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Thursday
Aug032017

Nozstock: The Hidden Valley (UK) 2017 Festival Review

Taking place a few hours drive North West of London on a farm in Herefordshire, Nozstock: The Hidden Valley offers up 11 stages of music and art over three days and nights in late July. 

While prepping for my second visit to the hidden valley (read the review of 2016 here), the weatherman tried to get me down by shouting rain, rain, rain - no matter which weather source I checked. So UK festival essentials - wellington boots, were added to the packing list. Sorted. 

Fellow Nozzers embracing the wellies! Photo credit: Edd Hughes

As I departed work early on a Friday afternoon I had a smile on my face and excitement in my belly (or was that hunger?) Rendezvousing with my partner Jodie (read her take on the festival at Hoff to Explore) and mate Rhys who I'd talked into joining me, we packed the little hatchback high and asked google where to go. Passing service stations and towns that I remember from making the journey the year before, I feel like I'm on my way to visit a dear old friend. 2016’s edition reminded me what festivals could be like! Farmer Noz and his team didn’t seem to be chasing a quick buck like other festivals I’d been to recently. The aim here is for everyone to have a genuinely good time, meet new people, see good music and forget about real life for a moment. One year later I was filled with fondness as we crept through the school holiday traffic, edging slowly closer to Nozstock.

Fast forward five hours and we are on a country lane nearing the festival site. You’ve got to love a boutique festival; where you might usually expect to join queues for hours, at Nozstock you are waved in by a dreadlocked dude in high vis, no queues in sight.

It's still raining as we park up, and a friendly security guard reminds us to take the important stuff (alcohol) in with us first - good plan! As much as I would have liked to just crack a can as soon as the tent (and important stuff) was safely inside the festival gates, we returned to the car, a mere five minute walk away, to collect the rest of our camping gear. Another thing I love about this festival is the journey time; you can walk just about anywhere in five minutes!

Having arrived a bit late (around 8pm), the choice of camping patches was limited, but we managed to score what would turn out to be a great location and simultaneously enjoyed a beer and an excited check of the timetable. My eyes immediately locked on Krafty Kuts - 1am, yes! The Brighton DJ’s latest release - All 4 Corners had been a regular listen of mine over the past few months.

As luck would have it, the rain stops just after we finish setting up and a rainbow appears over the horizon. We take some time to enjoy the clearing skies and I am reminded of another reason why I feel so fondly about this place - strangers engage us in conversation, parents and children wave as they pass, a first-time festival goer slides by in the mud having gone a bit too hard, a little too early. Nozzers, as we are affectionately known, are a diverse bunch, but everyone is welcome.

Everyone, including a giant caterpillar enjoying the Garden Stage. Photo Credit: Charlie Rimmer

FRIDAY

With so many stages, you'll find something to like here no matter how obscure your taste! Our camp site was closest to the bandstand stage, so psych-pop outfit Boy Azooga provided the soundtrack to our first drinks by the tent but it wasn't long before I found some hip hop.

Micall Parknsun was warming up the garden stage nicely, known more recently for his production work, it was cool to see him out in front rocking the mic and getting some heads nodding.

 

Trying to see as much as we could before the headline acts, we went running around what I think is safe to call, the 'dance' sections of the festival.  First off a few minutes were spent at the Cubicles stage, where sunglasses, bucket hats and tracksuits were the clothing of choice, and meaty basslines the order of the day. At almost 30 years of age, I was one of the older people in this area, but I was pleased to see no one was holding up their phone - they were living the moment, rather than trying to capture it. A rare sight.

The Cubicles. Photo Credit: Liam Newman

Next up we tested the strength of our wellies on a walk down hill to the new stage -  Elephants Graveyard. This stage, like all of the others in-fact, has superb production for it's size. The sound quality is fantastic, it's a bit like walking into a Berlin day club, some wooden structures dotted around the outside, shade cloths overhead, gentlemen and ladies of all ages grooving to the tech-house beats. There is even a little bar in the corner. After a quick top-up, like excited children we kept exploring, and a swift walk brought us to the Coppice. What was that I was saying about production? Hidden in amongst a small cluster of tall trees - the Coppice is a sight to behold. Imagine the moon was projecting ultraviolet light and lighting up hidden creatures among the leaves, then imagine these creatures were holding disco balls. This goes some way to describing the Coppice, you could spend hours here!

