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MAD COOL FESTIVAL 2018

The behind-the-scenes story of Massive Attack canceling their Mad Cool gig

The British band refused to appear on Friday night at the festival, due to the sound from a neighboring stage where Franz Ferdinand were playing

Massive Attack concierto Mad Cool
Paul Kalkbrenner at Mad Cool, on the stage where Massive Attack were due to play. GTRES

It was around 1.30am on Friday, the second night of Mad Cool, when Robert Del Naja and Grant “Daddy G” Marshall – members of the British group Massive Attack – approached The Loop stage at the festival, where they were due to play 15 minutes later. But on hearing the sound of Franz Ferdinand coming from the opposite stage, they decided they would not be going out to play.

According to the director of the Mad Cool festival, Javier Arnaiz, Massive Attack were “very reluctant” to play from the start

It was just another incident of many to befall this year’s edition of Mad Cool, which also saw huge problems on the first night, Thursday, for festival-goers trying to get into the venue, as well as general overcrowding at the bars and food stalls. 

Around 25,000 attendees of Mad Cool were waiting to hear Massive Attack, given that they were one of the biggest names to appear at this year’s edition of the festival. But the band would not be persuaded. “The sound coming from Franz Ferdinand is a problem,” they said. And with that they returned to their dressing room.

“Let them in!” Josh Homme’s chant over VIP zone

EFE / EL PAÍS, Madrid

Mad Cool ended as it began: generating headlines and controversy, but also a new slogan against the privileges of VIP attendees at festivals.

The lead singer of the Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme, decided during the US band’s set on Saturday to refuse to play until the security guards at the gig allowed ordinary festivalgoers to enter the VIP area, located right underneath where the singer was standing.

“Let them in! Let them in!” he encouraged the audience to chant. “Come over the wall and come down here with me. I’m not going to play until those people come over the wall and come down here!”

In the end the organizers bowed to the frontman’s demands, and the area was filled without incident.

According to the director of the Mad Cool festival, Javier Arnaiz, Massive Attack were “very reluctant” to play from the start, and none of the alternatives they were offered made any difference. “They were really out of shape right from the morning, because we did everything possible to put the concert on,” Arnaiz tells EL PAÍS. “There was a huge amount of people waiting and it was a complete lack of respect toward everyone,” he adds. “We couldn’t leave 25,000 fans in the lurch with their mouths watering.”

The first option was to convince the group that the sound wasn’t as troublesome as they were claiming. The band had already requested in their contracts that there was no bleed over of sound from other stages when they played. “The problem is that no one thought that the sound would bleed any more than it typically does at any festival,” Arnaiz explains. “It happens all the time at festivals, and the technicians have it under control.” The Mad Cool director adds that they were the only band that complained about the sound from the other stage.

But the group were holed up in their dressing room, while their manager negotiated with the organizers, even promising to reduce the volume of Franz Ferdinand, so it wouldn’t be so loud in the dance tent. “We spoke to the Franz Ferdinand manager and explained the situation,” Arnaiz explains. “They get on well with Massive Attack and they were understanding. They gave us the OK, but it wasn’t a solution as far as Massive Attack were concerned.” They even tried to get the band to finish 10 minutes early, and thus start the Massive Attack performance with a delay. “We thought that was viable because we could have announced on the screens that there was a delay, and people would understand it,” Arnaiz explains. But it still wasn’t enough.

The Mad Cool director adds that they were the only band that complained about the sound from the other stage

The crowd waiting to see Massive Attack began to protest, while the Mad Cool team were scrabbling around trying to find any kind of solution – including delaying acts such as La M.O.D.A. and The Bloody Beetroots. The Spanish band and the Italian dance group agreed, but still the answer from Massive Attack was no. “It got to the point where we asked them to give us the solution,” he explains. “We were prepared to stop the entire festival so that no one else was playing and avoid cancelling.” The tensions among the public were clearly on the rise, to the point that some attendees started to throw their plastic beer glasses on the stage.

“We asked them not to cancel for safety’s sake, but they wouldn’t budge. Just when Franz Ferdinand finished, they confirmed they wouldn’t be going out there,” Arnaiz explains. That was at around 3am. Half an hour later, the festival put out a statement confirming the cancellation. “We have done everything possible to delay the time slots of other groups and to find a time when Massive Attack were comfortable, but the unilateral decision of the band has been to cancel their show,” the statement read.

The crowd waiting to see Massive Attack began to protest, while the Mad Cool team were scrabbling around trying to find any kind of solution

Massive Attack has not made their own statement about what happened, and this newspaper has not been able to get in touch with the group or its management. The band usually requests that there be no overlapping sound from other bands when they play. In 2014 the Spanish group Corizonas had to stop their performance at the Low festival to avoid coinciding with the British stars. According to their guitarist, Fernando Pardo, who spoke to EL PAÍS at the time: “These guys even complained about the noise from some acoustic gigs on the Gibson stage. We had to abandon our gig halfway through so that Massive Attack didn’t cancel. At least the next year Low booked us again as an apology for what had happened.”

Mad Cool shuttle bus left hanging from bridge after festival ends

A photo from the Madrid emergency services’ Twitter feed of the bus hanging off a bridge after the accident.
A photo from the Madrid emergency services’ Twitter feed of the bus hanging off a bridge after the accident. EFE

F. Javier Barroso, Madrid

A bus that was being used to shuttle attendees of Mad Cool from the Madrid festival to the city center lost control on a bridge in the early hours of Sunday morning, crashing into the barriers and ending up hanging precariously from the side. According to a spokesperson from the Madrid emergency services, the vehicle was empty apart from the driver, who was left with light injuries.

The incident took place at around 6am, as the bus was returning to the festival in northeast Madrid after having left its last load of passengers at Plaza de Castilla, in the north of Madrid.

The Civil Guard had to stop traffic from approaching the area on the M-11 road where the accident had happened, while the Municipal Police had to cut off a zone underneath the bridge. The driver was able to exit the vehicle himself, albeit with injuries to his arm as well as being in a state of anxiety over the accident. He received medical attention from an ambulance crew on the scene.

The operation to move the bus proved to be difficult given the size and weight of the vehicle, which was taken to the municipal transport depot by 8am.

The Civil Guard has opened an investigation to determine whether the incident was caused by a mechanical failure or was down to human error.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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