Now entering its second year, Mad Cool Festival has already established itself as one of the main players in Europe's festival culture. Mad Cool's inaugural year saw legendary acts such as The Who, Neil Young and The Prodigy whilst also hosting more popular, contemporary acts like Die Antwoord & Caribou amongst an ongoing list of other talent. This year sees a line-up bigger than Reading has pulled in for years – Foo Fighters, Green Day & Kings of Leon. And that's just the headliners. How can a festival in its second year possibly perform on the same level as some of its decade-old peers? I chatted to some people on-site to see what they thought of it all and about how Mad Cool is benefitting Madrid.


Javier Arnaiz – Mad Cool's Festival Director


So Mad Cool is only in its second year, how did it originally come about?

J: I have been working on festivals for many years, this is my 47th. Before now I used to own a company called Last Tour which I later sold on. Last Tour ran festivals such as BBK and Sonisphere. When this period of my life finished I started thinking about Mad Cool – creating a festival in Madrid as it was the only European city without a festival; a big festival. I'm still running a few other festivals too including Download in Spain and DCODE festival because he is the festival director in chief of Live Nation Madrid.

I was going to ask about how and why this festival is running so smoothly in its second year – how it's managed to book massive acts like Foo Fighters, Green Day & Kings of Leon. But I guess you've already answered that.

J: So the initial idea was always to make this festival, in its first edition, feel as though it was in its tenth edition of another festival. Basically, my background and experience in running other festivals has allowed me to run this as smoothly as possible. We weren't expecting the festival to sell out this year, especially this soon – three months in advance. In the next edition, we are going to move to a bigger venue.

How involved have the local council been in the festival?

J: Madrid is a city that hasn't had a big festival for a lot of years. Except for FestiMad, but it was a festival that had a lot of ups and downs and was also not as big as Mad Cool. The demand of the audience in Spain has grown towards the idea of having a festival – at the beginning we didn't have much support from the city council but mostly because they didn't know how this worked or what the impact would be on the city. So in the first edition we did not have much support but in this second edition they are really excited about it as they have seen the impact.

How does MadCool reflect the culture of Madrid?

J: We're trying very hard to make the audience have a lot of interest in Madrid so there's a lot of effort going into creating synergies with activities in the city. We actually support our audience that comes from abroad to enjoy the city and to live the city. Festivals are an economic, social tool for the city. In Spain we are still a bit behind the UK and other countries in regards to our own scene, so we need to support all of these things.

How is Mad Cool benefitting Madrid and its music scene?

J: It's very, very important for us to support our national talent because they are our future. If we don't feed that part then we will die! So in the festival, we have created a space called Mad Cool talent which is a showcase of some of our best music.

Ganges – Avro, Teresa & Jorge


So guys, tell me about your music.

J: Dreampop! Maybe.

A: We like to call it dreampop. But we're half way there so we're not sure.

It's always hard to self-describe. How did your performance at Mad Cool go?

T: It was amazing, yeah!

A: It was our first gig at a festival so it was a bit hectic but it was awesome.

T: The show started off not very busy but as it went on we drew quite a big crowd. I think it was one of the best days of my life.

J: It definitely was.

What's the reason behind being called Ganges?

T: There's no sense really, we love how the name sounds, how it's pronounced.

A: And you don't have to translate it, everyone knows how to read it.

You're all from Madrid, right? What's the music scene like here?

A: It's different from what we play.

J: Yep, totally different. Most people are playing punk rock. It feels positive that we're playing something different though. Being different helps.

A: It's tough because everyone gets used to one kind of music, but I think it helps in the long run.

How hard is it to get exposure as a band in Madrid?

A: It's tough, but it's the same answer as the last question really. If you play different music and you look and act different then it's easier to get some coverage.

Is Mad Cool helping to shine more of a light on the scene?

A: How much better could this be? It's impossible, it's a dream come true to be able to play here.

J: The best thing we could be doing right now is to be here.

What do you think of the festival itself? It's in its second year and it's already this big.

T: It's crazy, we're so proud to be here.

J: We released our first EP about six months ago and now we're here.

A: We have been gigging for about a year previously to this. We got involved here through the application to play. About 900 bands applied and we were selected. There were two rounds – first it was whittled down to 50 and then from that 50, nine were chosen to play.

How did that feel when you were chosen?

J: Well that was the second best day of our lives.

What's next for Ganges?

T: We're planning to sign a record deal!

A: We like the things that the label are doing and the bands they've signed.

J: They called us about two weeks ago with the contract which was so exciting.

A: We can't tell, but we're pretty sure being selected for Mad Cool helped get us the exposure for this.

Maria & Marta – Festival Goers from Madrid


Have you been to Mad Cool before?

Maria: Yes, I was here last year!

Marta: This is my first year.

Maria: It's so great, the bands are fantastic. Yesterday was an amazing concert.

Is it exciting to have a big, new festival in Madrid?

Maria: Yes, super exciting! I think we needed it, especially when there's huge festivals in Portugal and the rest of Spain. Since Madrid is the capital, I think it was long overdue.

Marta: The festival site is great as well – it's not too crowded, you can eat or get a drink without huge queues, it's great.

Maria: I think it's amazing how they've pulled this together in two years of doing it. Last year as well actually, the headliners were amazing. We even had acts that weren't playing in the rest of Europe which was incredible – The Who and Neil Young. For the first year of a festival, that was amazing.

Which are the best acts you've seen this year?

Maria: Green Day yesterday – Foo Fighters also, but especially Green Day. My expectations weren't that high but they blew me away, it was incredible. Possibly one of the best live acts I've ever seen. When they played short covers of The Rolling Stones and 'Hey Jude' was really cute.

Are you coming next year?

Marta: Absolutely! If they can keep the lineup at the same level then definitely.

Hugh Sturgess – Festival Goer from London, UK


Hey Hugh, so you've come to Madrid just for the festival?

H: Yeah there's about ten of us that have come over for it.

So how did you find out about Mad Cool?

H: Through a friend who organises our group! I don't know how she found out about it but she said 'this lineup looks amazing, should we all go?' and we were like 'yep, fair enough'.

Is this your first festival abroad?

H: Yeah it is, it's really good fun actually. As the festival runs from the evening into the night there's a lot of time to go and explore the city in the daytime. The first day takes a bit of getting used to as the acts go on until really late, but after that it's great.

So the festival is only in its second year, how do you think it's been running?

H: The lineup is incredible, but there's a couple of small bits that still need to get organised. Mainly the cash points but apart from that it seems to be running pretty slick. Perhaps the food could be distributed around the festival better and maybe the overlapping of the stages is a bit clunky at times but they've done an amazing job with handling quite a small site.

What acts have you been most excited about?

H: I was really excited to see Foo Fighters, that was a big tick off the list for me. We were really close to the stage so it was just nuts. Green Day were the biggest surprise, we all thought we would only go for a couple of songs but ended up staying for the whole set. It was amazing how they worked the crowd. I love how he brings people up from the crowd and gets them involved – one guy even walking off stage having been given Billie Joe's guitar! That made that guys life for sure.

Have you seen any of the Spanish acts while you've been here?

H: Yeah! I saw Nora Norman last night, she was great.