Festival Number 6 is a unique and wonderful festival held in the stunning Portmeirion in North Wales (the setting for The Village in the 1960s cult TV programme The Prisoner). Last weekend saw the festival celebrate its fourth year and arguably its biggest yet, with weekend tickets selling out and Grace Jones playing on the final night.
This was my first festival, and to be honest, I don’t think I could have asked for anything better. Festival Number 6 is random, unexpected, eccentric and utterly charming. I think 2014 headliner Beck summed it up perfectly when he called it ‘the coolest, most surrealist, funkiest, freakiest, best festival in the world…’
There is so much I could mention in this post on the highlights of the weekend, from a floating dance-floor to an illuminated drumming troupe and everything in between. However, as this is a music blog I am going to discuss my musical highlights of the weekend.
The first act I saw the whole weekend, and the one I was most excited (ahem, desperate) to see was Shura. Known for her 80s inspired synth pop I was excited to see how her electro style would transfer to the live sphere and she certainly did not disappoint. Having gained a serious online following with tracks such as ‘Touch’, there is a lot of buzz surrounding Shura and, as a huge fan of her work, I was so happy to discover that she is worth the hype. Her performance was slick and tight as she smoothly transitioned between her well-known tracks such as ‘Indecision’ and new material. Her cover of Fine Young Cannibals’ ‘She Drives Me Crazy’ was superb, epitomising her 80s influences but also how she has brought these influences into the modern day in her own unique way. Finishing on my favourite track of the year, ‘White Light’, an already fantastic song was brought to a whole new existential level. I absolutely loved it and did not want it to end.
A few hours later, Kate Tempest played to a packed out tent of one of the most mismatched crowds I saw at the whole festival. From eager hipster teenagers, to young professionals and men in their 50s and 60s, Tempest certainly drew a varied crowd. Admittedly, I am not too familiar with her music but as soon as she came on stage I found her absolutely entrancing. Her words really got under your skin: ‘One man’s flash of lightning ripping through the air/Is another’s passing glare’ and she really was magnetic.
Another band I was really excited to see at the festival were Everything Everything. Playing their last UK festival, they seemed very appreciative of the great crowd in the iStage tent and played to this their full advantage, inviting us to join in with many choruses. The atmosphere was electric, especially when the crowd may as well have erupted when ‘Distant Past’ came on (seriously, that song is insane live). The new material from the incredible ‘Get To Heaven’ sounded fantastic, ‘Fortune 500’ in particular making an impact in its chilling beauty. It was an absolute privilege to hear so many tracks from this wonderful album live.
Moving onto headliners, Friday night’s headliners Metronomy were slick, fun and got everyone dancing, whether you knew their music or not. Their in sync outfits and dancing made it even more enjoyable as they brought their quirky new wave pop to the main stage. Announcing it would their last show for a while, I felt very lucky to have witnessed their unique blend of 70s sounding joyful indie-electronic pop.
Saturday night saw Belle and Sebastian headlining the main stage and while I heard some audience members arguing they were too mellow or inappropriate for a Saturday night, I felt they were a perfect match for the festival. Their charming indie pop appeals to all generations and with beautiful visuals and members of the audience being invited onto the stage near the end, it was impossible to not be enchanted by the band’s performance.
However, Sunday night’s headliner truly eclipsed Metronomy and Belle and Sebastian in terms of legend status and pure spectacle. Grace Jones provided the perfect finale to an incredible weekend with her blend of star power, with a costume change for each song of course, and selection of hits. Chatting to the crowd while offstage changing outfits, you really felt like you were in the presence of musical royalty. When she teased that she did not want to go home and asked ‘is there a curfew?’, the audience shouted ‘no!’ and you could tell that they meant it. As I was watching her I found it hard to believe that she is 67 years old as she kicked on beat in her huge heels and hula hooped through the entirety of ‘Slave to the Rhythm’. The final explosions of confetti and pyrotechnics cemented this performance as one I will never forget.
These musical highlights of the festival were truly wonderful, but it was the variety of music wherever you went, whether it was a DJ in the woods or a random band singing on the piazza about Condoleeza Rice (I’m not even joking), that made the weekend so special for me. I can’t wait to go back again. Festival Number 6, be seeing you.