Continuing our mission to see as much as possible before Krafty, we left the music for a moment to try an immersive art installation. Psychonauts tent is perched just above the Coppice and full of people in lab coats, dishing out medicine, calling everyone Doris and generally trying to trip you out. Perhaps I need another drink?

With the Krafty Kuts set quickly approaching, our little crew headed to the garden bar, where somehow we met about 15 different people from starting just one conversation. There is a good vibe about this place and time flies by as we swap stories with new found friends, one last trip to the bar to refill our reusable cups before we close in on the stage.

I first became a fan of Krafty Kuts from the ‘Tricka Technology’ LP he released with A-Skillz back in 2004. Since then I have been lucky enough to see him perform live a few times, a skilled DJ in a number of genres, you never quite know what you are going to get. By teaming up with Dynamite MC, a renowned performer in jungle, bass and hip hop - I knew we were in for a treat tonight!

What took place over the next 90 minutes can only be described as a party. If I said I remembered all of the tracks he played I would be lying. What I do remember though was dancing and singing, thoroughly enjoying myself as we were entertained by one of the greatest hype MC’s and Party DJ’s in the game.

Dynamite MC & Krafty Kuts

SATURDAY

I was surprised to wake up without a hangover. The same couldn’t be said for everyone in at my campsite, but we were pleased to see the sun was out!

After quickly downing an up-n-go, banana and about a litre of water, I was tasked with retrieving a proper coffee and breakfast to set us up for the day. While the place selling the best bacon rolls did offer coffee, we were definitely in need of lattes so it was a two stop trip.

By the time I returned it was around 11am, and we enjoyed our second breakfast in the sun while listening to Oh Man, A Mountain playing some indie-rock on the bandstand stage. Rhys was keen to get stuck into day two, but like a gentlemen decided to wait until midday before having any alcoholic drinks. Probably a good idea as the highlighted name in our timetable for today was hip hop pioneers The Sugarhill Gang at 11:45pm.

It wasn’t long before we were back inside the festival, exploring the arts and crafts area. Included in this area is a healing tent with yoga classes and pay-by-donation massages which drew Jodie in. Rhys and I decided to try our luck on one of the garden games nearby. The game we chose looked simple enough, grab a sack of rice and take aim at one of the politicians in front of you. Hit the politician, knock off the coconut sitting on their head, win a prize. Well, 40 or so throws later I was realising this was harder than anticipated. Could have just been us though, as just after we gave up, a small child had a go and knocked two coconuts off in one throw!

Moving on then.

Mica Miller was providing some soul music on the orchard stage as punters soaked up the sun. We enjoyed her set from afar and decided to grab some lunch from the wood-oven pizza joint - delicious.

The next name to grab my attention in the festival programme was Flamenco Thief. With the sun still out at the garden stage, I watched in awe at what this man can do. Using just a guitar and a loop pedal, he built up songs from scratch. Creating a beat by striking the sides of the guitar, adding in some strumming patterns, perhaps another beat, layering it all and performing Flamenco guitar solos over the top! We couldn’t look away, some people have all the talent.

Some fellow beautiful festival goers. Photo Credit: Mike Hale

It was during his set as well that I took the opportunity to admire the efforts fellow festival goers had gone to with their outfits; a lot of glitter, multiple colours and layers, themed costume groups (shout out to the Mario brothers!), even someone dressed as a fox - I couldn’t help thinking that each person here was contributing a little bit to the overall festival experience.  

Next, it was time for Church. Oh My God! It’s the Church were providing a Saturday afternoon sermon on the Orchard Stage. With just some backing tracks, dancers and a couple of singers - it is the personalities on stage that make this one of the highlights of the weekend. Led by outrageous frontman, Michael Alabama Jackson, with many-a-double entendre or churchy pun, these crazy kids kick the crowded hill into overdrive. It was hard not to “Stomp.. Stomp, Stomp Your Feet” as our saviour took us through party hits like ‘Hey Ya’ and ‘Praise You’, with plenty of witty crowd banter and costume changes for good measure. The perfect festival feel good act.

Rodney P & Skitz

The rest of the afternoon was a smorgasbord of comedy and music (not to mention food) across a number of stages. We copped some laughs from Tom Ward and Simon Munnery in the Laughing stock tent,  fused rap with topical comedy watching Professor Elemental, grooved with the legendary hip hop duo Rodney P & Skitz, blissed out to the neo-soul of Sola Rosa and sampled noodles and burgers along the way - maybe a couple of beers too.

