The clock is ticking down to the 2023 edition of Mad Cool, and if you’re lucky enough to be venturing to Madrid in time for the festival, chances are you’ll want to see everything the Spanish city has to offer. Luckily enough, some local artists performing at this year’s instalment have given NME the low-down on the city’s hottest spots, and revealed their personal recommendations for where music-lover needs to visit.
Take a look at what Madrid favourites Sila Lua, Ralphie Choo and past Mad Cool performer Irenegarry recommend as the city’s best places to find emerging talent, killer live sets and unforgettable music memories.
What venue would you say is the ‘It’ place to be for music? The one puts Madrid on the map and establishes it as a hub for the Spanish Music scene?
Sila Lua: “I don’t think there is only one since it really depends on the musical genre or sub-scene you are into. However, I would say Club Malasaña is the place where you’re going to find the most amount of creative people hanging out at night!”
Ralphie Choo: “There are a couple of bars like El Prada or the discotheque Antidoto where many like-minded people meet.”
Irenegarry: “La Riviera puts us on the map, but it’s a big place, so not accessible for upcoming projects, which I really dig… In terms of DJ gigs, I would say Siroco is always a good option. Also, Moondance is somewhere to have in mind. Best parties happen there for me (amongst my favourites are Antidoto Club or Chica).”
Is there a spot that holds sentimental value for you in Madrid?
Sila Lua: “I love Lavapiés because it’s the neighbourhood I live in. It’s not famous for being a ‘creative/music district’ but for its cultural diversity. Many artists live here because it is very central but still holds that ‘neighbourhood’ vibe.”
Ralphie Choo: “Madrid generally acts as the epicentre of the Spanish music scene, the centre point for artists from other parts of Spain. I would highlight Lavapies or the Malasaña neighbourhood.”
Irenegarry: “I would say that even though most people may say Malasaña is the place, it is not anymore. Too expensive and too many tourists! The south centre of the City (Lavapies, Embajadores, Legazpi, Carabanchel) is where artists live, rehearse and can actually afford to hang. So I would say that’s the place.
“The first time I got into la Tabacalera, in Embajadores, (which is actually not a venue, but a community centre) I listened to some jazz musicians playing on the very ground floor. I’ve only managed to get to that specific part of the building and see people jamming there a few more times, and only ever by accident. But if you ever walk around there and hear some tunes from the street, just get your ass in there!”
Which venue would you crown as the best for spotting hot local talent? Is it a location that is renowned by locals for supporting new artists?
Sila Lua: “There are so many but maybe El Sol, Café Berlín or El Sótano. In the last two, there’s usually a couple of jam sessions during the week where you can meet and watch a lot of musicians who will later go on tour with other Spanish acts. Both are great places to go to if you are looking for new band members!”
Ralphie Choo: “At the beginning, most of the artists usually go to Sala Clamores, Café La Palma or Sala Siroco. They are small venues, perfect for artists’ first shows.”
Irenegarry: “I feel like maybe Maravillas club on Malasaña makes a good job of giving space to new and especially queer artists. I feel like that’s not only necessary, but also more refreshing and stimulating for the city.”
Are there any record stores that hold killer live sets?
Sila Lua: “Marilians is a beautiful record shop and they sometimes do album playbacks and vinyl signings. I would say it’s a great spot for indie lovers.”
Irenegarry: “Marilians Records I would say is the place that has been more open to emerging Madrid groups in terms of acoustic and live sets. It’s a small but charming place with great and very passionate people working there. I also love Bajo el Volcán. My go-to store in terms of proximity and comfort for me. Great books too.”
Are there any places that you’d particularly recommend for Brits visiting Madrid for Mad Cool this year?
Sila Lua: “If you’re used to secret location parties in London and you love the underground electronic scene you should definitely go find Studio 76. The only problem is that I can’t tell you where it is …but ask around!”
Ralphie Choo: “There is a very interesting offer of flamenco music, especially on stages located near the downtown area near the Plaza del Sol and Latin music. La Negra Tomasa is a good recommendation to listen to live salsa.
“There are also a lot of jazz jam sessions like the ‘Juicy Session’ at Cafe Berlin organised by local producers and the artists themselves where from time to time they invite a special guest artist.”
Irenegarry: “If you like electronic music you should visit Octogon, Siroco, or even Club Malasaña if you want something more upmarket! You should check underground collectives like Chica Gang, Margarita Electrónica, Ternura, or Karne Kulture and see if they’re organising something whilst you’re in the city.
“You’d be very lucky to get into one of their parties. Only fun queer beautiful people allowed. If you’re more into afrobeats, funk carioca or Latin-influenced genres the Szongo or Dembooty are your parties.”
Let’s take a look forward. What is one venue you’d love to play in the next 5 years? Talk us through your dream set.
Sila Lua: “For any ambitious Spanish act, the first goal is to do a sold-out gig in La Riviera, which has a capacity of 1800 people. Later will be to do two Riviera’s, then three Riviera’s, then Palacio Vistalegre, and finally Wizink Center, our local arena. I would love this to be my route.”
Ralphie Choo: “I would love to play in huge venues, to join the lineage of great live performances. One of the artists I would love to share the stage with would be Frank Ocean. I greatly appreciate the sensitivity he has and how he zooms in on the little details.”
Mad Cool 2023 will kick off next Thursday (July 6) and run up until Saturday (July 8). Alongside a host of local talent from the Madrid music scene, other acts performing Red Hot Chili Peppers, Liam Gallagher, Lizzo and Rina Sawayama.