The Renaissance of the Parisian Party Scene
Is the French capital finally becoming a force to be reckoned with on the global party circuit? Asks Alex Moore
In 2010, Le Monde, one of France’s most respected newspapers was forced to admit that Paris had become the ‘European capital of boredom.' More than 14,000 disgruntled Parisians had signed a petition entitled ‘When the night dies in silence’ urging the Major of Paris and the Ministry of Culture to bring back some excitement to the City of Lights. That Paris had lost its Va Va Voom may have come as a shock to some, but this uninspiring title wasn’t earned overnight.
Even during the golden days of French filter house - Laurent Garnier, Daft Punk and David Guetta in his Chicago House phase - Paris’ nightlife was only comme ci, comme ça. Stifling noise regulations and stickling authorities made throwing a party almost more hassle than it was worth, and so in spite of some progress, many of the scene’s major players upped sticks and moved to the more liberal climes of Berlin, London and Barcelona. By the mid-2000s, Paris’ house and techno scene was in sharp decline.
According to Brice Coudert, whose party Concrete has arguably shaken up the Paris scene more than any other, at its worst there were no more than five great parties per month. Compare that to now, with top drawer international and local DJs playing at parties across the city every weekend, and it seems clear there has been something of a renaissance. “Before [Concrete’s first party] everyone was like ‘yeah but there is nothing in Paris; the people are really boring,’" said Coudert. “But when I went to Berlin I always saw people from Paris, so I knew there was a scene.” This was qualified with over 2000 people (the majority of whom were French) attending Concrete’s opening night.
Coudert is one of many French promoters who cut their teeth abroad before bringing the tricks of the trade back to Paris. European party veteran Jeremie Feinblatt now scours suburban Paris for unlikely municipal venues (Piscine Moliter and Aéroport Bourget are stand out examples) for his BLANK and Die Nacht warehouse parties. The concept wouldn’t raise many eyebrows in London or Berlin, but it’s one that was sorely missed in Paris until Die Nacht. Giorgio Benazzo and Céline Bommel, meanwhile, struck gold with Sundae, Paris’ first Sunday day party. “In Paris we always had this thing about being a little bit elitist,” explains French DJ and producer Bambounou (who is playing the 50WEAPONS Finale at Oval Space and The Pickle Factory on 12th December). “To party on a Sunday means you have free time on a Monday. It’s a different way of thinking. I’m not just going to go out on Friday and Saturday, fuck it I’m going to go out on Sunday.”
So what’s changed? Has the French government come to realise the cultural and economic clout that electronic music offers the tourism industry? ‘Nightlife Mayor’ of Paris, Clément Léon is adamant he can help make the city “a bastion of nocturnal revelry to rival London and Berlin.” Léon, a self proclaimed night-owl was elected in 2013, hitting the headlines in France with his tough talk about “waking up” the French capital. His manifesto focussed on improving night transportation, smoothing relations between club/bar owners and residents, and implementing a minimum wage for DJs. It’s unclear how much of the credit Léon can take for Paris’ regenerated nightlife, and how much it’s purely down to the cyclical nature of musical tastes, but Paris’ relationship with electronic music is undoubtedly in the midst of a second wind.
“Everything goes in cycles,” explains Bambounou. “In 1990 techno was huge and now it’s huge again, and I guess it’s going to be huge again and again. It was the same with rock, and when electronic music got really influenced by rock that’s when you got Ed Banger and all these sub-labels that became really big and replaced techno. Right now it’s the other way round and rock music isn’t so popular.”
What’s remained the same is much of the personnel. The same faces that spearheaded French techno back in the day still play and party shoulder to shoulder with the new generation of French DJs, and it’s perhaps this mix of experience and exuberance that has pulled Paris from its punctilious rut. “The [French] people are getting more and more educated towards music,” says Bambounou. “It’s not just a stupid crowd that just likes to party, drink too much and puke everywhere. I think people in Paris are actually starting to care about music. The audience are like DJs themselves, it’s like they have all the catalogue numbers of every release in their heads but at the same time they’re enjoying the music. You feel like people actually understand what you’re doing. It’s great for us and it’s great for everyone.”
- Alex Moore