As day turned to night we decided to try and find the music within the Cabinet of Lost Secrets, where to be granted entry we solved a mirror maze puzzle and hugged a circus ring leader - the things you do for secret disco! Inside we found an 8 piece band giving it their absolute all and a full dancefloor. Good times!

With the headline slot for tonight fast approaching, we had time for one last artist. Steve Strong, wow we are glad we stopped by for his set on the bandstand. This gentlemen has to be one of the most talented drummers I have seen in recent times, but what do you do when you’re an amazing drummer without a band? Pick up a guitar, some pedals and create all of the parts yourself of course. Atmospheric layers are built up and then drum solos explode all over them, his set is unique and mesmerising, but alas we have to leave to make it in time for my pick of the bunch.

The Sugarhill Gang, never did I think I would get to see these guys live, let alone in 2017 on a farm in Herefordshire! The first hip hop group to ever release a record, no matter your thoughts on their legitimacy to the title, these guys have been in the game a long time and I was excited. DJ C-Styles started things off, spinning a medley of classic hip hop tracks and informing the crowd that tonight was going to be all about “good music”. He’s joined by surviving members Wonder Mike and Master Gee and it is clear I’m not the only one ready to get funky with the guys that brought hip hop to the masses; the crowd erupts. At around 70 years of age, the duo have employed a couple of younger models over the years to keep up the hype, but even with Wonder Mike casually keeping one hand in his pocket, this show wasn’t lacking any energy.

The Sugarhill Gang. Photo Credit: Alex Avery

The next 30 minutes or so was a journey through the history of hip hop, with shout outs to originators and fallen stars along the way. From Kurtis Blow - The Breaks through to Run DMC - Walk this Way, and their own hit Apache. It is heaven for old school hip hop fans. During another shout out to the old school crew, it becomes apparent that the Sugarhill Gang might have just brought along a special guest.

From under the man-made archway created by the extras on stage emerges original Furious Five members - Scorpio and Grandmaster Melle Mel! Famous for co-writing the Message and White Lines, Melle Mel is the leader of this duo and seems to absolutely love being on stage.

The duo rip through these huge hits to the delight of the crowd before re-introducing The Sugarhill Gang to stage for ‘rappers delight’. For a song that was first released in 1979, it still has so much punch and my dancing shoes are well and truly on. The disco groove extends across everyone on the hill before Wonder Mike performs those words he has no doubt rapped a million times since this song became a global sensation; “I am wonder Mike, and I’d like to say hello..” - We are now in a full blown good music, hip hop block party. The whole gang remain on the stage for an encore which turns out to be more of a sing-along, led by Melle Mel. And while he should really stick to rapping (not everyone can pull off Kurt Cobain lyrics), it’s just a good time and we enjoy it.

The Sugarhill Gang. Photo Credit: Charlie Rimmer

SUNDAY

Just some of the art at Nozstock.

Still no rain today but less sleep than the nights prior and I’m feeling the effects a little bit. Work commitments in London mean none of our merry crew can stay too long today so we don’t make solid timetable plans.

Another double breakfast is consumed, mimicking my steps from yesterday and we enter the festival site with full bellies, ready to chill out. In the arts and crafts area we marvel at some wood carvings and try out the knock em down game one more time - yes, I struck Putin!

Keeping the big kid vibe alive, it’s off to explore the wooden fort next, located just down from the hollywood style Nozstock sign on the hill. Inside the fort were a few kids using it, as they should, as headquarters for their water pistol army. I’m not sure if it was the way I looked at them but soon enough I became enemy number one and Jodie was all too happy to join the kid army as they squirted me from the comfort of the fort.


Our final hours are approaching and rather than dwell on what we will miss (Happy Mondays headlined Sunday night and I heard they torched our fort!) our time is spent lazing by the orchard stage, eating an organic ice cream and listening to surf-pop outfit Jasper in the Company of Others. After their set we chat about what a great weekend we’ve had while watching the skaters on the half pipe and listening to some distant funk. All too soon it’s time to pack down the tents and start the journey home. Reality sucks.

Nozstock, you have delivered the goods again, and more than just the music. The community that exists here, the little surprises around the corner, the ‘all in the name of fun’ attitude, it all adds to the experience. I’ve been once, I’ve been twice and I tell you what, I might even go thrice!

