Festival No 6 2017 @ Portmeirion, Wales, 07-10/09/2017

Festival No 6 2017Tucked away in a rural corner of North Wales, Festival No 6 2017 caters to the intrepid explorer in a way that no other music festival in the UK can. Despite the distance from the nearest transport hub (one hour away, in Bangor) and its tendency to get very, very muddy, this four-night long spectacle offers all the trimmings, including luxury camping, wooden walk ways, and exclusive access to the almost fairytale town of Portmeirion. This year organisers have upped their game further following criticism of bad management in 2016. As a result, we've been promised everything from semi-permanent showers and toilets to an on-site spa that will wash away weather blues quicker than you can say "I should have brought my wellies."

That said, we really should have brought our wellies. After an 8-hour journey with festival partners Virgin Trains, we begrudgingly accept the skies aren't going to break the stereotype, as rain begins to steadily fall on the site. Over the weekend we'll witness attendees kitted out in everything they can to avoid the mud. Those who have - like us - arrived in comfortable walking boots will still have to deal with lethal and even submerged walk ways. Still, it's nothing hardy British music fans can't handle.

The shuttle to Festival No 6 2017 comes with its own hurdles. The bus driver responds to requests to go to the toilet with a menacing bark and there's no 'party' atmosphere as promised in the promotion, even though it's 8:30pm and we could all do with a psychological boost. When we get to the festival site, the driver almost refuses to unload our luggage from the boot. It takes a verbal argument to obtain our belongings, which is always a great start to any weekend. On the reserve, the customer service in the Boutique area is impeccable. Although it comes with a whopping price tag of £500+, Festival No 6 2017 certainly knows how to camp in style. We end our long day with a wander through to the Village Green area, which is packed full of food stalls and the one functioning music tent for Thursday evening, before we retire in anticipation of the next day.

On Friday, we wake to torrential rain hammering down the tent walls, and a slug climbing slowly up my friend's air mattress. At this point a luxury spa experience is very much in order, so we head towards Portmeirion proper and are taken aback to find the tourist attraction-cum-proper functioning town in full swing. The cafes are open, the postman is singing, and there's already a huge queue for a guided tour around the Town Hall. As we bask in the glory of a wood-fueled hot tub, the weather quickly turns into some unscheduled sunshine that lasts most of the day - ultimately ensuring Friday is a success.

We've yet to mention any music, and there's a reason for that. For all of its attractions, sometimes performances can take a backseat at Festival No 6 2017. The first full set of few we see on Friday is from Honeyblood, who draw a large crowd to the second stage and have the presence of a band playing much later in the day. Technically perfect and with decent sound to boot, the Glaswegian duo gallop through a half hour gig that barely touches the sides - rivaling a previous performance from Manchester punks PINS, whose set we narrowly catch thanks to totally underestimating how long it takes to trudge through one mile of mud.

Hunting for more music and not convinced by the blasé singer songwriter affair coming from the main stage, we casually amble towards the food stalls, only to be welcomed by the familiar and nearby sound of Natalie McCool performing at the Twin Peaks bar. Playing an hour before she's due and having not been included in the printed programme, it's a shame the Liverpool alt pop artist doesn't attract the sort of crowd her music demands... A shame for everyone else, that is, because McCool turns out to be a highlight of the whole festival. Blasting through songs from her much-loved debut, The Great Unknown, we only leave to catch a glimpse of Kate Tempest who's performing back on the second stage. Mogwai hog the main arena, but Kate's gig in the tent clearly appeals to the majority: most people flood towards the sound of her poetic rambling. As confrontational and in your face as ever, her set ends a whirlwind tour of four fantastic female acts playing a Festival No 6 2017.

Unfortunately, on Saturday, the need to dart around the huge festival site to see various acts aligns with the worst weather we've seen all year. Cowering in our Virgin Trains tent throughout the morning, we eventually emerge to see Black Honey perform a lacklustre and tired set that's not in keeping with other experiences of the band. Leave it to Jagwar Ma to pull the crowd from its weather-induced slumber, with a phenomenal performance that begs the question: why do more people not pay this band attention? Everybody in the crowd gets involved as toddlers and well-dressed middle class ladies alike cram into the tent, which is well over capacity come the end.

Maybe it's the overpriced cider, maybe it's the echo of Jagwar Ma in our ears, but the festival experience is uplifted for Saturday evening. Headliners Bloc Party have been circled and underlined in our programme, but first James Vincent McMorrow impresses with a set that warms toes and leaves everyone smiling. Finally, the Hymns four-piece emerge to embody their (gulp) 18-year-strong career - plus a cover of Pixies for good measure. Proving they still have what it takes to headline a 30,000 capacity festival, Okereke et al bob around the stage as acrobats, aided by giant, glow in the dark balloons, take flight overhead. It's not the finale - that's reserved for The Flaming Lips on Sunday, a performance we sadly have to miss - but it certainly rounds off our weekend with a bang.

Festival No 6 2017 is a funny animal. On the one hand, it's extremely middle class, which is reflected in the price of everything from the cost of food and drink, to the fact there's a 'beauty tent' including hair dryers and straighteners around every corner. On the other hand, it manages to capture the charm and independence of a smaller festival perfectly, and the variety of entertainment on offer is outstanding. We leave the site unsure of whether we'll attend again - the travel has been nightmarish - but satisfied with the experience nonetheless.


2 Responses to “Festival No 6 2017 @ Portmeirion, Wales, 07-10/09/2017”


    1. Festival No 6 2017 @ Portmeirion, Wales, 07-10/09/2017 – Live List - 14/09/2017

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    2. Festival No 6 2017 @ Portmeirion, Wales, 07-10/09/2017 – Live List - 14/09/2017

      […] post Festival No 6 2017 @ Portmeirion, Wales, 07-10/09/2017 appeared first on […]

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