80,000 festival-goers, a killer line-up that includes Arctic Monkeys, Pearl Jam and Dua Lipa, and one of the greenest (astroturf) festival sites around, can only mean one thing: Mad Cool Festival has returned to Madrid. Here’s what’s happened on the weekend that arguably boasted Europe’s best festival lineup.
We found Isaac and Laurie chilling out with a spot of aquarobics in the backstage pool. Yep, you read that right: backstage pool. They were the first band in the main arena at the festival, where the bands alternate between two stages so the music never stops.
Slaves then opened the festival with a raucous set. Previewing tracks from the new album, ‘Acts Of Fear And Love’, and kicking the energy up to eleven despite the baking heat.
FIDLAR’s scuzzy, sweaty punk-rock was the perfect wake-up call for any late arrivals, as they thrashed through the likes of ‘Why Generation’ and ‘Alcohol’ with the reckless abandon that follows their every move.
Eels celebrated the release of 2018 album ‘The Deconstruction’ with a wide-ranging set involving a jubilant cover of Prince’s ‘Raspberry Beret’, one of Brian Wilson’s ‘Love & Mercy’ and a, well, deconstructed version of their early hit ‘Novocaine For The Soul’.
Over on the Koko stage Leon Bridges put on a slick and soulful show. Accompanied by his stellar 7-piece band, he blitzed through tracks from his recent album ‘Good Thing’, as well as a few from his back catalogue for good measure. Finishing with a gorgeous stripped back version of ‘River’, it was a properly gorgeous way to ease into a night of music.
Soundtracking the sun setting over the festival were Tame Impala. Opening with ‘Nangs’, they then launched into ‘Let It Happen’, accompanied by their trademark confetti cannons.
Eddie Vedder and co missed their recent O2 Arena show, but delivered a powerful, throat-shredding set at Mad Cool. He’s a tryer, ol’ Eddie, so he had pre-prepared speeches written out in Spanish so he could address the crowd in their native tongue. One thing that didn’t need translating was the international language of rock – especially when ending on ‘Alive’ and a cover of Neil Young’s ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’.
Posty took to the stage in the early hours of the morning, steaming through an hour of his own brand of rap rock. The star was on fine form, with the big hitters like ‘Better Now’ and ‘rockstar’, but the set was somewhat soured by his decidedly unwoke on stage persona.
Opening with ‘Ill Ray (The King)’, the lads rocketed through a blistering set of total bangers.
Despite some initial technical difficulties, jungle pop duo Sofi Tukker delighted with a buoyant set of pop euphoria. What with getting an audience member to come and join their choreographed dance routine during ‘Awoo’, and their onstage pièce de résistance – an elaborate, rainbow coloured drum machine – it was a total joy to watch.
11Sofi Tukker strike a pose
Ahead of their set, Sofi Tukker found the time for a quick chat. The duo exclusively revealed that they have a new collaboration with Zhu coming out, with Tucker Halpern telling NME: “We have a song with Zhu coming out in the next couple of months. That’s a brand new collaboration we did recently when we were in LA. It’s really fun. It’s a really cool song. It’s like a sexy song, it’s pretty gross actually. She (Sophie) had a lot of sex the week she wrote that song that’s my guess/that’s my knowledge.”
James Bay took to the Koko stage on day two, as an army of fans turned out for his set in the blazing sun. Opening with ‘Pink Lemonade’, Bay and his band then blitzed through a set of total crowd pleasers, that included a Tina Turner cover, and an extended version of ‘Hold Back the River’
Jack White yelped and shredded his way through a jaw-dropping set incorporating a honky-tonk ‘Hotel Yorba’ and a version of ‘Connected By Love’ that was so soaringly OTT Freddie Mercury would have nodded in approval.
For many, it was Arctic Monkeys who were the main draw on the stellar Mad Cool lineup. As Alex Turner and the lads sauntered on stage, they opened with a seductive rendition of ‘Four Out Of Five’, before launching into the blistering ‘Brianstorm’.
Franz Ferdinand were at their scissor-kicking, ‘Take Me Out’-ing best at this ‘bigger in Europe than you thought they were’ set in the main arena, where frontman Alex Kapranos took a dig at the fenced-off VIP area front of stage, telling crowds he “despise[s] this area”.
Rag & Bone Man played ‘Human’ and all the other ones.
17Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Clad all in that darkest of shades, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club showed no evidence that their wardrobes might be less than appropriate for the Spanish sun, soaring through a set of their gloomy, old school rock n’ drawl.
Dave Gahan rocked a waistcoat better than Gareth Southgate as they played through Depeche Mode’s greatest hits, particularly from their Violator era including ‘Personal Jesus’ and ‘Enjoy the Silence’.
19Nine Inch Nails
The kings of darkness took to the festival’s main stage to welcome the weekend’s final midnight. Their brutal sound and bright white lighting shook off any remaining weekend-long hangovers, as Trent Reznor and co. delivered a sprawling, career-spanning 18-track set, proving they’re still the masters of madness and melancholy.
Ahead of their set, Wolf Al took the time to pose for our ‘gram, and have a chat about all things football and festivals.
As the rest of team NME gets on site for day three of Mad Cool Festival, Ellie Rowsell’s stunning vocals are already echoing across the astro-turfed plains.
“What. If. It’s. Not. Meant for me. Looooooooove”. We start to run and get to the front just as things get going.
For this early in the lineup, the crowd is big. European festival organisers, it seems, are yet to cotton on to Wolf Alice’s fervent fan base or ability to dominate a fezzie stage. With one more album under their belts, these guys will be headliners. Ellie is the perfect frontperson, maintaining a certain poise as Joff and Theo thrash about beside her like a couple of Rotweilers on a leash.
“Who wants to jump about a bit at six o’ clock on a fucking Saturday?” yells Theo before the first notes of ‘Space and Time’ begin to play.
Old songs blend into new seamlessly. For pretty quiet souls, Wolf Alice bring the ruckus. Next year we’ll be bouncing around much later than 6pm, that’s for sure.
22Queens of the Stone Age
Queens Of The Stone Age were on the fieriest of form, with Josh Homme taking issue at security and the VIP area, inciting a mass free-for-all and smashing a stack of their own stage lights.
After a weekend of asking the people of Mad Cool how many of Dua’s rules they could remember, we finally got to hear them. The pop icon was no less than perfection, closing the 2018 festival by bopping through hits including ‘Be The One’ and ‘One Kiss’, finishing with her anti-fuckboy checklist, ‘New Rules’.