Review by Harry Upton.
Maybe next year I'll bring my board

 

Saturday
Dec102016

Post Malone: Stoney - debut album drop.


Written by Bree Stewart

It’s been at least 170 coffees and several red wines since my last contribution to SYS. Across 2016, various streaming services have been churning out a few decent hooks within the urban music community. Unfortunately, from where these vans are standing, the last twelve months have not graced my ear holes with as many hip hop pioneers, as did previous years.

Lying on my back balcony I kicked off the tedious scroll of Apple Music’s recommended (usually a flat-liner) and there it stood; Post Malone’s latest record - Stoney. With its bold orange cover and alluring co-creators (Kehlani, Bieber & Quavo to name a few), my ears were graced with their first hip hop pioneer of 2016, scraping in at a November drop - better late than never right?

 

Post Malone, Img via publicist.


The New York born, Texas raised singer/rapper/guitarist kicks off his album with the Americanised opening record Broken Whiskey Glass (enjoy a sneak peek of Post’s love of country music in the framework of this track). Track no. 2 however currently holds favour in my heart, No Lie – the utmost chill beat, subtle vocal effects and Friday night synth takes listener’s back to a sound similar to Cudi’s 2013 experimental tones.

The whole experience is 50 minutes from start to finish, a great teaser for the artist’s European tour kicking off in the coming week. Overall the album is a journey suitable for road trips, one night stands and the Sunday afternoon balcony beers. 100/10 – thanks to the upcoming hip hop pioneer.



Thursday
Nov242016

BYRON MARK’S ‘AMALGAMATION’ ALBUM LAUNCH

@ Venue 505 on Thursday 6th October 2016

Walking into a sold out 505, I felt the anticipation in the room for what was to be an epic night celebrating the launch of Byron Mark’s debut album – ‘Amalgamation’. With more than 30 artists set to hit the stage, a stellar line up including nationally acclaimed musicians and dancers, we were in for a treat both aurally and visually, with a set list that consisted of everything from Flamenco, Indian and African; to funk, jazz and pop.

We were not disappointed. Kicking off the first set, a showcase of Byron’s world music pieces, was his latest composition – ‘Piano Dance’, a stunning flamenco inspired piano piece, accompanied by cello, flute, cajon and dancers. From here, Byron took us to India, Spain, and Africa, bringing out a huge variety of instruments, musicians, dancers and even a string quartet, to perform ‘Yia Yia’, a very special room-silencing tribute to Byron’s Greek grandmother.  Also performed in this set was ‘Fuego Nocturno’, a beautiful piece that was nominated in the top 5 of the instrumental category at the 2016 Australian Independent Music Awards. His best friend and fellow musician Luke Koteras, co-wrote the piece, and it was a wonderful moment to see them perform it together; showcasing Byron’s flair on both the piano and the cajon, along with Luke’s guitar wizardry. Byron’s brother, Nicholas Mark, surprised us all with his spectacular performance on the didgeridoo halfway through this piece too.

Just when we thought we’d seen the extent of Byron’s repertoire, the second set delved into his world of Jazz, Pop and Funk collaborations. The song ‘Lion Heart’ was a strong standout for me. This big and bold piece was written with long-time friend and music colleague, singer Rosie Henshaw, and reflected their passion and determination for making music. ‘First Date’ was another favourite, particularly listening to the smooth soulful voice, and immaculately dressed Michael Duchesne. Wrapping up the night was ‘Happy Africa’; a joyful, celebratory song that perfectly summed up the night, which not only featured Byron in traditional costume on the djembe, but also an appearance from Master African dancer Lucky Lartey to inject a final burst of energy into the packed out night. I lost count of the instruments I saw throughout the night, but along with a smiling joyful audience, I walked out of that room feeling energised and thrilled at what I just saw.

The idea to create Amalgamation came about 10 years ago, when Byron started collaborating with most of the artists we saw on the night. The audience also witnessed the friendship and respect that Byron had earned as a musician and music director since embarking on this path. I think much to Byron’s surprise, a lot of the 32 artists that performed on the night began their piece/s with a few words about Byron – telling us a musical moment, or notable gig they’d shared with him over the last decade, creating a tapestry of stories and music which added so much more depth to the event and the album. Having so many artists coming together on the one night for this launch alone was a testament to Byron’s work and talent as a respected multi-instrumentalist. I went home with not just one, but two CD’s in hand, knowing I’d bump into someone who missed out on the event that just had to hear this fine album.

