By and large, music festivals in the UK tend to be no longer than three days long. But those crazy cats at Mad Cool go that little bit harder, giving us five packed days of some of the best live acts on the planet.
Wednesday (July 6) seems like a long time ago now, but day one got off to a flying start thanks to the likes of Yungblud, CHVRCHES, Twenty One Pilots and Metallica, before The Killers, Foals, Deftones, Sigrid and St. Vincent gave us the best Thursday night we’ve had in a while. Fridays don’t come much bigger than Muse, Phoebe Bridgers, Alt-J, Haim and a surprise turn from Jamie Cullum, while Mad Cool become a super-spreader of Saturday night fever thanks to Royal Blood, Florence + The Machine, Kings Of Leon, Zara Larsson and Gang Of Youths.
Listing all of that off, you can imagine how weary we’d be on the Sunday – but here are some of the highlights that kept us on our feet yesterday (July 10).
Words by: Sam Moore, Hannah Mylrea, Andrew Trendell, Kyann-Sian Williams, Sophie Williams
BLOOD RED SHOES BATTLE SOUND DEMONS AND EMERGE AS A NEW BAND
Tearing into the barnstorming 2007 fan favourite ‘It’s Getting Boring By The Sea’ to open The Loop stage on the final day of Mad Cool 2022, things seem to get off to a cracking start for Blood Red Shoes before distress then sets in on stage. Drummer Steven Ansell tells the crowd about the “seriously bad technical problems” that mean frontwoman Laura-Mary Carter can’t hear anything that’s being played. “We didn’t come all this way to not play a rock show,” he continues, introducing the simmering ‘Light It Up’ as his “dreams come true” of playing a drum solo until his bandmate’s sound issues are sorted.
BRS pull it back with aplomb, though: from the spikey ‘I Wish I Was Someone Better’ and the punky ‘An Animal’ to inviting two new members on stage to add bass, synth, percussion and more meaty and full-bodied electro sounds to their Depeche Mode-indebted new material. By the end of their set, not only is victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat, but they’ve become a whole new band in the process. AT
PRINCESS NOKIA: A PUNK ROCK QUEEN
Princess Nokia just looks like a rockstar. Shedding the oversized jeans and the bellowing maxi-dress looks of her previous eras, she emerges on the Madrid Is Life stage in a ripped Led Zeppelin top, mini shorts and laced-up boots: a bit like a punk rock wrestler. And she acts like one, too: when ‘Katana’ kicks in, she starts punching the air and delivering high kicks like she’s in the ring.
The New Yorker tells us, after the TikTok-friendly ‘Slumber Party’, about how she recently reconnected with a school friend of 15 years for her “lesbian summer”, before then telling the men in the crowd to “please stand up for your sisters, girlfriends, mothers… and don’t treat [women’s] bodies like you can put a coin in and fuck us” while laying down some truth on the recent Roe vs. Wade decision. She ends with ‘American Woman’ by the Guess Who and a strip tease, completing a set of pure, screaming, IDGAF punk. KSW
SAM FENDER BEATS THE HEAT TO GET HIS FLOWERS
A gang of young pals bedecked in Newcastle United shirts, swinging Aperol Spritz tote bags above their heads, are floating across the Mad Cool festival site towards the main stage, while a few metres away, a security guard has started spraying water at them from a hose. After all, the temperature at the main stage is ticking along to an eye-watering 40 degrees as South Shields guitar hero Sam Fender appears, slick with sweat. “This is the hottest fucking festival I’ve ever played in my life,” he says as his stage manager runs on to offer him a refreshing can of Fanta Lemon – yet, unbelievably, Fender chooses to stick to drinking his flask of tea instead. Fair enough.
Not even this unearthly temperature – for the sizable British contingent here, at least – can stop Fender from delivering an electrifying hour of epic anthems, though. ‘Howdon Aldi Death Queue’ sounds punky and jagged in this prickly heat, while the bluesy ‘Spit Of You’ blazes along. The supercharged guitar jangle of ‘Seventeen Going Under’ soars high and wide as ever, but it’s ‘Get You Down’ that’s the real showstopper. As the track sees Fender’s throaty holler hit a new high, a young fan throws a bouquet towards him – finally giving him his flowers, both literally and figuratively. SW
HALLOWEEN COMES EARLY WITH TONES AND I
Those entering The Loop at 8:30pm might feel like they’ve suddenly been transported four months into the future for Halloween – but no, it’s just Tones and I’s impressive haunted house-themed stage set. Looking like something that’s been plucked out of The Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s an intriguing playground for the Australian singer-songwriter’s performance. With the members of her live band all situated at various points of the horror-movie mansion, Tones & I utilises the space: at one point, she emerges up top for a slow-burning rendition of Alphaville’s ‘Forever Young’ that starts quietly before exploding into a tropical-house rave.
