This article was first published by The Edge on 22nd June 2017
With Mad Cool Festival less than a month away (Huh?! – What? Where? When?), and over 60 acts set to play the Spanish festival, we took a look at the line-up beyond the Dad Rock headliners. Here are our 13 must-see acts at Mad Cool Festival.
With his second album Witness released earlier this month, Blues Garage rocker Benjamin Booker has a long summer of touring festivals ahead of him. A shorter, snappier affair than his self-titled 2014 debut, he’s grown even more confident in his fusion of modern and classic rock styles, raw hoarseness singing voice, and confident political commentary. ‘Witness’ continues the same political thoughts as his debut’s stand out ‘Slow Coming’, but with added, upbeat piano and choir vocals. This powerful mixture is a can’t miss stage experience. For fans of Chuck Berry and Drive-By Truckers.
If you’re an indie, eclectic rock fan from the UK, I can’t blame you for never hearing of this Austin, Texas-based outfit – but over their more than twenty year career, with this year’s
Hot Thoughts their ninth album, they’ve earned a reputation for being one of the scene’s most consistently surprising acts. Festivals are obviously not just for big names or new finds, so if you haven’t heard of Spoon yet, get caught up here. For fans of 90s-Radiohead and Aladdin Sane-era Bowie.
Boasting arguably the best band name on the line-up, Fizzy Soup is a Spanish indie rock quartet, with vocals shared by Sonia García and Javier Corroto. Currently only their second, Bandcamp funded album Not So Far is available on Spotify, but it’s a real treat of moody instrumentals, haunting dual vocals, and very emotive, imaginative, and suggestive lyrics. For fans of Of Monsters And Men, sans horns section, and add devil horns.
Okay, I spoke too soon – this is the best-named band of Mad Cool’s line-up. They’re an authentic Madrid group, with predominantly Castillian lyrics. And if you knew anything about the nationally popular Reggaeton genre (‘Despacito’ ‘Puro Chantaje’, and ‘Duele El Corazón’ are some of the most famous examples), you’d be forgiven for assuming the same of the “I’ll tell you what it means when you’re older title” to their recent single ‘Quiero Follar Contigo’. It’s a broody, lean and grungy rock ballad, whilst their earlier favourite ‘Visitante’ is all punchy riffs. They’re not world-changers, but if you’re looking for a talented international genre act, they’ll have the live set to beat. For fans of Kings Of Leon.
Last year’s Mercury Prize-nominated Adore Life was only Savages’ second record, and after three years the all-female post-punk outfit had actually tightened up and become even more fearsome. Their performance of ‘T.I.W.Y.G.’ at the Mercury ceremony made it clear that their name is not to be taken even remotely lightly. If it’s irrepressible head-bangers, led by an unstoppable force of women, you can’t afford to miss Savages. For fans of Sleater Kinney.
Floating Points (DJ Set)
No rock festival is complete without a seemingly extraneous DJ set or two, and Floating Points makes the second of Mad Cool’s only two pure DJ acts on the line-up. The stage name of Mancunian Sam Shepherd, Floating Points has performed with an 11-piece orchestra in past live shows, so the billing of “DJ Set” can’t help but be a little bit disappointing. But don’t let that put you off since he makes some of the boldest electronic music around. His latest project saw him and his band head out to the Mojave desert whilst rehearsing for the US tour; upon arrival at the Joshua Tree National Park, they were impressed with both the beauty and sonic potential given by the landscape. The album is released a week before his Mad Cool set and should provide a wild and unique musical experience. For fans of… it’s hard to say, but at a stretch, let’s say, Brian Eno.
This Los Angeles-based Garage Rock duo is sure to be one of the highlights of Mad Cool’s line-up; their sophomore album Femejism was one of our favourite records of 2016 and for no shortage of good reasons. Touring around the world with huge names like Queens Of The Stone Age and Marilyn Manson, the combination of Lindsey Troy’s sardonic, husky vocals and murderously slinky riffs, with Julie Edwards’ graceful drumming make for a hell of a record. With tracks like ‘Royal Jelly’ and the gleeful ‘Walk Of Shame’, they’re destined to put on big shows in equally grimy and glamorous locations. For fans of Led Zepplin and White Stripes.
