Paris isn’t well known for its burgeoning live-music scene, but it should be. From historic jazz bars to tiny trendsetting cultural hubs, the city hosts an incredible array of musical talent. These live-music venues are often the launch pads for local and international bands.
Jazz fans will love a trip to the famous Caveau de la Huchette. The Caveau is a relic of a time gone by, an underground temple to jazz, and was recently featured in the Hollywood film La La Land(2016). It’s one of the city’s most legendary music bars and definitely not somewhere visitors are likely to simply sit and watch. The cellar, where there’s a small stage, features a large dance floor where regulars – some dressed in their finest jazz era fashions – guide their partners through swings and turns, pausing only to throw a handful of powdered chalk onto the slippery smooth tiles. Every night of the year, the Caveau welcomes guest performers of all jazz genres, so plan ahead if there’s a particular performance you’d like to experience.
Le Pop In in Saint-Ambroise is all about indie and pop rock, with a youngish crowd almost exclusively dressed in plaid. Over the years, Le Pop In has become an important place for emerging artists, so much so that the bar created its own independent music label. This bar embodies an unassuming, alternative side of Paris, where second-hand couches add to an atmosphere perfect for a beer and a chat. Downstairs, there’s a small space for live concerts, so go early to beat the crowd.
The first thing you’ll notice when walking into La Mécanique Ondulatoire (literally ‘the wave machine’) is its retro decor. Parked along one wall of this Bastille hangout is an old aqua scooter, which may appear misplaced in the context of the rock, metal and ska concerts that take place each night under the neon lights of the old cellar, but somehow, here, it works. For a small fee, patrons can rock out to local and international bands of all genres of rock, though upstairs is free entry.
Located in Folie-Méricourt (not far from Republique), l’Alimentation Générale (ALG to locals) doesn’t stick to any one genre of music, but rather, in the spirit of the supermarket its name invokes, offers an eclectic calendar of talent. Bands and DJs of every genre imaginable will be found at this popular bar, from the American-style country stylings of The Starchilds to the young ensemble Kosmopolitevich, a band performing traditional music from the Balkans. It’s a fun place to hang out, and entry is usually free, or 5€ (10€ including a free drink), and the Italian canteen on-site offers affordable snacks from a seasonal menu that changes often.
“This is the place to dance in Paris,” proclaims the website of Les Disquaires, a bar and concert space in Roquette. Like ALG, the bands that play here are varied in their styles, and the space moves seamlessly from concert hall to nightclub depending on what’s on the agenda for the night. This is another affordable choice for live-music lovers: beers on tap start from 3€, and cocktails from 5€. A small, constantly rotating exhibition of local artists is a cool touch to an already rad space.
Le Trac is a cultural hub, a combination bar, restaurant and coffee shop, depending on what’s on on the day. It’s inspired by Brooklyn, Manhattan’s eclectic-cool neighbourhood, and the agenda is always diverse: drag shows and meetings of local intellectuals feature alongside stand-ups, improvs and of course, DJ sets and live music. In keeping with Le Trac’s theme (read: anything and everything), the musical talent is unpredictable, so be sure to check their Facebook events listings before you go. The tapas menu offers small, tasty nibbles at a reasonable price of 4–10€, and the cocktails are affordable, too.
Decked out in shabby chic decor, Onze Bar in Folie-Méricourt (not far from ALG) is a cute little space popular with les bobos, France’s answer to the hipster. It’s been known to host many a live band, from traditional Croatian brass bands to ukulele jam. Pleasing happy-hour prices attract diverse crowds, with pints and cocktails at 4€. The p’tit faim menu is unfussy but satisfying, and a menu (consisting of entrée, main and dessert) priced at 18,50€ is a good price point for the nearby Canal Saint-Martin crowd. On warm days, the bar spills out onto the street, where patrons don’t hesitate to dance between the tables, or anywhere they can find the space.
This Ménilmontant venue is very popular among locals and offers a bit of everything. Spread out over three floors, and with five distinct spaces, La Bellevilloise is at once a club, a concert hall, a restaurant and an exhibition space, with a very changeable programme. The downstairs club has launched several bands over the years, making La Bellevilloise a mainstay of Paris’s live-music scene. From Wednesdays to Saturdays, this is the perfect place to have dinner with friends, accompanied by live acoustic music, before heading downstairs to dance the night away. But the speciality of La Bellevilloise is the popular live-jazz brunch on Sundays, where – when weather permits – visitors can spill out onto the terrace to enjoy the sunshine and views of the neighbourhood.
There’s something for everyone at Le Pop-Up, where it’s not unusual to rock out on Tuesdays then swing to jazz on Wednesdays. Spread out over two floors plus terrace, this club/restaurant/concert hall is known for its good music and great food, with a menu known to bring haute cuisine to the masses at wallet-friendly prices: think Angus côte de bœuf with mashed potatoes à la truffe, or homemade gnocchi with shiitake mushrooms in truffle cream. The menu evolves with the seasons, as does the venue’s rotating roster of bands, so check online before you go.
Fans of indie pop-electro-rock will feel right at home in this friendly Bastille bar. Le Motel is just as much a friendly neighbourhood bar as it is a tiny cultural hub: they’re an event agency specialising in bar service, an independent publishing house and a meeting place for artists and creative types. Unsurprisingly, the cocktail menu is very original, with a selection priced at 4.50€ during happy hour (6–9pm), pairing nicely with the half-priced charcuterie boards. On Sundays they host a popular music trivia, and if you enjoy the sounds, you can take them home with you with their latest vinyl compilation, Le Motel, Ma Maison, available for purchase at the bar.