The weekend before last, we found ourselves wide-eyed and slack-jawed in an Italianate village tucked in somewhere off the North Wales coast. The village – Portmeirion – will be familiar to anyone who’s ever watched the Prisoner; the occasion was the inaugural Festival No 6. We hosted a stage over the three days of the festival with our friends from the Faber Social. When booking it, I’m not sure any of us really knew what to expect so we made some tentative phone calls and hoped for the best.
To say that the resultant festival ranks as one of the best any of us from Caught by the River have ever been to would be something of an understatement. Location wise, the place is truly unparalleled. There is genuinely nowhere like it on Earth. Built as a ‘home for fallen buildings’ by Clough Williams-Ellis, it’s a surrealist mixture of gorgeously renovated structures reclaimed from scrapheaps around the world. All around the place, there are trippy and unexpected Trompe-l’œils that reinforce the feeling that someone just slipped something in your drink. In front of our stage as a stretch of endless coastline. On that stage, a handpicked collection of bands and writers, thinkers and drinkers. In one day, the line-up veered from unsigned rock’n’rollers (the phenomenal Charlie Boyer) to octogenarian travel writers (Jan Morris), from a string ensemble playing meditative music based around the rivers of Wales (the Kane Ensemble) to that country’s premier surf rock band (Y Niwl).
It’s hard to sum up just how wonderful Festival No 6 was – and possibly a little churlish to do so now as well – but there’s one mental snapshot from Saturday evening that kind of sums it up for me. Walking back downhill to our stage after a trip to hear Andrew Weatherall in conversation with Emma Warren (a chat that added the term ‘drug chug’ to the musical lexicon), I could hear Stealing Sheep’s early evening set kick off. Every time I see that band live, they seem to get better and better – it’s like they’ve started to properly believe in magic. It’s a fact that’s clearly been picked up by gig and festival goers as the tent our stage was in was splitting at the sides. As rapturous applause died down and the band prepared to start their second song, the sky – by this point set to a monotone, perfectly Welsh kind of brooding grey – cracked open and the arc of a glorious rainbow shot across the estuary. Scrap that, it was a double rainbow. The band could see it from the stage whereas the audience were missing it, stood as they were facing away. To hear Emily from the band frantically trying to get the entire audience to turn around in a fit of sugar-rush excitement was to bear witness a moment of pure, unadulterated wonder. The rainbows deservedly got one of the biggest cheers of the weekend, a deafening roar of appreciation for nature and the genuinely psychedelic environment we were all stood in.
There was a lot of those moments at Festival No 6. Really hope they ask us back next year.
Top picture – Jan Morris. Rainbow picture nicked off Kieran Evans’ Instagram page.
Huge thanks to Danny & Carl, Lee and all the Faber folks, Megan and Katie our stage managers, Rob Chapman, Roy Wilkinson, Pictish Trail, British Sea Power, Ross Raisin, Richard Milward, Evie Wyld, Michael Smith, Jonny Trunk, Jeb Loy Nichols, Richard King, Emma Warren, Rob Young, Peter Strickland, Richard James, Stealing Sheep, Dave Rofe, King Creosote, John Barlow, Will Burns, The Kane Players, Y Niwl, Elliot Eastwick, Jan Morris, Jon Savage, Stephen Morris & Kevin Cummins, Charlie Boyer and The Voyeurs, Savages, Toy and Luke Bainbridge, Cally Harris and all the people behind Festival No 6.