IN PICTURES: France marks annual street music party (including a rave at the Elysée)

French President Emmanuel Macron invited music fans to a socially distanced techno party at the presidential palace on Monday, reviving a pre-Covid event to mark the country's annual street music festival.

IN PICTURES: France marks annual street music party (including a rave at the Elysée)
A music enthusiast holds a French flag along the "Promenade des Anglais", as part of the French midsummer Festival of Music, "Fete de la Musique", on June 21, 2021 on the French riviera city of Nice. - "Fete de la Musique", which celebrates music in all its forms annually on June 21, the longest day of the year with a giant street party, comes this year a day after the government scrapped an 11:00 pm curfew, one of the last steps in a phased lifting of Covid-19 restrictions. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP)

France celebrates music in all its forms with a giant street party on June 21.

In 2018, Macron began throwing open the cobbled courtyard of the Elysée Palace to dance fans on that day, with a gig featuring stars from France’s electro scene.

Audience members sit socially distanced in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace as they listen to electronic music performer Irene Dresel during France’s annual fête de la musique music festival in the courtyard of the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris. (Photo by Ian LANGSDON / POOL / AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) delivers an opening speech, as his wife Brigitte Macron (R) and French electronic music performer Jean-Michel Jarre (C). (Photo by Ian LANGSDON / POOL / AFP)

This year’s Fete de la Musique comes a day after the government scrapped an 11:00 pm curfew, one of the last steps in a phased lifting of Covid restrictions.

Last year’s festivities went ahead but were muted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, with the number of infections at their lowest level in nearly a year the country is in party mode once more.

While bad weather put a dampener on events in some cities, more hardy souls were undeterred.

Music enthusiasts participate in the French midsummer Festival of Music, Fête de la Musique on June 21, 2021 along the “Promenade des Anglais” on the French riviera city of Nice. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP)

“Seeing people, their smiles, it feels good,” said Laure, 40, who had taken her two nine-year-old children to a show despite the drizzling rain in the northwestern port city of Brest.

“We heard there were mini-concerts and we went out wanting to relax and enjoy ourselves.”

Music enthusiasts take part in the French midsummer Festival of Music, Fête de la Musique in Paris on June 21, 2021. (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

Police disperse the crowd during the French midsummer Festival of Music. (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

Jarre, Cerrone honoured

Groups of musicians from classical to rock played at pop-up events across the French capital, adding a new layer of life to the slowly reopening Parisian social scene.

Just days after the tennis open, centre court at Roland-Garros played host to around 40 artists, including Patrick Bruel, Vianney and Kendji Girac, performing in front of 4,000 seated and masked spectators.

Crooners gave way to dance tunes at the presidential palace, with French electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre and 1970s disco king Cerrone headlining the concert in the courtyard where Macron normally greets visiting heads of state.

A demonstrator fights with anti-riot gendarmes during a second protest to mark the second anniversary of the death of Steve Maia Canico, a Frenchman who died after falling in the river following a police raid during France’s annual nationwide Fete de la Musique celebrations in 2019, in the city of Nantes on June 21, 2021. – Steve Maia Canico, 24-years-old, went missing on the night of June 21-22, 2019, after officers in the western city of Nantes moved in to disperse techno music fans attending a free concert as part of France’s national music celebration day. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

Macron conferred Legion of Honour decorations on both musicians.

Jarre dedicated the award to “the whole electronic music family, the DJs… the technicians who have really suffered during the pandemic.”

In contrast to previous editions, where Macron and his wife Brigitte have gamely joined in the dancing, concertgoers had to content themselves with tapping their feet.

A rock band performs live music in Soufflot street in front of a Cafe, as part of the French midsummer Festival of Music, “Fete de la Musique”, on June 21, 2021 in Paris. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Attendees were asked to remain seated and social distancing was observed.

To mark this year’s festival, the government announced that nightclubs, which have been closed for 15 months, will reopen on July 9.

Clubbers will have to present a new health pass showing they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, have a clean PCR test or have already had the virus.

Masks will not be obligatory in clubs, which will only be allowed to operate at 75 percent of their capacity, Alain Griset, the minister in charge of small businesses, said.

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Reader question: Can you explain France’s poisson d’avril tradition?

Yes, we can. But you might think we’re joking…

Reader question: Can you explain France's poisson d’avril tradition?

Question: What do the French mean when they talk about a ‘poisson d’avril’? Why do we have fish in April?

Hear poisson d’avril, think April Fool – in short, it’s the French version of the practice of playing jokes on April 1st.

French school children spend April 1st creating fish out of paper and sticking them to their classmates’ backs, while French media outlets may well indulge in a terrible joke story on April 1st (and yes, The Local has been known to do this too).

You’ll also see some shops selling chocolate fish, celebrating poisson d’avril, to give as gifts – maybe to any child who has successfully stuck a paper one to your back.

Common consensus for the origin of this day of practical jokes in France links it to the Edict of Roussillon, signed by Charles IX in 1564, to change the date of the new year from March 25th to January 1st, bringing the French calendar in line with that of the Holy Roman Empire. The rest of Christian Europe had to wait until Pope Grégoire XV in 1622 to catch up.

However, giving gifts between March 25th and April 1st was an established tradition in France – inherited from a Roman custom in honour of the goddess Strena. 

This was maintained despite the change in calendar – traditions are hard to break – but the gifts were now given as a joke. Over the centuries, that joke gift to mark the now fake new year has turned into a practical joke.

The poisson bit of the tradition in France is harder to pin down. There are lots of theories as to how this expression originated. 

One says it comes from April being a bad month for fishing, so claiming to eat one that month had to be a joke. Another ties it to the Dunkerque Carnival tradition, which starts with dried herrings being thrown from the City Hall to a crowd gathered below. 

Whatever its origin, April Fool’s Day in France today is inextricably linked to fish, notably the paper one your children might try to sneakily stick to your back so they can later shout poisson d’avril at you. But at least there are those chocolate ones…