Text: Rooksana Hossenally
Image: Hip House
Needless to say that Paris doesn’t quite have a bustling nightlife to rival London or New York, but it does have its fair share of quirky and traditional bars, restaurants and cabarets, as well as a number of alternative arty music events in venues all over the city. Popular with the capital’s ‘in’ crowd, venues like La Bellevilloise and La Maroquinerie in the 20th, Point Ephémère in the 10th, Glaz’Art in the 19th and Mains d’Oeuvres at Porte de Saint-Ouen are experiencing a rise in popularity, and it’s not hard to see why. The events held at these venues often combine art and music in quirky unusual spaces that have quickly become the place to be seen, especially for those of you dying to be part of the Paris Boho scene!
La Bellevilloise boasts a 2000m2 surface area divided up into five different spaces: the Loft and Forum, used for art exhibitions; La Halle aux Oliviers (The Olive Tree Hall), the venue’s restaurant, where art is also displayed and where concerts are held; the Club, which welcomes a range of bands from both ends of the spectrum and anywhere in between; and the Screening Room, where films and video installations are projected. You could easily see anything from a Jazz sound system to a band of musicians dressed like Canadian gypsies banging out Irish folk music.
Not only is the Bellevilloise always hosting unusual events and concerts by bands you have never heard of and will probably never hear of again, but the venue itself is a landmark to the spirit of freedom and creativity. Founded in 1877, the Bellevilloise was Paris’ first ever cooperative, with the aim of rendering politics and culture available to people with smaller means. Indeed back then it was known as ‘The house of the people’. The venue was set to become an “independent, artistic and festive space”. The Bellevilloise was reopened as we know it today in 2005 by three culture enthusiasts. Today, it is one of the most versatile and innovative places in the city, with a vibrant yet unpretentious atmosphere.
Neighbour to La Bellevilloise, La Maroquinerie is a quaint, charismatic and intimate bar/restaurant that also works as an exhibition space, and a 500 capacity concert hall. The small garden that links the two spaces is lit up with lanterns and furnished with picnic tables in the summer, which makes for a popular haven before going to see a gig either downstairs in the venue or next door at La Bellevilloise. Opened in 1997, La Maroquinerie, which literally translates as ‘leather goods maker’ in English, is renowned for its eclectic range of concerts and music festivals. A top-notch, lively and very laid-back venue, La Maroquinerie is one of our favourites, but do get there early as the restaurant and concert hall work on a first-come, first-served basis.
For something a little more street-art focused head to Jaurès in the northeast of the city. Along the banks of the Canal Saint Martin in Paris’ prime Bohemian hotspot, you’ll find the Point Ephémère (a.k.a. Point FMR), with its industrial face and exterior seating. In association with the French record producer SPPF, it has been a respected leader and innovator in its selection of gigs since its creation in 2004. Before being transformed into a cultural bubble of coolness, the Point Ephémère was a shop of building materials. The Usines Ephémères, a collective that has been seeking out quirky venues to set up temporary cultural centres for twenty years founded the Point Ephémère, which in English, means ‘faddish’ and implies a temporary nature. However, judging by the venue’s unrivalled success, it has become a real anchor for the creative community in Paris and is here to stay.
The venue serves as an intimate 300 capacity concert space, has an exhibition space and a bar/restaurant, which always seems to be jam-packed no matter the time of day. There are also dance studios and artist residencies. Big names from all four corners of the globe often grace the stage, making this venue one of the most musically diverse places in the city. Although the Point Ephémère doesn’t seem like much to look at, it is the place to be seen and everyone there knows it, especially in the summer when crowds overflow and scatter along the canal.
A little out of the way, further northeast near the Villette cultural complex, Glaz’Art is at your service with a varied program of concerts, a bar, an exhibition space, an exterior terrace and even a beach in summer! Don’t be fooled by the venue’s non-descript building that melts into a landscape of motorways and bus depots, as the easily overlooked concrete walls that hide an array of cultural happenings that are well worth dropping by for. Glaz’Art is one of the city’s most low-key places with some surprisingly big names gracing the stage, ranging from hip hop to punk, so if you are particular about the music you like to listen to, do look up what’s on before heading down.
The intimate gig space is hinged to the exhibition space that meanders around the building to its exterior terrace, by the Glaz’Art bar. Most people tend to be there to see a band rather than just to hang out ,as in the other places mentioned above. The venue opened 15 years ago, with the aim of being an atypical music base, which it has succeeded in doing judging by its storming success. Unlike the other venues, Glaz’Art hosts a series of free concerts in partnership with Radio Neo, which signals its open, community-focused spirit.
Last but not least is a venue offering a mix of cultural events in the north of the city, in Porte de Saint-Ouen. A little out of the way, but worth the trip, Mains d’Oeuvres has become a respected venue hosting artistic events from more of a serious angle. Opened in 2001, in an area that desperately needed a cultural centre, it was founded by a collective of experienced professionals (including one of the co-founders of Point Ephémère). The Mains d’Oeuvres association acts as a link between art and the community. With its 4000m2 space, this venue is one of the largest of its kind in Paris. What do they do with all that space? Well, it’s quite simple: they do everything. From concerts to artist residencies, exhibitions to conferences, festivals, a restaurant…you name it, they do it!
An eclectic mix of events, the space is popular with those who know it, but the real downside is its location, meaning that it is still relatively unheard of to the lay person; your average cultural fiend will have heard of it, but venturing out to Porte de Saint-Ouen may be a bit of a stretch for many. Mains d’Oeuvres is however worth the extra time on the metro, so do cast the laziness aside and make a day of it!