It would be easy to be swayed by the fact that Festival No.6 keeps winning awards or intoxicated by the sheer beauty of the area, the views of the estuary and the fairy-tale nature of the setting: the mock Italian village of Portmeirion. However, it can be justifiably argued that 2014 did not sport as mouth-watering a line-up as last year, despite plenty to interest even the most well-versed music fanatic.
Of the big players, Bonobo excelled, rousing an eager crowd to boiling point with requisite rising brass, superbly crafted electronic beats and velvet vocals from new collaborator Szjerdine. Jon Hopkins mesmerised a packed i Stage with the layering tease of ‘Open Eye Signal’ and a heart-stopping progressive bass composition.
A particular highlight were the (ex BBC) Radiophonic Workshop. Relative newcomers to live performance, they gave a fascinated audience a taste of early synthesised British music that served to inspire a sense of fear and wonder, despite the vintage of some of the compositions and indeed the academic soundsmiths behind them.
“It’s about having the chance to rave the afternoon away at a secluded woodland stage in what feels like your own private party”
Patrick Wolf, in contrast, disappointed despite his talent, halting songs half way through and forgetting lyrics due to an obvious lack of practice, seemingly due to a frankly unprofessional attitude to his art. Luckily this was not to be repeated by consummate professional Nenneh Cherry who powered through her set with almost aggressive enthusiasm despite admitting having felt fluey on the drive up. Time to take note Mr Wolf.
Of lesser-known acts, blues-rock duo ‘Walk’ impressed, rocking a woodland stage in the vein of the Black Keys or, maybe more accurately, Hanni el Khatib, driving an early afternoon mob to flatten the leaf litter. Also worthy of mention was Welsh wonder R Seiliog, drenching the Estuary stage in raw, old-fashioned distortion and chunky riffs, rolling as much as rocking, delighting another enthralled crowd.
Yet these performances, among others, however awe-inspiring, did not make this festival what it is. We must take account of the idyllic mountainous surroundings, the welcoming nature of the people who have chosen this particular festival to attend; the careful, considered orchestration of such consistently high quality ingredients that means each and every attendee can create their own experience. This is the only festival where you can choose between the solitary field that gives the event any semblance of a normal British festival or to explore the village, woods or estuary and engage with a myriad of fringe events.
It’s about having the opportunity to get involved, to dress up and parade as part of the carnival or the chance to rave the afternoon away at a secluded woodland stage with all your friends at what feels like your own private party that really makes Festival No. 6 that extra bit special. Its broad appeal is the product of the open-minded attitude that prevails in Portmeirion and the result is genuinely eclectic, generally unpretentious and seemingly impossible not to enjoy.
All pictures courtesy of Festival No.6