Categorized | Live Reviews

Festival No. 6, Portmeiron (Sept 4-6, 2015)

Posted on 08 September 2015 by John Haylock

The final festival flurry reaches its climax for 2015 with the technicolour extravagance of Festival number 6, one of the most unusual and original gatherings you could possibly imagine.

Occupying West Wales’s Portmeirion village, which is most famous for being the location of surreal cult TV series The Prisoner, this festival is a riot of colour and architectural splendour.

Eccentric festival types

Eccentric festival types

With a staggering view of the estuary and its golden beaches the site tumbles down to the seashore and during Festival number 6 every piece of landscape is used up for performances of music, situationist strangeness, raves on illuminated lakes and in woodland retreats, where lights and decorative bric-a-brac adorn trees and undergrowth.

You can even have a paddle, a wade or go boarding, you can drink champagne at £95 a bottle and eat fresh lobster whilst Andy Votel and Mark Ronson provide the soundtrack to your evening.

Continuing its eclectic choice of performers there were phenomenal sets from Kate Tempest and the Gypsies of Bohemia in The Central Piazza, as well as the chance to listen to former Fall member (one of many!) Brix Smith being interviewed on the estuary stage.

Even more eccentric festival goers

Even more eccentric festival goers

There was also Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy, whose between song banter is equally as entertaining as his music, and yes he’s still wearing that bloody hat.

The ghost of Joy Division is never far away. Last year saw Peter Hook and The Light play here, the year before that New Order blew the place apart, this weekend saw Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner and the late Ian Curtis’s wife Deborah being interviewed in detail about the gestation of the band and of consequent, tragic events.

On a lighter note the comedian Arthur Smith was on hand to destroy the songs of Leonard Cohen and in the woods we spied The Wedding Present’s David Gedge in the company of Arthur Baker, Stealing Sheep and Andy Weatherall. Unsurprisingly Bez was in the house doing his mad DJ sets, you couldn’t move for kids wearing horse heads and going mental.

Spring King

Spring King

Saturday kicked off with a scintillating set from Spring King, a dynamic punk beast with a beating heart of pop. They looked good, sounded good and by golly made you feel good as they breathed new life into the slightly knackered body of rock ‘n’ roll.

They were followed by the lovable Jane Weaver but the prospect of James playing with the Number 6 Ensemble drew us away to the Town Hall. After an extremely long wait a mere 70 people were allowed in to the small confines of this gorgeous building to witness a perfect match of genteel orchestration and perfectionist pop.

Meanwhile, outside Steve Coogan turned briefly into Pauline Calf and I hit the rum and coke.

Gaz Coombes

Gaz Coombes

Following Steve in the Central Piazza was the performance poet Mike Garry, who has recently recorded a charity single for cancer research ‘St Anthony’ that namechecks the late Tony Wilson. He performed it to a pre-recorded Andy Weatherall/Blue Monday kinda backing track, that went down a treat.

Catfish and the Bottlemen proved to be remarkably popular whereas I thought they were remarkably ‘been there done that’. I then went for a sit down, met the world’s biggest Belle and Sebastian fan then promptly fell asleep.

Bez must have been having a lay down in a darkened room because Craig Charles brought the funk in abundance to the house of rum tent. At 2 am I found myself back on the campsite in the tent next door having Welsh speaking lessons from two bladdered girls who appeared to be the sole members of the Jon Snow appreciation society. I can now say ‘Belle and Sebastian are really twee and get on my tits’ in Welsh.



After the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had in my life (next year I’m having a yurt, I don’t care how much it costs) Sunday whizzes past like a Welsh sheep on a ski slope.

A ceaseless parade of UK natural treasures, namely Gaz Coombes and Black Grape with Shaun Ryder proving he’s lost none of his ebullient gobbyness, start my day. Chilling declamations from Ghostpoet  and intensity writ large with Soak then follow.

Then there was a totally random set on a watchtower overlooking the sea from a Manchester band called Mother who were so cool it hurt my eyes. They had this girl on vocals with the voice of a fallen angel and her band took it beyond folk into outer space.

Let's Eat Grandma

Let’s Eat Grandma

If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise, and so it proved, with an ambivalent and yet slightly crap name Let’s Eat Grandma took to the stage. Two visually arresting young girls, all hair and prettiness, in what looked like ballerina outfits thrown out of Wayne Coyne’s wardrobe, they played keyboards, drums, recorders, guitar and left me thinking I’ve just seen something amazing but I don’t know what or why.

Their songs are poppy with a hint of psychotic brutal murder. They dance, they do a pat-a-cake, they lay down on their backs, they sing, scream and generally are indescribable (this is from a man who can write 456 pages of total bollocks on early seventies prog rock without a full stop.) They have an album out early next year, I think it’s going to go down rather well. Psychotic murderers will love it.

Grace Jones

Grace Jones

How do you top off a weekend of woodland acrobatics, interactive set piece Prisoner scenes, human chess, three hour drum sets, the Brythoniaid Welsh Male Voice Choir doing the most rousing cover version of Uprising by Muse. Well, by giving the headline spot to the legendary Grace Jones, a rare treat indeed. Last year the stellar headliner was Beck, who blew us all away, but Festival number 6 this year belonged to Ms Jones.

Flamboyant is an understatement, she strode the stage like Lady Ga Ga with a bus pass, all glitter and flash, costumes seemingly created by Max Ernst on acid. Her voice was as strong and strident as ever, her band as muscular as the huge male pole dancer who made a lady pleasing appearance stage right. Kicking off with a disciplined Niteclubbing thru to the joyous My Jamaican Guy and diving into the dynamic Private Life she was absolutely amazing.

Fun overload. Next year cancel that week in The Canaries, brush up on your Welsh, I’ll see you in the rum bar, hic!

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes


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