Words by Anna Griffiths.

Check-out more of Byron Mark here.

 

Friday
Oct072016

DMC World DJ Championship Finals 2016 Review


The DMC World DJ Championship Finals is an annual event showcasing the most talented DJ's in the game. Although there are no real restrictions to genre, the event has become something of a holy land for fans of hip hop, including myself. In the months leading up to the event I kept a close eye on the announcements and was excited to find that the Invisibl Skratch Piklz (feat. DJ's Q-Bert, Shortkut and D-Styles) would be headlining in 2016!

I recall watching a documentary about scratching and turntablism in my youth and seeing a guy called Q-Bert interviewed. He had a turntable fitted to the middle console of his car so he could scratch records wherever he went. Although a little concerning that he spoke of channelling conversations with aliens when he put the needle to the vinyl, the documentary intrigued me and I've followed turntablism ever since. Q-Bert is a past winner of the DMC World DJ Championship and a true legend of the art, I couldn't wait to see him live with the Piklz. 

But first, I had a whole day of competition, guest performances and workshops!

WORKSHOPS

Having studied the program ahead of time, I arrived at the Forum in Kentish Town around 4pm and joined the workshops taking place upstairs. Popmaster Fabel of the Rock Steady Crew was back for another year, trying his best to turn some young (and not so young) hopefuls into fully fledged B-Boys and B-Girls with the popping and locking workshop. The workshops are definitely an integral part of the day, and watching the crowd get involved I felt that they are an important part of the whole hip hop scene. Handing down knowledge and skills to the next generation so that they can build on it and progress the genre.

My attempt at beatboxing probably didn't do the genre any favours however! Yep, the beatbox workshop was next, hosted by the beatbox collective. It was great to see these guys up close and they intertwined lessons and tips with full-blown performance. After teaching the whole room some basics, individuals from the crowd were invited up to take a mic and try out beatboxing solo. My partner pushed me up as an unwilling volunteer and I was given some simple instructions which helped form a basic beat. The rest of the collective then joined in to make me sound good! Highlight of the day number one.

 

BATTLE FOR SUPREMACY

After a brief stop at the bar and I made our way into the main auditorium for the first 'final' of the day. Erick Jay was one of my favourites from last years competition, so I was happy to see him back competing in the Battle for Supremacy. This competition is a bit like a rap battle for DJ's, with three rounds of 90 seconds for each DJ to outdo the other. Two DJ's compete in each round and the winners progress through semi finals and into the final. 

This years final saw DJ Fummy from Japan up against DJ Erick Jay from Brazil. The battle is as much about song selection and sample selection as it is about skill. The DJ's mime the words being uttered from the samples they choose, and getting the crowd on your side to go 'woah' at the right moment must feel like the battle DJ equivalent of a slam dunk. 

The final was tight, and I couldn't pick a winner after the rounds were complete but fingers were crossed for Erick Jay. The judges raised their score cards, and….

Runner Up - DJ Fummy (Japan)

Battle for Supremacy World Champion - Erick Jay (Brazil)

Being a near full day event, I took a quick break to grab some food from the local Kebab spot, as you do.

THE BEATBOX COLLECTIVE

The Beatbox Collective in full effect
When we returned to the Forum there was a definite heightened buzz from the additional punters who came along just for the main event. But, as I discovered, the DMC World DJ Championships are more than just a DJ competition. The crowd were treated to so much entertainment for their hard earned ticket, and the standard is high!

Having attempted to beatbox with them earlier, I was keen to get a good view of the Beatbox Collective as they brought their full crew together for a showcase performance. We took a seat in the balcony section and watched in awe. These guys are current world beatboxing champs for a reason. Covering everything from hip hop to dub to drum and bass, it was an amazing set. I've still got a long way to go but I'll keep practicing!

WORLD DJ CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL

Nine of the best DJ's from around the globe had made it through to the final. A little different to the supremacy competition earlier, this competition is anything goes, for 6 minutes. DJ's can use laptops, Serato, queued up samples along with stage presence and trick moves to impress the judges. This makes for straight up entertainment for those of us watching on.

Starting the show was DJ Ruse from New Zealand. His set was blistering and he got myself and the rest of the crowd on side scratching up a hip hop version of classic rock song 'War Pigs' by Black Sabbath. You've really got to hand it to these guys, so much has been done before them yet somehow they find a new and interesting way to get your head nodding.

