5 tips to have the best possible night at France's Fête de la musique

Emma Pearson
Emma Pearson - [email protected]
5 tips to have the best possible night at France's Fête de la musique
Musicians play in a café during France's annual Fete de la musique. Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP

It can be the most fun day of the year - when France goes music crazy and bands suddenly appear on every street corner - but there are some tips to make your Fête de la musique experience as good as it can possibly be.


First, a caveat - this is an entirely personal manifesto based on the things that I have enjoyed over my Fête de la Musique outings over the years. It's not intended as any kind of hard-and-fast rule and plenty of people will have different experiences.

Feel free to disagree and/or share your festival tips in the comments section below!

1 Ignore the big-name artists

There are always a few big-name artists or concerts in major venues on the Fête de la musique (which happens every year on June 21st).

Ignore them. Sure, stadiums gigs can be great and huge venues can have a wonderful atmosphere - but you can do that any night of the year. It's not what Fête de la musique is about.


The true spirit of the Fête is the smaller acts who play on street corners, in bars and community venues. They’re free, you can wander between them and stay as long as you like - and there is always something else around the corner.

2 Ignore the big towns

You might think that the big cities have the best music, but if you have the choice, go for a small town or a suburb.

I’ve enjoyed some good Fêtes in Paris, but the best experiences had have been smaller towns or the Paris’ suburbs (Montreuil is good - a commune that carefully cultivates a small-town / village vibe, albeit a very diverse small town where everyone is a hippy, a leftist, or both).

It’s partly a practicality thing - in big cities the acts are spread out and you have to make plans to see something and meet up with friends. In small towns, you just wander along to the main square, then when you've seen the acts there, you can saunter up the side streets, each of which will have dozens of bands playing, pausing only to grab a beer and snacks.

But it’s also the vibe; in big cities you can hear good live music all the time and the population is consequently complacent - small towns truly appreciate the Fête de la musique and properly go wild.

Once, in Paris, I was watching a blues band play in the street when a woman tipped water on their heads from her apartment window because she was tired and wanted to go to sleep. Small towns appreciate it when bands play for them.

3 Experiment

There’s a lot of variety on the night, so take advantage - this is your opportunity to hear all kinds of live music from rock to swing, jazz to classical, choirs to DJs.

Didn’t think that a five-piece oud band is your thing? Fête de la musique may change your mind. It’s the night of the year when anything goes, musically, so it’s also the night to try something new.

If you hate it - well it’s free and there’s another band down the street that might be more your thing. But you might discover a lifetime passion for oud music - in fact, by this time next year you might be playing in the oud band. Thanks to the Fête de la musique.


4 Don’t insist on quality

You’ll hear some great bands, but you’ll also hear some that are more about enthusiasm - and that’s all part of the fun.

You’re going to be hearing everything from classic rock to reggae to blues to the above-mentioned five-piece oud band, and as well as the styles the quality may be variable to.

For me, the true spirit of Fête de la musique is the 50-year-old accountant rocking out on his guitar and enjoying the one night of the year when he can dream that if only he hadn’t given up on his high school band, he could now be rich, famous and selling out stadiums, as opposed to filing tax declarations in an office above the florist.

5 Dress comfortably

Some people like to dress up for the Fête and that’s great - it’s a party after all - but the key thing is to wear something that is comfortable and allows you to shake your stuff.

Yes, you will be dancing - you’ll be dancing on street corners, in parks, cafés and perhaps on street furniture if things really get going, and you’ll be dancing with kids, dapper 70-year-old gents and everyone in between.

You need comfortable shoes and clothes that you can really move in.

Dance like no-one is watching. They may be watching, but they won’t be judging. Much. It’s Fête de la musique.



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