For the first instalment of our Destination documentary series, it made sense for us to uncover the vibrant energy behind Paris’s flourishing electronic music scene.
Thanks to a rush of tastemaking labels, producers and clubs, it’s no secret that Paris is in great shape. And ever since its emergence, Weather Festival, run by the team behind the beloved club Concrete, has felt like the visible embodiment of this resurgence.
This year the movement seemed to be manifesting itself on an even larger scale. From the lush surroundings to its infectious, en masse energy and the quality of French artists on display, the weekend felt like a celebration of everything Paris has going for it right now. We picked the five things that best reflected this proud display of a revitalised clubbing culture.
The Sheer Scale
Symptomatic of the surge in the city’s nightlife, attendees were estimated to have turned out in numbers as high as 50,000, across ‘on’ and ‘off’ parties over two weeks. Around 35,000 revelers were said to attend the main event. Straying considerably from the industrial setting of last year’s Le Bourget Airport space, the entirety of the festival’s expanded third edition took place in the heart of Bois de Vincennes. Situated East of the city, it is Paris’s largest public park: a huge, leafy sprawl that also hosts botanical gardens, rowing lakes, a horse racing track, a small farm and a zoo.
Within this lush greenery the festival’s ‘weather’ theme came to life – four main stages themed around the seasons. Production efforts were high, with the two main stages – Autumn and Winter – pumping out powerful techno, grubby machine electronics and jacking house against intense, engaging, and sometimes disorientating lighting. Somewhat smaller in size, the spring and summer stages wooed ecstatic crowds with charismatic house and disco across the weekend.
The no bullshit booking policy
Attendees had turned out in high numbers for the weekend’s opening event, with a selection of live performances paving the way for Weather’s considered line-up. Omar Souleyman kicked things off in riotous fashion, with his whirlwind of disorienting synths underpinned by frenetic rhythms getting an appropriately physical reaction. The night’s centerpiece performance, however, was Derrick May alongside The Orchestre Lamoureux and its 60 classically trained musicians. With pianist Francesco Tristano and jazz keyboardist Dzijan Emin, they performed bright, classically informed reinterpretations of tracks, including an ebullient extended version of Strings of Life. While the fusion of electronic and classical can sometimes err on the cheesy side, luckily – with the help of an immersive visual backdrop – this felt like a spectacle, and a classy introduction to the festival’s serious music policy.
If we were going to indulge in outdated stereotypes, in all honesty we expected Parisian crowds to be pretty aloof. That couldn’t have been further from the truth, with affable, excitable, and seriously up for it attendees all round. Despite the scale, the festival never faltered in energy. Out of all the season-themed stages, Friday night’s Summer stage was the most expertly executed, and the vibe was joyous, with Motor City Drum Ensemble brazenly dropping Inspector Norse midway through his simmering back-to-back with Marcellus Pittmann, and Four Tet and Floating Points satisfying a doting crowd with woozy offbeat disco.
Things were certainly darker on the Winter and Autumn stages, but no less exhilarating, with a sea of French kids pumping their fists to kingsize techno and getting lost in brooding selections by dancing blissfully by themselves. Pummeling sounds prevailed, with the likes of Ben Klock, Marcel Dettmann, Len Faki and DVS1 soundtracking the hours after sunset with tough, hypnotising Berghain techno. One exception to this rule was Ricardo Villalobos’s set on Saturday – a deep selection of African inspired rhythms and pining French vocals that ignited the festival’s carefree atmosphere.
The French talent
There were plenty of homegrown musical offerings too. Saturday’s modular stage, seeing the likes of Blawan and London Modular Alliance coaxing impressive sounds from their set-ups, provided our festival highlight courtesy of veteran French producer In Aeternam Vale. Currently experiencing a career revival courtesy of Minimal Wave, his sleazy, brooding industrial/EBM mélange was the perfect antidote to the festival’s more austere sounds, ending with his own irresistible J’ai Mangé des Nerfs. Other high points included Jeremy Paris’s classic house, DJ Deep and Roman Poncet’s Adventice collaboration and dynamic deep house from Concrete resident Cabanne, all rapturously received.
It was one of those occasions where the acts enjoyed the party as much as the attendees; both Ricardo Villalobos and RPR Soundsystem danced their way through their sets amongst characteristically hefty entourages, Freerotation organisers Steevio and Suzybee grooved through their Sunday modular set with huge grins, and Mr. G claims to have been so moved by the reaction of the crowd that he actually dived into it at one point. Showing enthusiasm of a slightly different tip, Vatican Shadow’s role of violent gyrating to the murky, noise infused techno of his Ron Morelli and Low Jack collaboration was also something to behold.
Nina Kraviz’s closing set was a great example of this. Kraviz was dancing wildly behind the decks as she smashed out jacking house, acid and smatterings of trance to an impressively animated 8am crowd, illuminated by the sunrise reflecting off the sprawling greenery. It was a spectacle, and the scene felt more tied to mythologised 90s rave heritage than what many would associate with the French capital nowadays. When Weather organizer Brice Coudert had told us that “Paris is really burning up right now,” he wasn’t wrong. And while the city may be continuing to carve out exactly what its place in worldwide clubbing culture means, Weather’s knowledgeable, friendly and fervently enthusiastic crowd seemed hell-bent on adding fuel to that fire.