Live Report: Mad Cool Festival 2019

Live Report: Mad Cool Festival 2019

It's a thriller in Madrid...

Whether it’s a delicious irony or a boneheaded misstep, the urge to punch #MadisCool into the brain when you’re crumpled like a baked Alaska in an airport hangar wondering at what point your tongue evaporated, does bring a wry smile to the face.

It’s 2019, it’s Mad Cool in July. The second time at this venue. A desultory place on the outskirts of Madrid with only an airport and a series of looping toll roads as company. Dry and arid though it is, it’s kind of great. Offering an ideal blank canvas to plonk whatever bold fixtures of fun the budget will allow. Uber’s at the festival too and, as a result, a well-oiled entrance and exit awaits the average festival-goer and en route from the city, the ferris wheel and neon lights rear into view.

Fake grass adorns the whole site, offering a security blanket of bright green as pallet cleanser to the multitude of brash colours exploding from the corporate bloom boxes, posturing such ‘activation’ joys as vape roulette and repeated viewings of The Lion King trailer in a straw strewn hammock. A surreal experience to walk through when on the way to seeing Mogwai wash away the grubbiness and kick a hot fugue into submission. 

Last year’s festival organisation wasn’t well received, with significant grumbling about queues, long unromantic walks in the hot sun for water and other such teething problems. This year, it was clear this had an impact on preparations. Reportedly reducing capacity by 10,000, the layout had been thought through to encourage the feeling of space in a conveniently compact environment and, with enough baubles for distraction between stages, there was still a welcome sense of separation.

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The line up itself was not so cohesive. Thursday pulled out some stonkers; The Hives, Iggy Pop, Bon Iver, The Chemical Brothers and more willed Spain’s Cinderella festival into touching distance of the best moments offered up by her better known ugly sisters, Primavera and Benicassim.

A rich tapestry of a day catered for young newligans waiting baitedly for the likes of Lewis Capaldi and Let’s Eat Grandma on to pockets of pale red balding Brits lapping up renditions from Noel Gallagher and the Chemical Brothers. Hives who reminded us again why fun doesn’t always have to be meaningful. Bon Iver’s immaculate sonic belligerence noise-cancelled its way into all ears lucky enough to hear it.

And finally, the star turn came from a Mojo boosting, Q tastic performance by Iggy Pop, shunting everyone’s sinuous bodies into reaction – the man’s still got it, as they say – culminating in a Bowie cover that pulled everyone’s pants down as he waved goodbye.

Friday, the seams started to fray. The National’s set embodied the days difficulties: with too much catalogue comes great responsibility and the need to please became apparent over the desire to go big. The sparks of Thursday begun to fade, the heat came on hard and being confronted with Miles Kane’s unglamorous bunk rock carried us off on a magic grass carpet into heavy handedness.

I’m sure Smashing Pumpkins pleased some people, but I was left flattened of any sharp edges garnered in the golden hour and finally blunted into submission by an almighty Eric Prydz clanging bang-bang laser quest. Or maybe just reeling like a happy lizard in shit seeking out the next light show.

Earlier there were hopeful performances from within the smaller stages, Tourist especially, peeling onion after onion of sultry, arpeggiated grooves that he’s made his own. But even this wasn’t enough to take away from the feeling of something lost in the day.

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Saturday, the heat abated, the wind picked up and with it a return to optimism. Parquet Courts commanded the Consequence of Sound stage early doors, aided by the encroaching walls keeping their combustion perfectly poised in its tightened rage. Mogwai too made use of their space, much bigger this time at the Comunidad de Madrid stage, and Jon Hopkins brought sublimity to bear and showed us Coldplay samples can still be cool.

And then, The Cure, what to say about The Cure. Lovely men. Two hours is too long man, they got dull. Fast. One for the fans and good on them for having their swan song, but glad that one’s past. Almost drifted to see the 1975, almost. Saved wistfully at the end with an encore of fun family favourites to lift the spirits and take the crowd jauntily on to the next bunfight. 

A carnival of cacophony, Mad Cool still hasn’t got its pants fully strapped on, but it’s close and with a few less loop de loops and a little more craft #Madiscool might even catch on.

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Words: Jonathan Rigg

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