Pearl Jam Official Press Photo

Mad Cool Festival Is the Biggest Music Event in the World You Still Haven’t Heard Of

Madrid's newest open-air festival, which takes place July 12 through 14, makes a strong case for becoming the biggest rock music event in the world today

It is perfectly understandable why one may be baffled by the headline – after all, Mad Cool doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page in English (yet). It is also all but a reflex to roll eyes at the lead text, thinking about the likes of Glastonbury, Rock Werchter or Rock Am Ring, music festival giants with decades of tradition and countless square miles of green fields at their disposal. However, with Glasto rearranging its focus as of late to accommodate more mainstream pop acts, Werchter and Rock Am Ring being tens of miles away from a metropolitan area, leaving you with few options other than to make camp and hope for the best, times are high for a new massive rock festival at a top vacation destination – and really, few countries can beat Spain in the summer, especially if the visit now means you will be watching Pearl Jam, Arctic Monkeys, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Queens of the Stone Age, along with Dua Lipa and dozens of other superstars, all in one place.

Mad Cool 2018 Lineup

The Iberian Peninsula has been among the hottest summer music festival destinations for some time now, in part due to the aforesaid vacation appeal – Barcelona’s Primavera and Sonar, Bilbao’s BBK Live, and Valencia’s Benicassim (which is about 50 miles north from the city, cozily stretching along the Mediterranean coast) are among the most prominent events in Europe, hosting tens of thousands of guests daily in June and July. Nevertheless, Madrid has been struggling for a long time to match this supply of outstanding musical experiences – the ill-fated Summercase, held both in Madrid and Barcelona 2006 to 2008, had come close to earning its spot among the Old Continent’s greats, but was cancelled because of the recession. For years, Madrid was one of the rare major European capitals without its own summer pop-rock event to match the likes of, say, Paris’ Rock en Seine; until 2016, that is.

Finally, with generous support of local authorities and Live Nation, among others, seemingly out of nowhere, the summer of 2016 saw the inaugural edition of Mad Cool, with performances from the Who, the Prodigy, Neil Young, Enter Shikari, Garbage, and about a hundred other acts. More than 100,000 gathered at city’s Caja Magica, with word spreading fast that the event would just keep growing, and fast. Virtually overnight, Mad Cool exploded; in 2017 there had already been five stages, headlined by Foo Fighters, Green Day, Kings of Leon, Foals, and M.I.A., among other luminaries. More than 135,000 people flocked from all over Europe for the three-day extravaganza and it was clear: the festival would keep growing, and at lightning speed.

This year the appetites have properly grown from considerable to colossal, exceeding even what we witnessed during the overly ambitious first two editions; the event has been expanded even further and will now sport seven stages, while the venue has been moved to Valdebebas, on the outskirts of the city, so as to accommodate up to 80,000 visitors at once. Between July 12 and 14, Madrid will have the pleasure of welcoming Pearl Jam, The management, committed to providing a substantial art experience, will also be hosting a design market and a gallery exhibiting various forms of art, throughout the event. There is also a gargantuan Ferris wheel, while you wait for one of your favorite artists to strut onto the stage. Among the heavyweights adorning the lineup, besides Pearl Jam, Arctic Monkeys, NIN, QOTSA and Depeche Mode, the likes of Massive Attack, Jack White, Kasabian, Tame Impala, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, Underworld, Alice in Chains, Franz Ferdinand, and more than 50 others, will entertain the massive audiences well into each of the three nights. The three-day tickets have been sold out (at about $180, they were a bargain), but a daily ticket for each day can still be purchased for $100.

Admittedly, little can be said about the lineup you don’t already know – trying to advertise these acts even further appears to be not much more than a waste of words and time. One thing is certain, though – Mad Cool isn’t messing around. It’s here to stay, and it will hopefully get even bigger (if you can get bigger than this, that is) in time. Come witness it before Wikipedia in English discovers its glory.

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