Last Monday we went to the “Fête de la musique“. There was so much smiling and so little inhibition, people danced happily to music of inconsistent quality. Normally reserved, French don’t show enjoyment of anything. Something has to be REALLY good to make an impression. But perhaps this is the night to be easily impressed, to show exuberance, to allow oneself to visibly enjoy. Maybe they use it all up a few nights a year so they can return to an ordinary cynical state that makes them so damn stylish.
La Fête de la Musique is a lively street music festival held every June 21st in Paris, and is one of the year’s most popular events in “The City of Light”. Hundreds of musicians gather in the streets, bars, trees, train stations, boats, and in the cafés of Paris, giving free performances of everything from jazz and rock to hip-hop and electronic music. The idea behind this day, which falls on the first day of summer, and the longest day of the year, is for anyone and everyone to make and enjoy music.
In order to get the most out of the Fête de la Musique, everyone has their own strategy: some might prefer to sift through the program and carefully choose a few concerts; others like to wander the streets and stumble on great (or mediocre) concerts. I personally prefer the second approach. The year I discovered the Fête de la Musique, my friends and I snaked aimlessly from the Opéra Garnier up to Le Quartier Latin and Le Panthéon, getting a taste of everything from thrash metal to Yiddish folk music. By letting yourself happen upon performances, you’ll get to dabble in different styles and most likely get more out of the event. The best neighborhoods to experience this creative effervescence are often the “older quarters” (St. Germain, Palais Royal, Le Marais) with smaller streets, where you’ll be able for sure to see a higher concentration of spontaneous jam sessions. But for something a little more low-key, public gardens (e.g. Champ de Mars or the Luxembourg Gardens) often have more classical styles and some available seating.
In any case, if you think that French music is just Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour you definitely need to experience the Fête de la Music in Paris or any other town in France. The festival is really about spontaneity: everyone strolls the streets and can join in and no registration is required. So “strike up the band and make the fireflies dance”.