June has to be one of my favourite months for meandering around the city after you’ve punched off the clock from work. Its long, glowing evenings bathed in late sunlight mean it’s the perfect time to have a wander round the quartier, head to the park for dinner picnic-style and pretty much do anything to avoid being holed up at home in the good weather (Granny flat I love you, but we all need a change of scenery once in a while).
The height of June’s powers is the 21st, the longest day of the year, where the sun sticks around as long as it possibly can, like the tipsy uncle at a wedding who just doesn’t know when it’s time for bed. Admittedly it sucks if you’re trying to get an early night this time of year, since going to bed when it’s still light makes you feel five again, but we should be able to put up with a lack of sleep for at least one night before the seasonal train plunges back down the hill towards winter again.
But happily, this year we don’t have to. Forget the dusky walk in the park at 10pm, there’s only one thing to do on the longest day, this year a saturday, so you can stay out all night until the sun rises again if you want without having to worry about your head falling onto your neighbour’s shoulder on the metro the next day. You’d be a complete fool not to get involved in the famous Féte de la musique, drowning the city with musical love this 21st June.
For the uninitiated, the premise is simple (and by no means limited to Paris; this is a European-wide thing). As many of the city’s bands, DJ, singers, performers, and well, musicians in every form (and this could and sometimes does mean a dude playing the spoons on a corner) as Paris can muster, coat the streets and fill the air with whatever brand of music it is that flows from their beings – all for free.
Sometimes this might be within almost touching distance of each other (often the music mixes in a fashion akin to an aural tuna milkshake), but there’s plenty scattered around to suit every taste whether it be tucked in a side street, spilling out from an open-fronted pub or slap-bang in the middle of a crowded avenue’s pavement. For those that gave up playing the spoons long ago, all that is left to do is wander around and absorb the melodies, stopping to appreciate the rhythms being peddled at your leisure. You can even do this with a beer in your hand as many establishments have special beer stations set up for the occasion (plastic cups, mind).
The music spreads to all corners of the city, though the entertainment is often dictated by the quartier you’re in. You’ll find hipster DJs scattered around the 11th for example, and some classier classical stuff in the arches of the Place des Vosges. But there are weird and wonderful things to see wherever you go; last year I spent at least 30 minutes transfixed by an electro singing duo dressed in fisherman’s gear (yellow rubber dungarees and all – and little else) shaking their tail feathers in an actual fish shop.
It’s generally an evening affair extending into the dark hours (but things calm down a lot after midnight), but you might see a handful of acts getting started during the afternoon. Night owls get to take advantage of the late-opening of the metro though, which runs right through the night for the occasion (3.50 will secure you a ticket for the whole night). Check out the official national site http://www.fetedelamusique.culture.fr for more detailed programme information. And pray that the rain is about as unlikely as a Showaddywaddy comeback gig.
Thanks to Sweet Knuckle Unicorn for the photo!