There are few festivals in the world that put out a lineup comparable to Mad Cool Festival with the first edition since the pandemic adding on two extra days of music. Taking place in the country’s capital of Madrid, Mad Cool Festival celebrated their fifth anniversary in style under the blazing hot Spanish sun.
Table Of Contents
Running the Numbers
Dates: July 6-10, 2022
MFW Beer Index: €5.50
Highest/Lowest Temperature: 37C/18C (100F/65F)
Reusable Cups? Yes
Free Water Stations? Yes
This will be Mad Cool’s last session in the open field of Valdebebas near the airport, but I would imagine wherever they are moving, the layout of the festival will remain roughly the same. Two main stages alternate through the heavy roster of headliners with a cozier third stage that frequently boasts the best sets of the weekend. Electronic fans tend to gather under the bumping dome of The Loop, and if that isn’t enough for me you, three indoor pump out a continuous stream of up-and-coming acts. For such a large festival, the grounds are surprisingly compact and few issues getting traveling between stages.
What are you into? Because odds are Mad Cool Festival will have something to entertain. Metal heads showed up in force on Wednesday for Metallica while flower-clad barefoot festies crowded the grounds on Saturday for Florence + the Machine. Don’t enjoy the mainstream rock of The Killers? Then head on over to the always epic St. Vincent, go dancing to Peggy Gou, or check out the psychedelic jazz rock band, The Comet is Coming. On that note, I will the say that the lineup clashes are brutal and I have made peace that I will only see about 60% of the artists on my list.
Mad Cool is a city festival that offers day tickets, so the vibe of the crowd changes each day depending on the headliners, the only constant being that everyone is smiling, dancing, and beautiful. There’s less of a British and US influence here in Madrid compared to Spanish festivals in Barcelona, so the crowd is significantly more chill – except when Phoebe Bridgers takes the stage and then they lose their damn minds. While not family un-friendly, the late hours tends to keep the wee ones away.
Acts I Caught and the Unofficial Order in Which I Enjoyed Them
- Florence + the Machine
- St. Vincent
- Amyl and The Sniffers
- Royal Blood
- Don Broco
- Phoebe Bridgers
- Imagine Dragons
- The Killers
- Local Natives
- Kings of Leon
- Floating Points
- Zara Larsson
- Mother Mother
- Leon Bridges
- Carly Rae Jepsen
- Jamie Cullum
Festival MVP: Pixies
It’s Saturday night and the sunset is painting the the skies as Pixies take the stage. Black Francis, Joey Santiago, David Lovering, and Paz Lenchantin are on fire during this set, lighting up the night with a barrage of hits including a stand-out finale of Here Comes Your Man, Bone Machine, and Debaser.
I Will Make You Cry: Florence + the Machine
I’ve seen Florence a few times at this point so I was taking photos of the crowd when she strode barefoot onto stage. I knew fans would be excited, but I didn’t imagine they would just openly burst into tears before she even sang the first note. As always, Florence + the Machine takes the crowd on a roller coaster ride of emotions including inducting us into her cult. The only sore spot of the show were the hand full of idiots who insisted on recording during the one song where Florence specifically asked the crowd not to record and just enjoy the moment.
Most Interactive: Imagine Dragons
Say what you will about radio rockers, Imagine Dragons, they put on quite the live show. While I personally wouldn’t mind them dialing down the earnestness by about 90%, I can’t deny the screaming fans what they want.
Keep Your Eye On: Don Broco
The latest UK punk band to hit the international festival circuit, Don Broco came with the foot on the gas and never let up. Mosh pits, high kicks, and dinosaur were just a few pieces of this high-energy act.
Guaranteed Good Time: St. Vincent
Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) doesn’t just put on a performance, she puts on a show. I’m not sure why St. Vincent wasn’t on the main stage, although I’ve long suspected that the intimate Stage 3 is a unspoken gift to the fans so I’m not complaining. If you see St. Vincent on a lineup, make sure to catch it.
We Are All Abuzz: Phoebe Bridgers
This is the summer of Phoebe Bridgers and you can feel this is the moment when a rising star is about to break through to headliner status. Based on the show I was at, she’s already there with one of the more rabid rail crowds of the festival.
Worst Performance: COVID-19
The silent headliner of festivals this summers, COVID-19 took a heavy swipe at Mad Cool resulting in cancellations from Glass Animals, Tom Misch, Stormzy, Queens of the Stone Age, Black Pumas, and Faith No More. While it’s understandable that festivals get a pass this summer and most fans understand the situation, it still sucks that this many bands were pulled from the lineup last minute.
My flight was two hours late and I had completely written off Wednesday night as a loss so you can imagine how happy I was upon entering the festival grounds to this Metallica classic. And then when they capped off the finale with a fireworks spectacular? C’mon!
Region of Madrid
So I guess Madrid is a sponsor of the festival supporting Mad Cool with money for a stage and fans, but not enough support to keep public transportation open for a few extra hours. Madrid has a top notch metro and train network that provides easy access to the festival, but they close it during the three hours that 90% of the 60,000 attendees per day need it to get back to lodging. But they were giving away this fans, so great?
Influencers In The Wild
Mad Cool is about the closest thing Spain has to a Coachella, so influencers are out in force at Mad Cool posing in front of the Ferris Wheel, blocking views of the stage with their phones and leaping ungracefully into the air for Tik-Toks.
I Want to Live In a Music Festival Forever
I love this shirt and I see it all the time. As someone who has functionally lived in a music festival for year, I can understand the sentiment of forgetting your personal issues while you dance them away in a haze of drugs, booze, and beautiful people, but at some point, you just want a quiet space where you can poop in a clean toilet. Maybe try like three weekends of fests in a row before you commit to “forever”.
What’s the weather like? It’s the desert in the middle of the summer. It’s hot. Lucky for all of us, it also cools down to a manageable temperature by around ten at night – except when it doesn’t. I’m looking at you Saturday night!
What’s the prime hours for music? To avoid the heat, the show doesn’t even really start until after 6 pm at night with music lasting until three in the morning.
Where did you sleep? Like Barcelona, Madrid is an absolute monster to find affordable lodging in the middle of the summer. I spent the first night on the floor of the Madrid airport and then blew all my hard-earned hotel points on the lackluster Hilton Airport (I thought it would make getting to the festival easier. I was wrong).
How do you get there? Mad Cool changes locations next year and promises that transportation home will be easier, but as long as Madrid insists on keeping the metro closed, there’s just no way you can easily move that many people around so I don’t have high hopes.
Mad Cool Festival still remains not only one of the top lineups in Spain, but in all of Europe, so if you are looking for a guaranteed good time and don’t mind the heat, I can’t recommend a trip to Madrid enough. If you missed the big show this year, Mad Cool is debuting an intriguing new concept this September called Mad Cool Sunset, a single day show featuring Rage Against the Machine, Run the Jewels, and more. I hope to see you there!