All The Can’t-Miss Sets At Madrid’s Mad Cool Festival 2019

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If you’ve been paying attention to impressive festival lineups over the last few years, the chances are that you’ve taken notice of Madrid’s Mad Cool Festival. Set in the Spanish city in the middle of summer, the festival stands distinct from its American counterparts. That isn’t to say that it is necessarily booking more interesting talent than the top-tier US events, but more that it stands out as an example as to how different the two markets are, and how some European festivals go far beyond the traditional single daily headliners that most US events employ.

In 2017, Mad Cool established itself for its rock-centric bookings, locking in the likes of Green Day, Kings Of Leon, and Foo Fighters to anchor their festival, with an undercard that included M.I.A., Wilco, Cage The Elephant, and Savages. And while it was certainly an impressive poster, its heavy emphasis on the indie and traditional rock worlds placed it in direct contrast with domestic US festivals that were transitioning to more hip-hop, dance, and Spotify-approved artists at that time. But in 2018, Mad Cool went ham and put together an all-timer, featuring more headliner-caliber acts at one festival than is often seen over several years: Pearl Jam, Depeche Mode, Tame Impala, Post Malone, Massive Attack, Arctic Monkeys, Nine Inch Nails, Jack Johnson, Queens Of The Stone Age, Dua Lipa, and Fleet Foxes. The festival not only brought an absurd amount of elite talent to the event, but also showed growth as to what sounds would define their annual fest.

2019’s iteration of Mad Cool continues that trajectory. Indie and rock are still playing a central role, with artists like Bon Iver, The National, The Cure, The 1975, and Vampire Weekend providing ballast for the event’s identity. At the same time, artists like Robyn, Lykke Li, Vince Staples, and Ms. Lauryn Hill expand the idea of what the festival can be. Furthermore, Rosalia and Vetusta Morla give the festival some premier Spanish acts to bolster the local talent that is featured on the bill, which also includes smaller artists like Carino, DobleCapa, and Tirano. For a festival only embarking on its fourth year, Mad Cool feels already fully-formed, separating itself from its peers, both domestically and internationally.

With so much on the lineup to take it, Uproxx offers up this handy guide, outlining ten artists that attendees should not miss. Mad Cool begins on Wednesday, July 10 and runs through Saturday, July 13. Tickets are still available here.

Wednesday, July 10

Rosalia, 21:10 at the Mad Cool Stage

There might not be a Spanish artist having a bigger international moment than Rosalia. Fusing traditional flamenco with modern pop, she’s collaborated with artists like Pharrell Williams and James Blake and performed at this year’s Coachella. Seeing her in her home country could feel like a victory lap in what’s been a breakout year.

Lykke Li, 22:15 at the Madrid Te Abraza Stage

Swedish indie-pop icon Lykke Li didn’t just release her fourth consecutive excellent album last year, she also recently contributed several songs to one of 2019’s best releases, Mark Ronson’s Late Night Feelings. Tasked with serving as one of the headliners for Mad Cool’s welcome party, here’s hoping that Li is already incorporating her newest songs into her setlist.

Thursday, July 11

La Dispute, 19:55 at the Comunidad De Madrid Stage

Don’t let the Spanish name fool you, La Dispute actually represent some international programming for the Spanish festival. The Michigan band blends post-hardcore, math rock, and even jazz for a sound that sticks out in the crowded field of screaming rock, while their outspoken stances on everything from women’s equality to US immigration sets the bar high in terms of how American bands can use their public standing to try to enact change.

Let’s Eat Grandma, 22:10 at the Mondo Sonoro Stage

Fresh off releasing one of the best albums of last year with their sophomore effort I’m All Ears, tragedy struck the British pop duo when co-lead Jenny Hollingworth’s partner, Billy Clayton, died. The band canceled much of their tour while opting to still play Coachella and a few other fests, and Mad Cool represents one of the few shows currently on the young band’s docket.

Ms. Lauryn Hill, 20:55 at the Madrid Te Abraza Stage

As is the case with many rock-focused festivals, the talent can often feel very male and very white. That makes the legendary Ms. Lauryn Hill feel all the more important at this year’s Mad Cool, as she presents a different perspective than many of the artists on the lineup, bringing her set of beloved solo and Fugees tunes to her Spanish fans.

Friday, July 12

Tourist, 20:30 at The Loop

Mad Cool Festival’s first acts don’t take the stage daily until what would be dinner time in the US, and it goes into the wee hours of the night. The temptation is to arrive late and stay late, but with musicians like Tourist performing relatively early in the day, it pays to check out some of the festival’s smaller artists. The UK producer blends ambient and dance music, providing a pleasant warmup for a long day of tunes. Maybe he’ll even drop Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” into his set, as he’s a co-writer on the massive song, and earned a Grammy for his contributions to it.

The National, 22:00 at the Mad Cool Stage

There might not be a more consistent band over the past 15 years than The National. Still, though the quality remains as high as ever, their recent album I Am Easy To Find is anything but a retread, as the band worked with more collaborators than ever and infused their sound with a wealth of female vocals. Seeing how their latest songs translate live should be a treat.

Vetusta Morla, 01:15 at the Mad Cool Stage

Unlike Rosalia, Madrid’s own Vetusta Morla hasn’t quite broken through to English-speaking American audiences yet. But given the task of closing out the festival’s biggest stage on Saturday night, the beloved local indie rockers will have the chance to prove themselves to all the travelers in town for the festival, while demonstrating why they’ve accumulated such a massive following over the past several years.

Saturday, July 13

Jorja Smith, 20:05 at the Comunidad De Madrid Stage

Many first met Jorja Smith through her features on Drake’s More Life, but after releasing her excellent, RX-ed debut album Lost & Found last year, Jorja Smith is more than ready for her own spotlight. She just wrapped a co-headlining tour in the US with Kali Uchis, and her set at Mad Cool presents counterprogramming to the bulk of the rock fare, as her R&B-infused pop is like nothing else featured at the event.

Robyn, 01:45 at the Madrid Te Abraza Stage

Swedish pop legend Robyn is not the last artist performing at 2019’s Mad Cool, but her late Saturday night set will provide a bit of a climax for attendees. She’s coming off a great new album, her first in eight years, and has already proven to be magnificent on this tour. As one of the final artists of this event, she has the opportunity to leave fans singing her songs all the way home, something that’s happened notably in the past.

Uproxx is being hosted for this event by Mad Cool. However, Mad Cool did not review or approve this story. You can learn more about the Uproxx Press Trip policy here.