The Spanish outpost of the legendary hard rock UK festival is back to confirm its place on the European hard rock map.
Where: Caja Magica, Madrid, Spain
When: June 28-30
Who: TOOL, Slipknot, Scorpions, Papa Roach, Amon Amarth, Architects, Sum 41, Children of Bodom, Sabaton, Enter Shikari, and more
How much: cca $160 for 3 days; daily tickets available for $83
While Britain's Download Festival, with more than 15 years of tradition, is a celebrated hard-rock festival name across Europe, its younger sibling, the Madrid-based edition, is about to catch up with the momentum. The Old Continent has never had a shortage of musical events focusing on rock across the Mohs scale, but few of them managed to build up a reputable brand over the years. Today the most prominent (hard) rock music festivals in Europe are Germany's Rock am Ring and its sibling, Rock im Park and Austria's Nova Rock, with Download taking over from the UK.
Having the likes of Rock En Seine expand their horizons to more eclectic styles (for example, this year's lineup includes Aphex Twin, Major Lazer, Jorja Smith, and Clairo), Download's chiefs seized the opportunity to start expanding into new markets - and successfully. In under four years, the franchise evolved to serve the needs of headbangers in Madrid, Australia, and Japan. Now, across four stages and three days, 53 rock and metal bands for all generations will once again endear themselves to the keen festival-goers just south of Madrid's city center, at the multi-purpose venue complex Caja Mágica.
Download Madrid saw the light of day for the first time in 2017, and it didn't take long for the aficionados to flock. Madrid has a particularly bumpy history of festivals unsuccessfully attempting to take root and compete with the heterogenous juggernauts that are Barcelona's Primavera Sound and Sónar, Valencia's Benicassim, and Bilbao's BBK Live. The first three close to beaches, the fourth in a picturesque green valley by a serendipitous historic town, these would give any metropolis a run for its money, regardless of how beautiful (and Madrid truly is one of the most stunning cities of our civilization).
About a decade ago, Summercase festival suffered a defeat when it was canceled merely three years after inception - despite a solid lineup. The harsh reality for the Spanish capital has always been that there would be only two ways to compete with no less than four reputable national festival juggernauts. One would be to conceive an event with such a strong lineup that people would decide to skip (one of) the others for it, the other being to create a niche event and hope for the best.
Download Madrid Lineup
The former, somewhat surprisingly, came in the form of Mad Cool a couple of years ago. Just last year over three days they booked the likes of Pearl Jam, Arctic Monkeys, Depeche Mode, Tame Impala, Nine Inch Nails, Kasabian, and countless more, thus easily selling 100,000-plus tickets. Despite some queuing issues and the usual growing pains, the event was astounding and quite memorable overall. The latter would have to rely heavily on either electronica or hard rock, the only two niches popular enough to draw tens of thousands of eager attendees, and Download saw a chance to set up a new outpost. The first edition of Download Madrid took place in 2017, the end of June being the ideal timeframe - three weeks after Primavera and two-three weeks before Mad Cool, Bilbao BBK Live and Benicassim. With Linkin Park, System of a Down, NOFX, Slayer, Mastodon, and Gojira headlining, and with affordable tickets, it was a no-brainer gathering for rock fans across the Iberian Peninsula, France, and beyond. The second year featured A Perfect Circle, Guns 'n' Roses, Avenged Sevenfold, Marilyn Manson, and more; the two years saw more than 200,000 visitors combined and were deemed a massive success.
It is a common belief that the third year is a make-it-or-break-it in the life of most businesses and if we're to judge by this year's lineup and ticket sales so far, Download Madrid is here to stay. The main headliners are TOOL, who will play their only date in Spain this year on June 30 and present no less than two songs from their upcoming album we know nothing about, due to be released on August 30 (well, you know who we're dealing with here). On June 29 Slipknot will take to the stage to showcase their upcoming, sixth release, I Am Not Your Kind, scheduled for August 9. The band's frontman, Corey Taylor, promises this tour will be their "best yet", and there is a brand new set of masks to enjoy as well. The first day will be spearheaded by Scorpions, who are in the middle of a comprehensive European tour.
Given the affordability of the festival tickets and Madrid as a city, coupled with easy public transportation access to the venues, and high season beginning at the end of June, Download is a great weekend getaway or an adequately rocking intro to a week in one of the most opulent and vivacious world capitals. Find out more about the festival and buy tickets here.