The 10 must-see acts to catch at Mad Cool 2023

From rock ‘n’ roll heavyweights to breakthrough pop stars, this year’s instalment of the festival is set to unite music lovers from all backgrounds

Mad Cool Festival is set to return for its 2023 edition this summer, taking place in Madrid’s Villaverde between July 6 and July 8.

Hosting an impressive variety of artists set to appeal to any music lover, the three-day instalment will play host to countless acts from every genre from metal to pop, indie to dance. Whether it be through rock icons such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Queens Of The Stone Age, or emerging pop stars reigniting the live music scene, Mad Cool 2023 is set to be one of the most jam-packed festivals of this year.

Now, with less than two months until it kicks off – and remaining tickets available here – what better time to take a glimpse into some of NME’s top choices for who you should keep an eye out from this year’s line-up.



Appearing as one to watch back in April 2020, Spanish four-piece Belako were already turning heads even before their debut album ‘Plastic Drama’, which was released later that year. Having signed an international record deal with BMG, invigorated the Spanish rock scene with their own blend of punk-thrash, and been celebrated on the NME Radar in the short time since, the four-piece are set to ignite the stage when they kick off their set in native Spain this summer.

Belako (Picture: Press)

Genesis Owusu

Up next is another recent breakthrough artist, the Ghanaian-Australian rapper who released his debut LP ‘Smiling With No Teeth’, last year to an uproar of positive reviews. Receiving a glowing five-star review from NME for his recent performance at the Sydney Opera House, and having channelled an intricate blend of Frank Ocean, Jimi Hendrix and Paramore in his latest song ‘Hole Heart’ (which he included on NME’s C23 mixtape earlier this year), Owusu is almost certain to unite fans of rap, rock and punk with his performance later this year.

Genesis Owusu at C23 Live
Credit: Joe Bishop/NME


An NME favourite, HotWax have already made themselves into one of the most sought-after new acts in recent years, and have been hailed as the “next big guitar band”. While proving that they come to life when they hit the stage — having supported The Strokes and earning themselves a slot at this year’s All Points East — the slot the Hasting-via-Brighton trio have secured at Mad Cool promises to be their most impressive yet, and arrives hot on the heels of their debut EP ‘A Thousand Times’, which isset for release later this week (May 19).

HotWax, 2023
HotWax, 2023. Credit: Alice Denny

Lil Nas X


When it comes to artists reinventing their genre, no one does it quite like Lil Nas X, who revolutionised the rap scene with his debut album ‘Montero’ in 2021. From collaborating with the likes of Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion, to setting social media ablaze with his country-rap song with Billy Ray Cyrus, there is no doubt that the 24-year-old singer-songwriter will be delivering a set almost as immersive and creative as his look at the 2023 Met Gala.

Lil Nas X performing on stage
Lil Nas X. Credit: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images


In case being at the three-day festival in sunny Madrid wasn’t enough in itself, pop icon Lizzo will be there on the opening day of the event (July 6), and no doubt arriving with her message of positivity, countless global hits including ‘About Damn Time’ and ‘Good As Hell’, and, of course, Sasha Flute.

Given the array of guest appearances at her ongoing American tour — and not to forget her cover of Rammstein at a show in Germany earlier this year — it is safe to assume the pop icon will make her headline set at Mad Cool something fans won’t forget any time soon.

Lizzo. CREDIT: Sergione Infuso/Corbis via Getty Image

Nova Twins

Nova Twins will undoubtedly be one of the top acts to catch at this year’s instalment of the festival, and have already been praised by Sir Elton John as one of the female-fronted acts making “the best” in the modern day. For those who missed the London rock duo on their recent EU and UK ‘Supernova’ tour, what better time to catch them live, and discover why they were named as one of the best Albums Of The Year at last year’s Mercury Prize, following the release of their latest LP.

Nova Twins
Nova Twins. CREDIT: Federica Burelli

Queens Of The Stone Age

Rock and metal fans can rejoice this year, as the headline slot from Queens Of The Stone Age arrives less than a month after their newly-announced album, ‘In Times New Roman’ (set for June 8). Without question, Josh Homme and co will be using the set to perform some of the first live renditions of songs on the album — meaning that fans at this year’s Mad Cool will be some of the first in the world to hear the band’s first new music in six years.

Queens Of The Stone Age, 2023. Credit: Andreas Neumann
Queens Of The Stone Age, 2023. Credit: Andreas Neumann

Rina Sawayama

Hot on the tail of her North American tour dates, alternative singer-songwriter and The Big Read cover star Rina Sawayama is set to have one of the most memorable performances of the entire festival this year.

Having already earned the trophy for Best Live Act at the BandLab NME Awards in 2022, the alternative singer and John Wick 4 actress is expected to bring the energy this July at the opening night of the festival, and play some of the fan-favourite songs from her second LP ‘Hold The Girl’, which was awarded five-stars in an NME review.

Rina Sawayama, Latitude 2022. CREDIT: Press

Sam Smith

Just three months after Sam Smith‘s captivating performance in London, the singer is set to bring their empowering, burlesque-inspired live shows to the Mad Cool stage, acting as one of the headliners on the second day of the three-day stint. Having reinvented themself from the 2014 breakthrough single ‘Stay With Me’, nearly 10 years on, Smith will undoubtedly deliver one of the most captivating, immersive and feel-good slots of the entire festival.

Sam Smith performs in Dublin, Ireland in 2023. CREDIT: Debbie Hickey/Getty Images

 Sila Lua

Bringing the list to a close and representing the urban and electronic side of the 2023 instalment of Mad Cool is Spain’s own artist and producer Sila Lua. Breaking into the scene in 2017 with her debut single ‘The Black Door’, Lua soon went on to solidify her alternative-urban sound with her 2022 LP ‘Rompe’. Somewhat of an underdog of this year’s line-up, her hypnotic renditions of ‘Eres Para Mí’ and ‘Tanta Vida’ are not ones to be missed.

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