Mad Cool Festival 2022: five days of sun, sound and a special festival spirit

Here's five ways that the Madrid bash really made music shine again

We’re back from Mad Cool Festival 2022, and feeling pretty much human again. But what a sun-scorched marathon of music and magic that was: five days – that’s FIVE DAYS – of rising talent, legendary headliners and everything in-between on one of the summer’s biggest line-ups.

You can catch up on all of the action from the opening Wednesday here, the best Thursday we’ve had in a while here, the epic Friday here, the mega Saturday here and the lingering party of Sunday here. But trust us when we say that Mad Cool really had something in the air this year, truly making it a festival to remember.

Honestly, we really wish we were back in Madrid right now. Why? Well, check out the five ways that Mad Cool 2022 fulfilled its promise to “make music shine again”.

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The crowd for Florence + The Machine at Mad Cool 2022. Credit: Andy Ford for NME
The crowd for Florence + The Machine at Mad Cool 2022. Credit: Andy Ford for NME

Pride and activism rang out

It just so happened that Mad Cool 2022 was taking place at the same time as Madrid Pride, and its spirit of togetherness bled all over the dry and dusty planes of the festival. St. Vincent quite literally flew the LGBTQ+ flag during her set, before giving her song ‘Cheerleader’ a very special dedication in the wake of the recent overturning of Roe vs. Wade in the US. “This next one goes out to the United States Supreme Court, who want to take us back to the fucking dark ages,” Annie Clark told the crowd. “Women, we do know what we deserve, and it’s basic fucking human rights.”

Megane Mercury vowed to find more space for Black and queer people in Spain, while Princess Nokia raised visibility during her final-day set by telling us about her “lesbian summer” in finding love with an old school flame – as well as delivering her own verdict on injustice for woman in the US: “Abortion and health rights for everyone. Jesus Christ, the Supreme Court really has to do better: it’s not my fault that I can give birth, and if I don’t want to, it’s my fucking choice.”

A similar sentiment was echoed by Phoebe Bridgers during her mesmerising sunset performance. During ‘Punisher’ she offered her mic to a young woman on the barrier, who tearfully screamed back: “Women’s rights!” That moment united the whole stage in applause, before Bridgers then reeled off a number of charities and ways to help those suffering in the States. In times like this, we need stars like these and, ultimately, unity.

St. Vincent at Mad Cool 2022. Credit: Andy Ford for NME
St. Vincent at Mad Cool 2022. Credit: Andy Ford for NME

We basked in some real rock hedonism

Throw up those horns, kick up the fire and let loose. No-one knows quite how to rock like a Mad Cool crowd, and the Madrid festival gave them plenty of reasons in 2022 to get their mosh on and worship at the altar of the guitar. An assured set of newbies and unsung classics from returning Brit-rock legends Placebo? You got it. Metallica expanding their “family” and proving themselves as The Beatles of metal? Check. Fever 333 bringing power and politics to punk-rap? Right here. A high-flying, acrobatic lesson in why Twenty One Pilots are worthy headliners? Yup – and all of that was just on day one.

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That’s before you got to Deftones ending their tour in style, Foals bringing rock fans to the rave, Incubus delivering some golden oldies, The Killers giving us a disco of Glamorous Indie Rock’n’Roll for the ages, Muse riffing us into a dystopian, operatic oblivion, Pixies playing nothing but hits, Royal Blood proving that less is more with a two-piece dose of Saturday night fever and Jack White closing it all off with a feel-good guitar hero masterclass.

We’re all moshed out, but we could do it all over again.

Muse at Mad Cool 2022. Credit: Andy Ford for NME
Muse at Mad Cool 2022. Credit: Andy Ford for NME

It was also a party for pop and rap fans

But if guitars ain’t your thing, then Mad Cool has still got you covered. Some of our fondest memories from Mad Cool 2022 came from the worlds of pop, rap, R&B and dance, as the festival took us through the full musical spectrum.

Florence + Machine grew her self-described “cult” by thousands during her freedom and love-loaded headline slot, while IAMDDB shed her inhibitions (and helped us do the same), Zara Larsson laid all her love on us with a smashing ABBA cover and no-one partied quite like Mura Masa. Princess Nokia out-punked most punks with her fiery rush of alt-pop, Tinashe drew a sizeable crowd away from Two Door Cinema Club to make the Amazon Music Stage feel like a rowdy nightclub, and the memory of Carly Rae Jepsen is one that shall stay with us for a long time.

Hell, even Jamie Cullum pulled in one of the biggest audiences of the weekend and acted more like a rockstar than any leather-clad dinosaur they could have booked. Yes, we were shocked too.

zara larsson
Zara Larsson at Mad Cool Festival 2022 (Picture: Jaime Massieu)

Local talent shone

Why would you come all the way to Spain and not check out the best of what the country has to offer musically, eh? Megane Mercury more than proved why they deserved to win the competition to open the Seven stage, while NME 100 alumnus Irenegarry continued to be a fine ambassador for the nation’s rising musical talent. Natos Y Woar, meanwhile, showed us what Spanish hip-hop is really made of, and not even the sound man switching him off so that the next set could begin could stop Guitarricadelafuente from giving his fans some sweet, acoustic-led prowess.

However, the whole weekend may have belonged to the Argentinian-born, Spanish-raised Nathy Peluso. Like RosalíaRihannaChristine & The QueensGrace Jones and The Terminator wrapped up in one bewilderingly awesome package, her sexed-up, high-octane, hip-swinging theatrical blend of hip-hop, pop, soul, Latin and world music left us feeling angry at ourselves for not discovering her music sooner.

Nathy Peluso like at Mad Cool 2022. Credit: Andy Ford for NME
Nathy Peluso like at Mad Cool 2022. Credit: Andy Ford for NME

And we met the headliners of the future

Any festival worth its salt will pack the lower echelons of its stacked line-up with some of the most exciting acts on show. Fittingly, many of the early-evening artists at Mad Cool 2022 came to lay claim to the future. “Are you all ready for a fucking rock‘n’roll show?” screamed Yungblud on the opening day, before proving himself a pop-punk powerhouse with the energy to headline nine times over. Dominic Harrison then ran over to catch Sports Team‘s set, as they picked up the baton for scrappy indie and charged headlong into the future.

CHVRCHES‘ late night sci-fi goth-pop spectacular, meanwhile, felt like it belonged on a much bigger stage (make it happen next time, Mad Cool), while the aforementioned Phoebe Bridgers seemed unstoppable with her pure bad-assery and ever-growing near-religious following. And then there was Sam Fender‘s knack for battling the heat with banter and bangers on the main stage, which will surely see him topping line-ups the world over when album Number Three rolls around. Whatever tomorrow brings, you’ll find it at Mad Cool.

yungblud live
Yungblud live at Mad Cool 2022. Credit: Andy Ford for NME

Check back here at NME for the latest news, interviews, photos and more from Mad Cool 2022.

NME is an official media partner of Mad Cool Festival 2022

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