The 2023 edition of the Madrid-based festival Mad Cool, which has been headlining the Spanish capital since 2016, recently concluded. The majestic lineup, the great organization and the perfect summer weather are the winning elements that have made one of the youngest European festivals so quickly known and iconic. This year there was no shortage of controversy for the new venue, richer in content but more compact, some logistical problems related to the central location of the bathroom, but organizing an event so diverse and exuberant presents so many challenges that some, heap In, losing is physical.
From the perspective of the participants, there is only one main challenge: overlap. Like any major festival, it is impossible to see all the artists at once. Spanning eight stages, active from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., Mad Cool’s lineup includes so many big names that one wishes for more ubiquity than eternal life. But some choices have to be made and, based on that essential, here is a selection of Mad Cool’s most memorable acts. Legends like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Liam Gallagher, Lizzo, Paolo Nutini, The Black Keys and Sam Smith are left out of the rankings, not because they don’t deserve mention, but because they have to attend the All-Star Game every year. . You have to be the perfect LeBron James without having to prove anything.
Here are ten of the best live performances from Mad Cool Festival 2023, filled with some good reasons to attend the next editions.
In tenth place are what we could easily consider to be the revelation band of the year. Making its debut on the fourth stage, the brand new Oigo Stage, The Irish Picture has managed to turn this one of many side shows into a show worthy of a headliner. An enthusiastic audience, soulful performances and a promise to return soon that is loved by the local populace. One of the advantages of seeing smaller bands in such an environment is that, having found themselves enshrined in a diamond crown, these artists must shine to the best of their ability to stand out. A word of advice: Never underestimate the early afternoon performances, explore the stages.
1975 are currently one of the most relevant pop groups in the world. Reaching their fifth album after more than twenty years, the Matty Healy-led band has long been able to make a mark on major international platforms. This is exactly what happens in Madrid. Despite a live preview of the impending announcement of a European tour – he calls it “one of the house”, referring to the now iconic leg of the At Their Very Best Tour – Mad Cool’s afternoon slot is nothing but summer homework. Seems like Matty’s charisma, even as he sits cross-legged, smoking a cigarette and drinking wine from his flask, has sent home many a more distinguished fellow frontman.
Robbie is Robbie. When you put him on the throne he does exactly what he was born to do: be king. Their show is one of the most self-centered, celebratory, interactive and entertaining of the entire event. It is capable of turning even the obvious fatigue caused by aging into entertainment. He doesn’t hide it, nor does he limit himself to attending: he makes it part of the show, disregarding all written and unwritten rules of live music. On the other hand, he himself says this: he is a born rebel.
Announced at the last minute as a replacement for Janelle Monae, who was unable to attend, MIA brought to the stage one of the most beautiful performances of the year, “Madrid Is Life”. Mad Cool has demonstrated this enviable power over the years: It manages to make last-minute replacements a real charmer. It happened last year with Incubus – author of one of his best performances to date, according to many fans and insiders – and it happened again this year with the British rapper of Tamil origin. Style, character, talent and some hugely acclaimed crowds: The most explosive cocktail of Mad Cool ’23.
Only one album released, only one world tour starting in 2022, paving his way to become one of the most media-resonant in recent years and one of the most powerful names in world hip hop, who knows what Come after how many years from now? Lil Nas X headlines the second stage, performing at 1 a.m. He uses his voice, his physique and his extraordinary skills as a performer. Unlike some peers with more experience or influence, the very young Montero Lamar Hill delivers live performances that leave even non-fans speechless.
Compared to the 2022 edition, this year has some mediocre rock bands. Lots of mainstream rock, very few alternatives. Perhaps this is the only major drawback of this year, especially when compared with the latest versions. On the one hand there are limits imposed on the band’s plans and style by rich competition from more vertical festivals, on the other hand, perhaps, the choice of artistic direction, which will be confirmed or denied in the following years. This edition stands out among the few alternative rock bands, Pusifer, the youngest and most unexpected of Maynard James Keenan’s bands. “We’re just a rock ‘n’ roll band that plays rock ‘n’ roll songs,” Maynard says, launching into a unique pantomime of aliens, secret agents, and Style Pax.
The perfect end to any celebration. A precise hour of pure madness, during which the survivors of the third day give free rein to their last energies. A person walking through the concert area sees circular pits hundreds of feet from the stage, even in the entertainment areas ready to go. The two original members, Liam Howlett and Maxim Reality, have been on stage for the past year and a half, accompanied by Leo Crabtree on drums and new entry Rob Holliday on guitar. But among them, disorganized yet extraordinarily perceptive, is the eternal spirit of Keith Flint, greeted by his fans in a way they might have appreciated more: ‘Dancing till you drop.’
The deal with Sigur Rós is this: If you really want to live his lived experience, you have to abandon perception of the outside world and let your mind and body enter his sonic bubble. If you can do that, his concert will be unlike any other. At a festival such as Mad Cool this operation may be more complicated, or at least almost all listeners who pass by the area of the Madrid stage by accident or curiosity may be left out. For everyone else, perhaps the most intense and cathartic experience of the weekend resides understage.
As well as being one of the biggest names on the bill, he was also the biggest partygoer. A folk and rock fest that turned Mad Cool into a community made up of smiles, hugs, tears of emotion and the hottest sing-alongs imaginable. Among the festival’s main, alternating participants on the Mad Cool Stage, Mumford is the one who most embodied the headliner status. The same can be said about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but the surprising effect generated by both bands is clearly biased towards Londoners. Perfect lineup, closing fireworks, Spanish flag in Marcus Mumford’s hands. You really have to be the toughest on the planet to beat such a set.
And here they are, the toughest of all: Queens of the Stone Age. First place goes down hands-down, as Josh Homme and company take Mad Cool. Anyone who has had the pleasure and privilege of following the careers of American bands knows that seeing them live doesn’t always equate to seeing a great concert. But when the evening is right, when Josh Homme remembers that he is one of the world’s best, most iconic and charismatic frontrunners, there is nothing for anyone to do. On July 7, 2023 in Madrid, the evening was undoubtedly perfect. QotSA Score is one live score that deserves to break out of this ranking and intrude on a much wider ranking. The resounding success of this one-and-a-half-hour ultra-rare power also goes to the audience, who literally went out of their minds during the most violent live show of this edition, as a redemptive outlet. And a respect for the system and the mix as well, great reminders of how fundamental each team’s work is to the entire entertainment machine, as much as the artists themselves. In it, Mad Cool confirms itself as one of the true top European players and one of the many, many reasons why those who try it out want to say it out loud to their friends at the end of the weekend: “We’ll be back next year, won’t we?”,