In the ever sprawling landscape of music festivals, Cala Mijas 2023 stood out as a welcome surprise. Held in the picturesque surroundings of Andalusia in southern Spain, it's maintains an easyoging, local feel that's a refreshing departure from the bustling chaos of inner city festivals. Boasting quality soundsystems on all stages, with no noise curfew, we heard the likes of Underworld, Helena Hauff, Palms Trax, Moderat and many more at high volume with perfect clarity. Navigating from the main Victoria stage to the two other large stages - Sunset and Sunrise - was a breeze, thanks to a seamless rotation system of acts that ensured you didn't miss a beat, with no frustrating scheduling clashes in sight.
What truly shone at Cala Mijas was its hidden dance music stage - La Caleta - nestled up a hill like a well-guarded secret oasis to be discovered in a hidden forest. It added an element of adventure to the festival. Surprisingly, despite being at capacity, the festival never felt overcrowded. Queues for bars and toilets remained minimal, as did entrance wait times.
Cala Mijas allowed the music to flow well into the early morning hours, eliminating the frantic search for an afterparty. So as the festival drew to a close, so did your night, allowing for a serene dip in the warm nearby sea and the chance to witness sunrise on the beach.
Local bars and restaurants and the festival’s very own Beach Stage offered daytime entertainment, ensuring that Cala Mijas 2023 wasn't just a festival; it was a harmonious blend of music, nature, and adventure that left attendees with unforgettable memories and a desire for more hidden gems like it.
Here are 11 tunes that soundtracked our experience:
Cormac 'Leather ‘n Lasers' (Polari)
Cormac’s closing set on Thursday night brought the combined spirit of The Paradise Garage and Patrick Cowley to the festival’s DJ stage through a combination of Hi NRG bangers and jacking classic house. 'Leather ’n’ Lasers', his most recent release together with Chinaski, was a set highlight. It’s arping synth and new wave vocals a seeming nod to Marc Almond and Giorgio Moroder alike. Dropped at 5:AM, it was the perfect livener to see the packed dancefloor through to sunrise.
Played by Moxie b2b Ketiov Ketiov 'Icon' (On Loop)
Ketiov & Moxie went back to back on the Saturday night, weaving together classy deep cuts, that perfectly suited the trippy, overhanging trees awash with green and red uplights. Some of the most bumpin’ tracks of the weekend were dropped during this set (such as Introspekt’s ‘Walk & Serve’) and this forthcoming release on Moxie’s On Loop label. “She’s an icon, she’s a legend, and she is the moment” pierces the vocal before a bumping house groove straight out of the Kenlou playbook wallops you in the face. The Costa Brava crowd, raised on the bouncing tech-house beats of the Spanish house scene lapped this one up, and the sandy dirt ground beneath a thousand feet sure took quite a pounding.
Played by Nicola Cruz Distorted Sensory 'Gant-Man'
After easing us in with the ethereal breakbeat of Sanandreas’ ‘Lun’, Nicola Cruz went on to provide us with a blistering two hours of burping acid-line power including tracks like Billy Nightmare’s ‘I’ve Seen The World’ and Willpower’s ‘R-pegio’. It was a perfectly delivered set of optimistic, cheeky 303 bliss, uniting local hippies, Malaga ex-pats and Spanish dance music heads together at the start of the festival. setting the tone for the weekend to come. Distorted Sensory’s 'Gant-Man' was the epitome of the set - a charismatic oddball of a track, so lost in its own happy world it didn’t’ even realise how effortlessly awesome it was.
Played by Call Super Vince Watson 'Techture 2'
It’s a testament to the booking team at Cala Mijas that the La Ceta stage line-up included artists like Call Super, unafraid to deliver eclectic sets championing different rhythms. It respected the local crowd's hunger for new sounds. They weren’t disappointed, highlights including UK funky-tinged bangers like like Zander Zel’s ‘Jugoso’ and the the percussive minimal of LWS’ ‘Routine’. But it was when Call Super dropped Vince Watson’s ‘Techture 2’ that the vibe erupted. Like a beautiful marriage of Octave One and Los Hermanos Conquistadors, the slab of UR-esque emotive techno solidified this as a stand out set from the festival. On closing his set with Merle ‘Mimi Likes To Dance’ Call Super said “Palms Trax was on after and his sister is called Mimi so I finished with this”. Whatever the reason, it worked.