DJ Traps of the USA was another highlight, with a more familiar hip hop classics set.  He got extra points from me when he dropped a perfect look-away beat-juggle. Flawless.

The runner up from 2015, DJ Spell was back. It must be something about New Zealand because he too opted to select some absolute classics and scratch them down to hip hop beats - Led Zepplin and Michael Jackson getting some airtime during his set.

Frenchman Dj Skillz took things in a different direction, using an almost haunted sounding sample to build up a trip hop beat. Reading the growing enthusiasm in the room well, his set sped up to be one of the most party-like so far, culminating in big bass drops that you might expect to hear in a different venue about 6 hours from now, but the crowd were up for it.

Brief disruption to address some technical issues didn't stop local lad Ritchie Ruftone from amping the crowd even further. Producing a mix of funk, dub and hip hop to bring the bar that little bit higher.

DJ Yuto of Japan was up next and his set was just next level! Man, it had everything and the precision was there to match. There was all types of music, technical skill, stage presence and tricks. There was even a scratched together version of the massive swedish house mafia club hit 'One' from a few years back. This guy has to win I think to myself as mini-dancefloors erupt around the room. I'm in awe!

DJ Yuto of Japan

SHOWCASES

As the all important decision is being made by the judges, I was entertained with back to back performances from DJ Fly and DJ Netik, King Kella and the Spitkingdom Soundsystem, and of course, Q-Bert and the Invisibl Skratch Piklz - just as good as I had hoped!

One more trip to the bar was denied when we got told the bar was no closed - no! I was so disappointed the day was drawing to a close. Do we really have to wait another year to do this again?

THE SHOWDOWN

Tony Prince, founder of the competition, loves this event. You can just tell he is immensely proud of what it has become, and no doubt he has been at every single one. It seems fitting then, that he should award multiple-time world champ DJ Q-Bert with a 'Legend' jacket at the pointy end of the proceedings. Once the obligatory photographs are out of the way, Mr Prince returns to the microphone to announce the final results!

Third Place - DJ Traps (USA)

Runner Up - DJ Brace (Canada)

World Champion for 2016 - DJ Yuto (Japan)

Hopes for an encore set were dashed when the big lights came on and we headed for the exit. Another World Finals had ended, but this year I was truly happy with the outcome.

Hats off to the people that make this competition happen, and if you haven't already, make sure you get along to the local heats and finals in your city! Real DJ's are so much more talented than 'look ma, no hands' super-celebs may have you think.

Words by Harry Upton.

Thursday
Sep082016

Festival No. 6, Wales 2016 Review

Taking place in the stunning coastal village of Portmeirion, Wales is Festival No. 6, actually named after a character from the cult 1960's television show The Prisoner, filmed in the same location. My first time attending was in 2016. Uh oh, the sixes are aligning - 666!

While we can't really call mother nature the devil, she did wreak some unexpected havoc over the weekend and those in attendance managed to feel the full force of typical Welsh weather. Have you decoded it yet? It rained, it poured and it almost blew our tent right out of the campground! This years instalment of Festival No. 6 was a very muddy one.

But hey, we were there for the music and with the assistance of some wellington boots and cheap ass ponchos we were prepped and ready to see all that was on offer.

FRIDAY

It was a decent London morning when we picked up the hire car and started the long drive to North West Wales - after a couple of highway side pitstops we found ourselves on narrow yet picturesque roads of the Welsh countryside. For a couple of hours it was bumper to bumper traffic and now rolling hills and the odd sheep grazing next to the roadside. About 6 or so hours after setting off (someone's got to do something about that traffic) we arrived. 

Taking pride of place in what would become the 'Park & Swim' we gathered up almost too much camping equipment for two nights and took the shuttle to the main festival site. Thanks to the magic of a pop-up tent we were set up in no time, however the longer than expected drive did mean I only heard Roots Manuva from a distance.

Making our way into the main arena around 9pm, food was pretty high on the agenda so a quick stop by Yaku Mama was first - pork belly and brown rice, chicken tacos, sweet potato and chorizo chips - that was us sorted! With minimal pre-planning we actually didn't know who was coming on next, let alone where all the stages were, so a few bars were visited as we familiarised ourselves with the site. As we wandered we found cool themed bars such as the Real Ale tent and the Kiwi Camp (Old Mout Cider), definitely some effort had gone into the decor of this place! 

