Festival No 6 review: Six things we fell in love with in Portmeirion

A challenging but ultimately triumphant Festival Number 6 took place the past weekend in Portmeirion, Becca Frankland and Jimmy Coultas pluck their highlights from the event.

Mike Warburton

Last updated: 3rd Sep 2018

Image: Festival No.6

Since starting in 2012 (read our review of the inaugural edition), Festival No. 6 has become one of the most treasured events on the British festival circuit. Gloriously eccentric and off-kilter with the rest of the season, it's won praise for its devotion to the Welsh music scene and character laden approach to putting on an event.

This year was no different, and although the weather proved particularly challenging and resulted in consternation for hundreds of people trapped in the conditions as the festival ended, there was plenty to marvel at. We've picked out the things that in particular won our hearts over the weekend. 

The Location

You can't talk about Festival No 6 without mentioning where it takes place. Even the journey there is one of awe, snaking through the wild hills of Snowdonia as woodland, rivers, and beautifully contoured craggy rocks frame your experience getting in.

The village of Portmeirion itself is an absolute delight, offering a fantastic solace from the swelling mud of the main site during the poor weather.  The rich variety of stages the location offers as well were put to good use, with the seafront views of The Estuaray and the shaded charm of The Woodlands all as good as any location to hear music. 

The finest of them all though was The Central Piazza (see it in full glory on the lead pic above), where on Sunday The Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir were at their moving best. There is literally nowhere quite like this for a festival.

Mr Wilson's Second Liners

We stumbled upon the street band collective a few times over the weekend for some impromptu instrumental rave-ups. Each time the nattily dressed octet brought flamboyant big bands of yesteryear bang up to date with chart driven acid house - think Sgt Peppers dragged through a school disco with a megaphone.

Lured in by the sounds of 90s rave classics including Gala's 'Freed From Desire', Livin' Joy's 'Dreamer' and ATB's '9PM (Till I Come)' played on their saxophone, trumpet, banjo, drums and trombone, Mr Wilson's Second Liners started a party wherever they played. Bastille take note - this is how you cover a pop dance classic.

The Castell Deudraeth

Once the sun set the best place to see out the night was Castell Deudraeth, the imposing castle right at the front of the site. Over the three nights we were lucky to catch The 2 Bears tearing the roof off on Friday, Skiddle Mix incumbent Will Tramp turn a crowd of no-one to a heaving throng in no time on Sunday and a masterclass from Bugged Out! throughout all of Saturday evening.

They were responsible for the biggest 'moment' at the Castell, Leon Vynehall delivering absolute pandemonium via Stardust's evergreen 'Music Sounds Better With You', but it was the crunching acid and metallic funk of the rare as you like back to back from Andrew Weatherall and Justin Robertson that saw out the night which was truly special. 


What made it all that little bit better was that away from the dancefloor was a heaving real ale bar providing comfort and warmth from the rain or rave. Night and day it was crammed with a litany of Welsh speaking characters, who were for the main a little older and clearly revelling in the occasion. Further proof of FN6's acute connection to its surroundings.

Roisin Murphy

The dancefloor hasn't been short of resplendent queens over the years. Madonna, Kylie Minogue and plenty more have made a claim to the title, but to these ears it's always been the former Moloko frontwoman and doyen of all things leftfield that has been one of the more deserving recipients.

At FN6 she was in sparkling form, humorously riffing on the weather with a plethora of props and keeping the crowd in the palm of her hand throughout. Although her set owed much to her solo career (2007's 'Overpowered' was a joy from start to finish), it was the rousing rendition of Moloko favourite 'Sing it Back' which drew the biggest cheer of the night, a fitting finale to an absolute masterclass in off-kilter pop perfection.

David Bowie Reimagined

Since Bowie's passing earlier this year, there's been tributes aplenty across the world. From celebratory discos to cinema screenings to art exhibitions, but as expected Festival No.6 went the extra mile in securing something elegant and truly special for the 2016 event.

The Manchester Camarata Orchestra were joined by an all-female cast of singers on the Sunday (Charlotte Church, Jane Weaver, Nadine Shah and Jacqui Abbott) as they put their spin on classics like 'Life On Mars', 'Heroes' and 'Moonage Daydream'.

It was Shah who stole the show with her spine-tingling stage presence, channelling the late singer's spirit with aplomb during an evocative rendition of the more recent and sadly prophetic 'Lazarus'.

Fatima Yamaha

As the weekend petered out on Sunday and the foul weather returned, there was complete solace in the Late Night Pavilion. It came in the form of Dutch production wizard Bas Bron, better known as Fatima Yamaha, who allowed those still braving the wet a chance to soak up electronic music at its most beguiling.

There's many who will know very little beyond last year's resurgent sleeper hit 'What's A Girl To Do?', but this hour performance showcased a brilliant producer utterly at the peak of his powers. Tracks such as 'Love Invaders' and 'Between Worlds' were delivered with boundless enthusiasm, a grinning Bron clearly as moved by the warmth emanating from his synths as those in attendance. 

What started off as a fairly small crowd had swollen considerably by the close of the show, everyone completely bewitched by an hour of utterly majestic sound, not least the melancholy Detroit charm of 'Half Moon Rising'. When he came forward to milk the reaction it was a genuinely touching instance, and the most fitting way to bow out on a spellbinding weekend.

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