“At one of my first shows I wanted to throw something into the crowd, something I could write on…” Tones tell the audience later, before then explaining that it’s something that she wants to do this time around, too. “I wanted to write ‘Mad Cool 10 – 7 – 2022’ [on it], but then one wasn’t enough…” Cue a bevy of frisbees being flung into the crowd to squeals of delight. Yet this reaction pales in comparison to the giddy joy that fills the sweaty tent as Tones & I’s breakout global smash ‘Dance Monkey’ and 2020 earworm ‘Fly Away’ ring out, the army of punters finishing the show with a mass sing-a-long. HM
MEET NATHY PELUSO: LIKE ROSALIA AND GRACE JONES CROSSED WITH THE TERMINATOR
Curiosity drags us to the Madrid Is Life stage when we’re told that the Argentinian-born, Spanish-raised Nathy Peluso is a prett-eehh big deal in these parts. No kidding! The crowd she draws is one of the biggest and liveliest we’ve seen here all week, which ain’t bad going when the fifth day of festival fatigue might have set in.
Our curiosity is rewarded. With a volatile amount of lusty bravado and some wild on-stage theatrics to match her hip-swinging blend of hi-hop, pop, soul, Latin and world music, Peluso is like Rosalía, Rihanna, Christine & The Queens, Grace Jones and The Terminator in one bewilderingly awesome package. Whether she’s cutting a graceful silhouette while we salsa away to ‘Ateo’, making things all the more intimate as she glares down her mic camera for an aggressive rendition of ‘BZRP Music Sessions, Vol. 36’ or honouring James Brown’s cape routine when she briefly hits the crowd before the all-out rave of ‘Emergencia’, Peluso proves a twerking, flower-abusing surprise highlight of Mad Cool’s long and stacked week. AT
TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB BRING THE INDIE DISCO NOSTALGIA
How often does nostalgia sound as loud as this? As the sun begins to set over Madrid on the final night of Mad Cool 2022, thousands of punters have packed out the blisteringly-hot The Loop tent all in the name of hearing some of the biggest indie anthems of the 2010s. What follows is a deafeningly noisy set from Two Door Cinema Club, who – plus a backing drummer and keyboard player – transport this crowd through the years with their peppy and percussive hits.
“This is the first song we ever released,” says guitarist Sam Halliday to an almighty roar as ‘Something Good Can Work’ pops and fizzes into life. Other tracks from their 2010 album ‘Tourist History’, including ‘What You Know’ and ‘Undercover Martyn’, conjure warm baths of memories – The Inbetweeners and FIFA soundtracks, anyone? – before the sprightly music startles you awake. TDCC know their fans want to hear their youthful back catalogue, but they still air some more recent material – though the audience’s attention noticeably lags during recent single ‘Wonderful Life’. Still, nostalgia and bangers leave many an indie-head with a Mad Cool final night to look back on fondly. SW
TINASHE TURNS MAD COOL INTO A BANGING NIGHTCLUB
Pulling out all of the stops as darkness descends on Mad Cool 2022 for the final time, alt-pop sensation and dancer-turned-singer Tinashe puts her training to the test with a squad of lively dancers to help her shake up the Amazon Music stage. Drawing in a sizeable crowd away from Two Door Cinema Club, the Californian starts off with her seminal solo track ‘2 On’ as she and her troupe emerge all in white and throw all their energy into their immense nightclub choreography.
There’s not much talking – just back-to-back bangers for her old and new fans alike. Early cuts from her debut album ‘Aquarius’, such as ‘How Many Times’, offer a sultry vibe, while she later swaps out her on-stage trampolines for some daring cabaret chair routines. It’s a flawless exercise of what a real pop star can really do. KSW
MAD COOL ‘22 SIGNS OFF WITH A JACK WHITE MASTERCLASS
What’s the best way to round off a simply sizzling weekend of live music in Madrid? Enlist Jack White to close the festival, of course. The White Stripes man and his fearsome live band (special shout-out to his outstanding drummer, Daru Jones) emphatically bring the curtain down on Mad Cool 2022 with their electrifying ‘Fear Of The Dawn’ show. There are smatterings of White’s solo tracks (‘Taking Me Back’, ‘Freedom At 21’, ‘Love Interruption’) and choice cuts from his many other bands (renditions of The Dead Weather’s ‘I Cut Like A Buffalo’ and The Raconteurs’ ‘Steady, As She Goes’ are as rapturously received by the crowd as anything else we’ve witnessed this weekend) amid the 15-song setlist that is blasted out from the Madrid Is Life stage.
But it’s when White serves up classic White Stripes material that his late-night headline set really enters “big festival moment” mode. There’s a hoedown for ‘Hotel Yorba’ (after which White gives praise to Madrid’s recent Pride celebrations), a searing ‘Black Math’, the crunching ‘Hardest Button To Button’ and the thrash-dash ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’. And to conclude? A little track that goes by the title ‘Seven Nation Army’. An enduring festival anthem for the ages, it makes for a fittingly unifying and celebratory soundtrack to play us out as we say adios to another spectacular Mad Cool Festival. SM
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