Woman, No Cry’. Along the way we were invited to chant “They tried to make me go to Barnsley and I said No, No, No”, & encouraged to fight racism. Top notch fun. (Sunday, Central Piazza, 6.15pm)
Luke Wright – he’s become an institution at FN6, but as John Bramwell later reminded us, that’s because his performance poetry is top class. This set included a celebration of hipsterdom, Embrace the Wank, that included the aside “No-one needs a pram that complicated”. (Friday, Central Piazza, 4.30pm)
Hangman – the age-old letter-guessing game turned into belly-ache laughs courtesy of two mime actors with extraordinarily expressive faces. (Friday, Central Piazza, 5.45pm)
Stephen Morris, Mike Joyce and Pete Marshall – a celebration of drumming with three insightful & witty masters of the art. Morris treated us to the low-down of creating the beat to ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, a process made so physically & mentally painful by producer, Martin Hannet, that he almost never plays the album version live. Mike Joyce confirmed that The Smiths won’t reform even for £26 million and revealed that Morrissey encouraged drumming excess, but Johnny Marr liked simplicity. (Friday, Central Piazza, 6pm)
Jeremy Deller & Adrian Street – a film about a wrestler who dresses as a drag-queen could have been prurient, but Jeremy Deller’s direction instead brought out the human warmth. Weird but wonderful. (Saturday, The Gatehouse, 6.40pm)
Band Pres Llareggub – I can’t beat what the programme said: “Bronx hip-hop inspired New Orleans-tinged North Walian brass band with attitude.” (Saturday, Tim Peaks, midnight)
Jared Christmas – when the compere is funnier than the performers. This New Zealander had every other nationality in his sights as he created a multi-lingual countdown to a fat-bloke backwards roll and belly flop. You had to be there. (Saturday, The Gatehouse, 2pm)
Karaoke Hip-Hop – raucous on-stage rap karaoke whilst sheltering from the rain. (Saturday, Castell Gardens, 3pm)
Uke Can Do It – 43 novice ukelele players, including markontour & friends, performing made up nonsense to a crowd that had nothing better to do. Great fun. (Sunday, 11.50am, Central Piazza)
Anna Calvi – a captivating performance devoid of chit-chat in favour of jagged guitars & a voice that can go from a roar to a whisper without losing intensity. I don’t think I’m going to go out and buy her albums, but I’ll be at the front of the queue for more live shows. (Sunday, Grand Pavilion, 8.30pm)
Franz Ferdinand – a real headline performance, reminding us how many of their songs were designed to be chanted along to in a big field, the sodden ground of which Alex Kapranos got us kneeling to touch to say goodbye to FN6. (Sunday, Stage No.6, 9.45pm)
And the best of the rest
It is markontour’s general rule not to review things I didn’t enjoy but Desert Island Books was so up its own backside it deserves a special, awful mention. My cousin and I escaped to play ukelele, but our friends remained trapped, slowly dying as the pretensions spewed forth. Elsewhere, Andrew Weatherall put on some blissed out tunes as we made new friends in the Sundayt sun came by the Stoneboat; The The’s monotone didn’t quite work when we needed a fillip in the rain on the main stage, but Niamh Rowe, Average Sex and White Room at Tim Peaks proved worthy of further investigation, while I was sad to have missed Django Django, Gaz Coombes, Baxter Dury and Vulpes Urbana,