Songs For Walter

Songs For Walter

– SUNDAY 15/09/2013 –

It’s half five in the morning and the wind has now been giving our tent a bit of kicking for the last hour or so, so I decide it’s time to go outside and make sure all the tent’s guy ropes are still intact. As it turns out most of them have been pulled from the ground already and according the weather reports it’s only going to get worse. As we get toward midday I’ve spent most of my time outside in the wind and rain either hanging on to the poles of the tent to ease some slack on the guy ropes, or re-pegging using my girlfriend’s boot heel as a mallet. On a few occasions security are having to chase other peoples tents to stop them taking off. It’s almost like a rubbish re-enactment of the famous white balloons from The Prisoner TV show, at the same time a couple of the rather large metal flag poles have to be taken down as not to topple on to any unsuspecting campers, not that any of them could really be asleep through all of this.

By now it’s mid-afternoon and the gusts have now dropped to a sufficient level that we feel it’s safe to leave our tent in the knowledge that it will still be there when we return. Out in the campsite there are lots of gaps where some people have decided that it was too much and had packed up and left for home, which we did consider a couple of times ourselves. Other tents have clearly just been abandoned and are just collapsed and empty of belongings. Before we leave I scavenge for a few left behind tents pegs and do a bit of double pegging on our tent.

We are hungry and thirsty and feeling pretty drained so we head over to The Castle where the press office is to find out what’s going on festival-wise, as there has been a lot of chatter on social media about the rest of the day’s proceedings. We head past one of the entrances to the main stage and there’s a queue of people waiting to be allowed in. We get told at this point that pretty much everything is closed until further notice. It gets to about three o’clock and everything has now been re-opened. We hang about in the now extremely busy  Castle for a while and have a drink and grab something to eat, and bump into James Dean Bradfield again. There’s a look on both our faces of  ‘Who’s following who here’. It’s now tea-time and I get a Tweet from Songs For Walter saying they are playing on the Lost In The Woods stage, so we head down there.

I first saw SFW supporting the fantastic Thomas Truax about a year ago and was immediately taken by the concept of the band. Walter is in fact the granddad of main man Laurie Hulme and all the songs were about Walter’s tales from years gone by, such as the story of his date with his future wife, ‘Meet Me At The Empire’. Even though it’s been a rough old day so far there’s a sizeable crowd here to see SFW. A couple of the songs come with explanations of how they came about, for instance ‘Purple Blue’ is all about the driving habits of granddad Walter on caravan holidays. As the set continues the endearing songs are catching the ear of most passers by who have now been stopped in their tracks to join us in enjoying this lovely music in this ideal setting.

Public Service Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcasting

By the time we’ve been fed and watered again it’s now time for Public Service Broadcasting on the i-Stage. As we walk past the main stage Chic are in full flow and the marquee is the busiest I’ve seen it all weekend. PSB aren’t set up yet and there’s only a few people milling around so we get a good spot in front of the stage. As with Songs For Walter, PSB have a nostalgia theme to them, by taking old public information films and cleverly putting them to music. As well as the music PSB use a lot of visuals from these old films, so they are in fact an audio/visual act.

The stage is now ready, there’s two small towers of old television sets with the two large screens at either side of the stage and at the rear there’s another large screen bordered with the cut out of a television around it. The main man behind PSB is J. Willgoose Esq (laptop/guitar/banjo) is always joined when playing live by the man simply known as Wrigglesworth on drums. The last time I saw them live was in a small pub outside of Bolton called The Railway. The venue is out in the sticks and usually only hosts tribute bands (best name of which I saw was Genes-ish). This time round though there’s a third figure joining in on the act, that turns out to be Mr B who’s taken on the responsibility of the visuals.

Their set gets underway and I take a look behind us to find that the tent is now brimming with what can only be described as an eclectic mix. Just as PSB’s music can’t be pigeonholed, neither can the typical PSB fan. To one side there are a couple of dreadlocked trustafarians and to the other a loud cockney geeza who looks like Craig McLachlan from his Neighbours days, with tight white t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up.

During the set consisting of songs from the debut album Inform – Educate – Entertain,  J. Willgoose Esq never speaks a word, preferring instead to pre-program his communications with the crowd in to his laptop so that an electronic voice is used instead. The first time this happens tonight, our Craig McLachlan wannabee turns to his friend and says “fack me, it’s Steven Hawkwind”. Classic!

When the roar of the Supermarine Spitfire’s Merlin engine emanates from the PA the now large crowd give a deafening cheer as we all know that this is the intro to what is PSB’s most well known track, simply called ‘Spitfire’.

Manic Street Preachers photo by Andrew Whitton

Manic Street Preachers photo by Andrew Whitton

By the time the set is over we head back out in to the arena and the main stage tent is full to bursting as the Manic Street Preachers are now on stage. From outside we can hear a set made up of classics mixed in with tracks taken from their latest album ‘Rewind The Film’ which is to be released the very next day. With this being a homecoming gig for the band, the local support is strong, and also at odds with the size of last night’s crowd for the headline act even though today’s weather has been rotten.

So, have we felt like just a number at this year’s Festival No 6? Not at all. This is still the best festival around. I did feel like I missed a lot of the events taking place here, but I felt the same last year too. There’s so much happening here that you’d be hard pressed to see just a fraction of what you wanted to. Another sign that this is no ordinary festival is that you will see many of the act just wandering around taking in the sights, it’s almost as if the whole festival is the backstage area.

My only criticism would be that pre-festival details could be much better. For instance, travel info for shuttle buses from Bangor  on the website only went live seven days before. Anyone wanting to fork out a couple of hundred quid for a ticket will want to know they can get there. A few weeks beforehand there were tickets onsale for coach travel, which then  got cancelled just ten days before the festival, leaving people like myself having to then re-book a train to Bangor at which point there was still no info on shuttle buses. This really needs to be looked into in the future, as I know of people that actually had tickets that didn’t use them because of the lack of info out there about how to get to the festival.

Another thing that separates this festival from any other I’ve been to is the fact that all the members of staff that work throughout the year at Portmeirion are so happy to speak to you and help out in any way they can. They really are the nicest people you could wish to meet.

Simon Zaccagni

‘Accidental Editor’ None of this was planned; I’ve never been in a band, never been part of the ‘music scene’ and never expected to be the gaffer of a music website with loads of dedicated music loving writers. I bought my first record when I was 8 and haven’t stopped buying since. I love crate digging for bizarre and weird stuff, but equally happy ploughing through press releases looking/listening for something I’ve never heard before.