Paris ushers in the beginning of summer with more than a bang. The annual Fête de la Musique on June 21 is a worldly celebration of music as artists take to the streets for a nightlong party like none other.
This year, the 34th edition is all about ‘living the music together,’ and Paris is expecting hundreds of acts to register with the mayor’s office. Held on the summer solstice since 1982, the shortest night of the year gives way to the largest citywide concert – and it’s all free.
The Fête de la Musique, however, is just the beginning of a summer of sound. Beautiful weather and equally beautiful public spaces make Paris a concert capital from June to August.
While Paris does host major commercial acts in venues like the Stade de France and the Bercy Arena, the summer is all about getting out and experiencing something new and unfamiliar.
Next Thing You Know, running June 14-July 9 at the Highlander Pub, is a prime example. This interactive musical production is being put on by American Musical Theatre Live!, an international group bringing off-Broadway shows to Paris, and Lauren Taylor Berkman, is an avid music lover who is performing in the show.
“I’ve never done a show in a bar before and I think it’s really cool, and one of the first times that a musical theater piece has been taken out of a theater,” Berkman said, also explaining that in summer “you can stumble upon [events]” in Paris without any need for forward planning.
One such event is the Oui FM Festival (June 23-25) at Place de la République. It’s one of my favourites for discovering French artists, but I’ll also walk down to the Hôtel de Ville to hear a few sets at the Festival FNAC Live (July 15-18). Both attract large crowds, and the fact they’re free doesn’t compromise the quality of the productions and calibre of acts.
If you’re interested in a specific artist, French or otherwise, check the line-up at Solidays (June 26-28) at the Longchamp Hippodrome. French artists usually headline this festival while more international acts play later in the summer at Rock en Seine (August 28-30), including The Offspring, Marina and the Diamonds, and the John Butler Trio.
Other acts will be taking the stage at the Cité de la Musique (July 1-10) this year for the 6th annual Festival Days Off. Some events are free, but reservations may still be required.
While these concerts usually feature more pop or rock groups, there are plenty of other festivals tailored to more specific tastes. The Paris Jazz Festival (July 7-28) in the Parc Floral is an annual favourite. On the other side of the city, the Défense Jazz Festival (June 27 – July 5) is another top event. Both are open-air affairs and complement the already buzzing jazz scene in Paris.
Around town, Play Me, I’m Yours (through July 12) is a unique form of entertainment for which 30 pianos are spread throughout the city, with pianists taking turns performing on them.
Other niche music tastes are also on tap. The Hip Hop Festival (through July 6) welcomes various acts, including Wu-Tang Clan and Big Sean, to an array of venues. The Festival Loud & Proud (July 2-5) at the Gaité Lyrique celebrates queer culture through music. Then there’s the Black Summer Festival (July 2-26) at the Cabaret Sauvage, which celebrates all sorts of soul, reggae, and salsa, among other genres. If that’s not enough, there’s always the new Paris International Festival of Psychedelic Music (July 1-5).
The operas, ballets, and other venues all have their summer programmes running too, but take advantage the city’s festival scene and experience music in Paris like the locals do.