Festival No. 6, Portmeirion, Gwynedd, North Wales
Monday 17 September 2012
Named after the 'not quite demobbed spy' character portrayed by Patrick McGoohan in the cult sixties TV series The Prisoner and held in and around The Village he could never escape from, Festival No. 6 lived up to expectations with crowd-pleasing sets by über indie acts Spiritualized and Primal Scream, appearances by and some of the brightest up and coming UK talent – Beth Jeans Houghton's red and black polka dot ensemble stood out as much her anti-folk – on the I stage and a dizzying array of art performances – Osadia's irresistible combination of street theatre and, ahem, hairdressing – in a variety of magical settings.
Lovingly designed by the architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion formed not just a stunning backdrop to myriad activities but became an integral part of them, its trompe l'oeil features surprising and delighting the 7000+ who attended this inaugural event. The reenactments of iconic moments from the series – The Human Chess game from the Checkmate episode, the Dance Of The Dead procession, the Free For All election parade – organised by the Six of One society punctuated the three days while the Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir sent a nightly shivers down the spine with their stunning rendition of New Order's 'Blue Monday', emphasizing the nautical references befitting the estuary location.
I did indeed walk down to the beach to catch the beguiling madrigals of Stealing Sheep – who even managed to conjure up a rainbow on Saturday afternoon – and the motorik, hypnotic TOY, another Heavenly highlight. The Friday bill in the Alfresco Ballroom cleverly bridged the generation gap with the psych-folk of Meic Stevens and his natural heirs Gruff Rhys and Euros Childs as well as Cate Le Bon, all performing in Welsh.
The Central Piazza audience lounging in deckchairs joined BBC 6music presenter Stuart Maconie's fits of giggles while he interviewed Independent columnist Grace Dent and Elbow frontman Guy Garvey whose partner Emma Jane Unsworth read an hilarious excerpt from The Rogue, her second novel, that drew howls of recognition from the rowdier element.
The organisers also hit a bullseye with the inclusion of three acts whose Mercury nominations were announced last week: Jessie Ware, whose cover of the soul standard 'What You Won't Do For Love' matched the brilliance of her yearning signature song 'Wildest Moments', the twisting and turning Field Music, and Richard Hawley who seemed to be channelling his inner Jim Morrison as he ended his contrasting set with the apposite 'Down In The Woods'.
At times, the transcendental Death In Vegas and DJs like Andy Votel made Festival No. 6 feel like a British answer to Barcelona's Sonar, with the added bonus of the most bijou location of any music event I've ever attended.
By Sunday night, after the afternoon rain cleared, as the reinvigorated New Order – resplendent in their Prisoner blazers [and cape for keyboardist Gillian Gilbert] – added 'I Am Not A Number, I'm A Free Man' samples to their electro tour de force '586', everyone wished Festival No. 6 Many Happy Returns. Be seeing you!
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