We caught the tail end of the Torch Light Parade and got swallowed up in a jelly fish art installation before arriving at the Village Hall. My Stimulate Your Soul radar must have been working as the act who had just taken to the stage was none-other than the Queen of Brazilian Dancehall Lei Di Dai. A short but energetic set. 

Torch Light Parade - Image courtesy of Festival No. 6

All of our wandering so far had been in the 'open field' part of the festival, however I knew from the little pre-search I had done that there were stages in the town itself, by the water and even in the woods. We tried to make our way into these areas but left our run a little late and were directed away. All was not lost when the tent we decided to enter instead contained a large video screen and hip hop video DJ Yoda on the decks. The tent was hot and sweaty, a complete contrast to the forecast for the rest of the weekend.

SATURDAY

This morning it hit me, I'm officially too old for 'general' festival camping - my body was tired and sore which was not helped by the multiple parties taking place throughout the campgrounds overnight. Hopefully the kids next to us went a bit too hard too early and can't back it up again tonight.

Just as the weatherman promised, the rain had already set in and mud was starting to replace the green grass of the festival site and campground. After a much needed bacon roll and coffee stop we decided to check out the Castell (Castle) and use some of the Wi-Fi to obtain the festival app with timetable. At the Castle we met some fellow festival goers who were raving about how cool the woods are! There is even a floating bar. Unfortunately when we went to visit, the woods had been closed due to poor weather. This, sadly was the story for a few of the stages throughout the day. 

The town itself is beautiful, an amazing setting for the event, with colourful houses, gardens and fountains set into a cliff face. We spent a lot of Saturday around the Central Piazza stage. It is a unique stage in a unique setting, with large pillars that artists can hide behind or burst in front of, and kind of a reverse amphitheatre for the crowd with everyone looking up the hill at the stage. It works well though and you had a pretty good vantage point wherever you stood. 

The Mudflappers are a swing dance troupe who specialise in getting the crowd dancing. They quickly won over the township of Portmeirion, getting us all to copy their dance moves to classics like Rappers Delight. 

Next up was the immensely talented Bellatrix. The female beat boxing champion and double bassist showed off her skills in an impressive one-woman show. Using multiple mics and a loop machine to build tracks, she was mesmerising in this incredible venue and definitely an artist to watch for the future.

Bellatrix performing at Festival No. 6, Portmeirion, Wales

An unlikely highlight for me came just after sunset on the Central Piazza stage, with the 60-strong Brythoniaid Male Voice Choir. Something about the lighting, the rain, the historic setting and the power of 60-voices. I haven't seen anything like it before!

Now came a moment that I had actually planned for, the Voices of the Revolution on the Village Hall stage. This all-female line up of musicians and MC's from Ghana, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Colombia, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Venezuela, Egypt and the UK promised to be something special. The small stage was absolutely full with talent and the women on stage loved the vibe they were creating. It was a big jam on stage as the artists collaborated on a range of musical styles from afrobeat to dancehall to hip hop and everything in between.

At the end of the session, the host of the stage very proudly announced the young Zimbabwean MC A.W.A (African Women Arise) would be performing a full set. The 23-year-old had broken through in a predominantly male MC scene in her home country and was thrilled to be performing in the UK. Making the most of the other talent surrounding her, A.W.A invited different guests up for each song, and although only one track contained English lyrics, the rhythm and rhyme delivery captured those present for her set. After 30 minutes she left the stage triumphant.

A.W.A. performing at Festival No.6, Portmeirion, Wales

After such a varied day of music from artists I wouldn't expect, the main act of the evening - Hot Chip were just a tick in a box and after an exhausting day trekking through the mud it was a relief to return to a dry-ish tent. 

SUNDAY

Taking into consideration the lengthy drive home, the fact Monday in the office was looming and a brief dry spell this morning we decided to pack up camp and begin the journey home. Carefully balancing all of our equipment on the now-very-difficult walk through the mud we eventually made it onto a bus and back to the park and ride. As we had feared, the car park had also turned to mud so it was up to a local in a land rover to save the day and pull us through to proper road surfaces before we started the drive back to London.

On the way we couldn't resist stopping at a pub in Bala for a traditional Sunday roast. Although we hadn't yet showered and were caked in mud, this little slice of civilisation was a fitting end to a challenging but unique festival weekend.

Written by Harry Upton.