Anna Of The North
In one of the rare non ‘rock’ artists of the line-up, you’ll find a solid representation of everything the world has come to love of the Scandi-Pop songstresses. Norwegian vocalist Anna Lotterud and her producer Brady make up this sublime act, whose spatiously ambient synths work practically mystical wonderful companions with Anna’s gorgeous vocals. It’s sweet, sad, and sincere, with standout ‘Oslo’ almost bringing an as yet unnamed Edge writer to blubbery tears. For fans of AURORA and CHVRCHES.
This Basque-country quartet, who have released two albums since forming in 2011, have a grungy new-wave sound that’s really special. On their second album Hamen, they covered the classic Nina Simone track ‘Sinnerman’, boosting the drums and adding their synths to the track, tweaking it enough to feel faithful but fresh; meanwhile their first album Eurie (‘Rain’ in Euskera, Basque country’s native tongue) was all post-punk moodiness with indie energy. With a third album, Render Me Numb, coming in September, and the wild title track available now, they’re sure to light up the stage at La Caja Mágica. For fans of Wolf Alice (again).
Another Madrid-originating Indie outfit? Playing a festival in Madrid? Madness. And yet, The Amsterdammers would fit very nicely into the playlists of DJs and hearts of the crowds at the famous Joy Eslava, or any of the fashionable Chueca/Malasaña district’s rock clubs, with their instantly familiar, early-2000s sound. Their energy is huge, in songs which are defiantly not; it’s very refreshing for a new group such as them to be more interested in clear, precise arrangements, rather than a noisy, war-like battery of power chords and keyboard synths. With under 2,000 monthly Spotify streams, best to catch them quickly at Mad Cool festival, just to jab your friends that miss the 2000s and point them in The Amsterdammers’ direction. For fans of The Strokes.
Slowdive is a shoegaze band whose previous album was released over 20 years prior to their spectacular self-titled 2017 return. That should be enough to make you curious about what to expect from their Mad Cool set, though they first reunited in 2014 as a touring and festival band. The most avant-garde and ambient folk/techno elements of their more divisive earlier work are evident on their comeback, along with beautifully hushed vocals from Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell, but it’s the light flirts with more psychedelic tones on ‘Sugar For The Pill’ which make them so captivating. If you’re looking for a set to provide an enlightening, “mind-expanding” breather prior to the festivals noisy headliners, Slowdive is the one to watch. For fans of 2000s-onwards Radiohead.
So remember when Harry Styles new album came out, and we all said: “That pensive yet bold ‘Sign Of The Times’ is all well and good, but why are you, a 23-year old, performing ‘Kiwi’, and how is it so much fun?” If it wasn’t just me, Los Zigarros should be right up your street – the Valencian Rock’n’Roll band (with capital ‘R’s) are playing with exactly that same vibe, of old school 50s swing and 70s swagger Dad rock. It’s corny as all hell, but it’s also pretty damn fun, and the band will make for a perfectly punchy dance-slot in your festival season schedules. For fans of Harry Styles’ ‘Kiwi’, and classic rock.
The last Spanish singing group of the list, Viva Suecia (or “Live Sweden[!]) are from Murcia, in the south-east of the Iberian Peninsula. Formed in 2013, their debut ‘La Fuerza Mayor’ was released early last year. Existing squarely in the Guitar Pop stable, the driving ‘Bien Por Ti’ and ‘El Nudo y La Esperanza’ are catchy and richly produced rock – though low on killer riffs, the band’s ability to make basic chord progressions exciting without synthy bells and whistles is very impressive. For fans of Kings Of Leon and Catfish And The Bottlemen.