Madrid’s premier mega-festival, Mad Cool Festival, returned this July 6th-8th with a fresh new venue in the Villaverde district. The only thing hotter than the temps at Mad Cool is the lineup which features some of the biggest acts touring Europe this summer. Music Festival Wizard dropped in for our third visit to cover the action. Let’s take a look at what went down over the weekend.
Table Of Contents
1. Running the Numbers
Dates: July 6-8, 2023
Attendance: 67,000/day est.
MFW Beer Index: €6.50/500ml (€6.15/pint)
Highest/Lowest Temperature: 34C/18C (93F/64F)
Reusable Cups? Yes
Free Water Stations? Yes
2. The Scene
The verdict on the new venue in Villaverede? Not that much different than the old one. It’s a large open space with nearly every inch covered in artificial grass. Most of the action takes place on three open-air stages and a covered stage providing much-needed shade. The Loop, also covered, focuses strictly on electronic music, and next to that are three small indoor stages that feel like mini-clubs. The flow of traffic moved smoothly, but there were chokepoints, particularly in the middle of the festival where the only bathrooms were located.
Mad Cool Fest always has a top-notch lineup bringing in artists from all over the world with a wide diversity of genres. The good news is that Stages 1 and 2, which boast all the major headliners have no conflicts. The bad news is that because the mid-lineup is so deep, there are more lineup clashes than I generally want to see on a schedule.
With nearly 70,000 festies a day in attendance, this is a mega-festival, but the only time I felt overcrowded was during headlining sets from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Robbie Williams. Except for small pockets of rowdy groups from the British Isles, the crowd is your typical chill Spanish festie crowd. Be prepared for a grip of influencers using the festival as a backdrop – lots of walking slowly away from the camera and then glancing coyly back over the shoulder.
3. Music Highlights
Acts I Caught and the Unofficial Order in Which I Enjoyed Them
- The Hu
- City & Colour
- The Offspring
- Kurt Vile & The Violators
- Queens of The Stone Age
- Mumford & Sons
- Polo & Pan
- Touche Amore
- Sam Smith
- Machine Gun Kelly
- Purple Disco Machine
- Maximo Park
- Paolo Nutini
- Sylvan Esso
- Years & Years
- Mimi Webb
- Honey Dijon
Festival MVP: Lizzo
Did anybody think Lizzo wouldn’t be great live? Taking on Thursday night with a crew of dancers and a flute, Lizzo tore through her hits shaking, dancing, and kicking ass.
Most Surprising: Puscifer
I wasn’t sure what a Puscifer live show would be like, and after seeing them, I’m even less sure. Maynard James Keenan from Tool, Carina Round, and Mat Mitchell put on one hell of an interesting show and if you get a chance, make sure to catch them on tour this year.
Keep Your Eye On: The Hu
Going up against RHCP was a tough break for my favorite act of the summer, but that only meant the diehards were on hand for Mongolia’s best metal band.
Ready to Party: Polo & Pan
Sometimes all you need is some blissed-out tropical world dance music from two French DJs to kick the night into high gear.
Debut Festival Appearance (For Me): Machine Gun Kelly
I can’t say that I enjoyed MGK, but I also can’t say it was uninteresting. Dude looked like he might pass out after scaling a bizarre Q*bert pyramid while being blasted by the highest temps of the day.
4. Stray Observations
Where’s the art?
I was disappointed that with all that open space, Mad Cool doesn’t have many art installations. What they did have was a bunch of sponsor displays that were blessedly tucked away in one corner of the grounds.
Best Stage Display
Sam Smith performing on top of an inflatable naked gold person is one of the strangest things I’ve seen all year.
Wizard of the Weekend
Mad Cool isn’t a big costume fest, so this guy carrying around an astronaut balloon is the best I could find.
5. Practical Info
What’s the weather like? It’s the middle of the desert during the middle of summer during the middle of a heatwave, but if you can make it through the first few hours until sunset, the temps become much more enjoyable. And if you are on the search for the best new up-and-coming bands, Stages 6,7, and 8, all had blessed air-conditioning to go along with the tunes.
What are the prime hours for music? Music mostly ran non-stop from six in the evening until two in the morning with main headliners settling in from 9:30 to 12:30 am.
Where did you sleep? Madrid has options for all budgets and I planned to stay in an Airbnb room closer to the venue, but in recent years, Airbnb has become as expensive as hotels. While I can live with a shared bathroom, no air-conditioning, and weird rules from the host (like a midnight curfew!), the payoff was always that I saved quite a bit of money. As this is no longer the case, I stayed at the four-star Hotel Ilunion Pío XII for less than an Airbnb.
How do you get there? I took the metro all three days (€6 RT) and found it easy to travel to and from the fest. The city extended some transit lines for the festival until 3 am, so there were no issues with getting back into Madrid. The only downside is there was a very sweaty 20-minute walk to reach the festival.
6. Final Thoughts
A venue change is always a tough proposition to pull off without issues, but Mad Cool made the move to Villaverde effortlessly. The schedule conflicts and warm weather can be a bummer, but if you are looking for a massive open-air city festival with one of the best lineups of the season, you can’t go wrong with a weekend at Mad Cool Festival. Dates for the 2024 edition have already been announced for July 11th-13th, so more than enough time for you to start planning next year’s Spanish summer adventure.