Festival No.6 - Portmeirion
Billed as a festival ‘unlike any other, in a place like no other’, the organisers of Festival No.6 certainly set their stall high. Nothing wrong with ambition, you might say, but your reputation can be left in tatters when expectations fall short. In the fickle world of the UK festival scene, you are only ever one bad weekend away from disaster (see The Big Chill). But despite the bad weather that affected Friday and Sunday, Festival No.6 2013 not only delivered on its promises but extended its burgeoning reputation.
You’ve no doubt heard about the picturesque setting of Portmeirion but the superlatives about this place really do bear repeating, particularly in the context of a festival back drop. Somehow, the organisers have linked the Italianate village, the large surrounding woodland and lush fields into one coherent festival location that never makes you feel disconnected from events wherever you are. In particular the Estuary stage, framed by tall, imposing trees and jaw-dropping architecture with an unparalleled vista over golden sands and the estuary of the River Dwyryd, is sublime.
So the location is hard to beat but the accompanying line-up did not let the rest of the festival equation down. There was a good mix of established musical acts in the likes of the Manic Street Preachers, My Bloody Valentine and Chic along with up-and-coming acts like Money (my 6-year-old daughter’s favourites of the weekend) and Outfit. The Welsh-language music was amply served in the Sŵn festival-curated Clough stage and there was plenty of late-night thrills provided by a stellar DJ line-up which on Saturday pitted Frankie Knuckles up against Andy Weatherall (unanimous points verdict to Weatherall in case you’re wondering).
There were also plenty of chances to dance your feet tired during the day as seen by Future Boogie’s pulsating set late on Saturday afternoon at the gorgeous Belvedere Castell Gardens. But it was London Grammar who delivered possibly the performance of the weekend and moment of the weekend with their cover of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. If there is a better outdoor location for London Grammar singer Hannah Reid’s celestial vocals than the coastal scenery of Gwynedd then I can’t think of it. James Blake and his dub-step infused soul ran them pretty close for performance of the weekend with a triumphant set.
The festival also catered very well for families. There was never an excuse for little ones to complain of boredom thanks to numerous workshops, a fabulous woodland trail filled with fantasy and make-believe and – the pièce de résistance– a colourful parade beginning in the central piazza.
Yes, we left the site soggy and, yes, we were flecked with bits of mud. But we were also filled with good memories, joyous hearts and a smile that will no doubt sustain us through the next few weeks. Quite frankly, September 2014 cannot come round quick enough.
Above image of Johnny Marr by Andrew Whitton.