Underworld 'And the colour red'
Saturday felt like the vast majority of the surrounding towns and villages had come out to see The Strokes as opposed to joint headliner, UK dance icons Underworld. However they were all left firmly won over by the '90s rave legends. What a difference. Julian Casablanca left us feeling unwanted and uninspired, a masterclass in flat notes, lethargy and a blasé attitude that may have worked in their prime, but was now more at home at the karaoke night in local ex-pat bar The Times. Karl Hyde by contrast, 20 years his senior, embodied the spirit of the inclusive music they delivered, his silhouette bobbing and weaving in sheer ecstasy before the warm red lights. “We love this music. We love dancing. Join us” was his earnest invite to the multi-generational Spanish crowd before him. Highlights included shuffling from one side of the stage to the other in an acid house moonwalk during the disco-techno of ‘King of Snake’. What a treat to hear these Underworld cuts in the early hours of the morning, on a fantastic soundsystem, with both volume and clarity, without London’s depressing noise restrictions.
Naturally their final tune was ‘Born Slippy’ and was greeted with a roar, cameras and hands aloft. It really never gets old. But ‘And The Colour Red’ provided a poignant moment, subtly standing out against the attention grabbing breakbeat and rave numbers, thanks to its slower pace, 4/4/ backbone and mesmeric squelches.
Played by Saoirse Mella Dee presents RYAN 'Static Movement' (trUst)
Saoirse delivered a characteristic set of eclectic dance music, moving from rigid drums to rolling techno. ‘Static Movement’ falls in the category of the former, the first track released on trUst by an artist that isn’t Saoirse. It’s a track that champions the unrivalled partnership of analog synths and a drum machine. And as such set the audience up nicely for Underworld’s headline set later on the Friday night.
Foals 'What went down'
Foals may be embedded into dance music folklore with that Solomun mix, but it’s their super tight, soaring live performances that have earned them the respect of those of us that have crossed their paths at summer festivals. For this show they eschewed their slower cuts to showcase their indie disco numbers. Tracks like ‘Life is Yours’ made the crowd carelessly pogo before the long, tense build up of 'Two Steps Twice' transitioned us into a more intense mindset. It was now they played ‘What Went Down’, a darker crescendo which teed us up nicely for the beautifully desolate landscape of Moderat on the neighbouring Victoria stage.
Moderat 'Bad Kingdom'
Moderat brought their set to a triumphant conclusion with an extended live version of ‘Bad Kingdom’. Hearing this live on a truly fantastic soundsystem reminds you of just how iconic this track is. Crazy that it now seems nostalgia-flecked (yes it’s a decade old!) but the united energy in the crowd at the festival’s Victoria stage confirmed that this can be truly be filed as one of the great dance tracks of all time. A breath-taking finale that left the audience in awe.
Played by I.Jordan I. JORDAN & PLANNINGTOROCK - TNB (Night Version)
Among the plethora of indisputable 130 BPM bangers, we had to find out the name of this cut. In conversation about their upcoming Lab LDN set, I. JORDAN was kind enough to oblige when we asked “what was that track that went….” The reply “My new one with PLANNINGTOROCK. It’s great to see a crowd reacting to your own tune before it's out while testing it on the road. The bassline really kicks, it's got long build ups, and it's emotional while still being really fun.” It bangs.
The Victoria stage was the one you went to for those moments you hold your mate’s hand and reaffirm you love them. Belle & Sebastian playing ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’ complete with 30 fans going nuts on stage with them was one such moment. But for the crack on crew whose afterparties have occasionally been visited by the need for a manufactured spiritual moment, M83s ‘Outro’ was the track to hear. We swayed on the spot and convinced ourselves something incredibly life affirming was happening. Turns out it’s just a tune. But nevertheless, it’s a good ‘un.
Florence + The Machine 'You Got The Love'
You’d be hard pressed to find a dance music fan that doesn’t hold a special place in their heart for the original version of this track, and when delivered with the elegance, vigour and passion of Florence, it unites old and young alike. Performed while the Supermoon reached its closest proximity to the earth, visible in the clear Spanish sky, the anthem filled hearts with the warmth needed to enjoy the darker sonic territory of Arca and Helena Hauff.
Cala Mijas festival will return in 2024 between August 29, 30, and 31 at Sonora Mijas