Now a mainstay on the festival calendar
Primal Scream - Festival Number 6 2012

After a triumphant inaugural event, rest assured that Festival Number 6 will now be a mainstay in any self-respecting festival reveller’s diary. And it will be so for one very simple reason: no matter how impressive the future line-ups and headliners are, the main draw will always be the setting itself. It’s a wonder it’s taken this long to happen, because The Village in Portmeirion is a tailor-made setting for a weekend of joyous abandon. Themed around the ‘60s cult TV show The Prisoner, the festival ramps up the retro Technicolor stakes and delivers visitors into the Central Piazza to be greeted by a 360 degree panorama of florid Italian architecture, verdant forest and the sweeping Welsh estuary.

A mud field full of food stalls and stages it ain’t – this is gob gaping, eye widening wonder that makes you feel like Charlie entering the Chocolate Factory. Massive oily bubbles drift over human chess games, synchronized swimmers splash about in the festooned fountains and costumed characters fool around on the Roman colonnades. It’s a hypnagogic kaleidoscope of colour and merriment with enough arts, culture and music to sate the most voracious of appetites.

The opening night saw British Sea Power belt out a rousing set over the darkening waters from the Estuary Stage and Richard Hawley delivered soaring, psychedelic love paeans in the main arena. Spiritualized played an appropriately head-bending set before leaving the DJs to carry the night into dawn.

Saturday was sunny and the oddball activities started early, with a Prisoner parade and re-enactments from the series popping up hither and thither. A wander up into the woods revealed all manner of tree-shaded antics with secluded stages, a hidden lake and a tanglewood forest decorated with lanterns and vinyl and filled with the sounds of live sets and theatrical prancings. Back in the main arena a catholic mix of electronica and alternative rock was bashed out by the likes of Splashh, NZCA/Lines, Gang Colours and Beth Jeans Houghton. As darkness fell the Central Piazza was again the place to be to catch David Gedge from The Wedding Present play impromptu acoustic versions of ‘Brassneck’ and ‘Kennedy’ before making way for the Welsh Male Voice Choir. These fifty-five old boys produced a surprising festival highlight with their heartfelt crooning rising up to the twinkling stars, taking hearts and spirits up with them. They filled the piazza with a cover of New Order’s seminal ‘Blue Monday’, sang some traditional Welsh numbers and then enticed collective bellowing from every voice present when they dedicated ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to the families and the fallen of Hillsborough. The choir finished with just enough time to hot-step it to the main tent for a seething, career-spanning knockout of a set by Primal Scream. Bobby Gillespie, who should really be a tubby and memory-challenged casualty, bounced around the stage like a spry contender half his age, berating the royal family and calling out “bring down the government” with subversive zeal.

The final day pissed down - the only questionable element of this new festival being its precarious placing in mid September - but the Town Hall provided shelter and a real treat with Stuart Maconie presenting a Q&A with Tim Burgess followed by a short set of songs from his acclaimed new solo album and some old Charlatans favourites backed by a string quartet. It was then left to Tim’s first favourite band, New Order, to close proceedings. Bedecked in Prisoner jackets they overcame a few sound issues to play a blinder, with a highlight being that song again, the biggest-selling independent 12” single of all time, ‘Blue Monday’. As Sunday night turned into Wet Monday, we cursed the weather but vowed to return.

Words by Nick Rice
Photo by Duncan Elliott

Click here for a photo gallery of the festival.

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