Costa Del Sol

Cala Mijas’ first line-up announcement, led by headliners Arctic Monkeys, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Liam Gallagher, marked an instant statement of intent and scale for a debut festival – perhaps unsurprising given it falls under ownership of Basque promoter Last Tour, who also run the blockbuster Bilbao BBK event.

But even with that level of scale, the festival felt compact with three of the four stages in tight proximity. Where some may prefer more space to get lost in hidden areas of a festival, this was a more centralised musical experience which added to the fun of iconic, know-every-word headliners.

The excitement to have some of the most iconic acts in alternative music performing in the area was evident from the very first day. With Cala serving as Arctic Monkeys’ only Spanish date this year, the buzz was evident before even arriving at the festival. Band t-shirts were everywhere and they attracted what was undoubtedly the largest crowd of the weekend. 

Once ascendant Spanish star Sen Senra had successfully warmed things up on the Sunset stage, the anticipation amongst the sea of waiting onlookers reached fever pitch. This was only broken when the opening riff of 2013’s hit Do I Wanna Know? rung out, sparking huge cheers and an unrestrained sing-along. The set continued with old favourites such as Brianstorm, From the Ritz to the Rubble and 505 still fizzing with Turner’s distinctly British wordplay and evocative storytelling.

On Friday night, Nick Cave’s playful interactions with the crowd were a contrast to the intensity of his performance – humorously teasing audience members for wearing Kraftwerk t-shirts and sprawling himself into the front rows much to the hysteria of those near. City of Refuge was a showcase of Cave’s immense stage presence as he paced back and forth across the stage with a signature bluster, repeatedly bellowing the lyric ‘you better run…’ distilling the moody yet elevated atmosphere of his epic two-hour show.

But it wasn’t just the masterful, finely-tuned rock of the headline sets providing momentous scenes. Established acts from the electronic realms, including Kraftwerk, The Chemical Brothers, Caribou and Bonobo, all delivered impressive live shows that were well-received by the cross-generation audience. 

The La Caleta stage, situated in a woodland area tucked away at the top corner of the festival site, also hosted some of dance music’s most in-demand DJs. The likes of Call Super, Daniel Avery and Bradley Zero all passed through, with a particular highlight being Josey Rebelle’s UK-centric opening night set which traversed tempos and styles while retaining a coherent character. Ross From Friends and Overmono showcased their refined live shows to great effect, further cementing their status as festival circuit favourites. The sound quality of this stage signalled to the care taken in order to create a party atmosphere that could hold its own against many of the existing dance music stages across Europe.

Cala Mijas delivered on the big moments that were promised with such a big bill. Although many of the acts were rather familiar, there was a genuine appetite to welcome these artists into this corner of southern Spain. Having also showcased an understanding and care for underground sounds alongside big-name live headliners, it will be intriguing to see what Cala Mijas does next.