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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fleche for Fantasy

(I'm starting a series of lengthier articles, spotlighting key Paris indie music venues. Here is the first. Cheers! Jay)

Flèche for Fantasy
By Jayson Harsin

La Flèche d’Or, a charming rock venue and late-night dance club situated in a former train station of the ceinture, does not host the most famous bands. However, it has built a reputation as the most exciting Paris venue for cutting edge indie music (folk, rock, electronica).

TheLa Flèche d’Or was once-upon-a-time (1867 – 1934) the gare de Charonne, and the name La Flèche d’Or comes from the train that chugged from Paris-Nord to London-Victoria every day, passing through Calais and Dover.

In the 1990s the Flèche was opened as a music club by some former students from the Ecole des Beaux Arts. It hosted a range of musical acts and genres. Since 2005 it has been under new management with a new programming direction. Above all, the Flèche today wants to be a place where the public and music industry representatives can experience and discover new artists. This distinctive venue with a long horse shoe bar can hold up to nearly 500 people, age eighteen and higher, s’il vous plait.

At the Flèche you can see bands that are little known but recently feted in the press (usually in England or the U.S., though some of the bands there appear in the pages of Liberation and other French papers); but you can also see more established indie figures who either have not quite gone big-time or who refuse that status for various reasons. Most recently, the artist who would fit into that almost-big category is Ted Leo and his Pharmacists. Others who have graced the Flèche stage include: Tv On The Radio, Stuck in the Sound, Nelson, The Dead Sexy Inc, Poni Hoax, Lo-Fi-Fnk, and Momus.

Here you get a serving of four bands per night (occasionally an artist will also be featured in the post-midnight club scene). It usually begins around 8pm and is finished around 11:30pm.

Besides showcasing rising British and American stars, the Fleche is also a great place to plug into the local French music scene, where you can see premiere acts such as Narrow Terrence and Hey, Hey, MY, My. In fact, some of my favorite recent shows have been tribute nights to Neil Young and the Velvet Underground, organized by a local band called Morning Star and featuring almost all local talent.

Sometimes these artists even do a dj set later when it becomes a dj-ed dance club after midnight.

While the drinks are not cheap at the Flèche —you pay 4.50 euros for what appears to be a demi-demi—one shouldn’t forget that it never has a cover charge. If you figure in that you pay between six and 30 euros at other clubs plus your drinks, you still come out on top at the Flèche . They also always have a drink du soir, such as mojitos or punch for about 5 euros.

Flèche also boasts a fairly inexpensive restaurant that serves an upstanding burger, for those of you who crave that elusive cuisine in high-falutin’ Paris. The resto is housed in an atrium, overlooking the abandoned tracks of the old ceinture, the railroad that circled old Paris in the way the peripherique does today. Quite striking is also the kitschy yet gargantuan faux-dore’ horse and rider that dangles like the Damoclean sword above your head as you gobble up your burger or chew down your confit de canard.

The Flèche isn’t going to give you Franz Ferdinand. But that’s its charm. A few years ago the fledgling Franz Ferdinand might well have come by there had it been under the current management. If you are weary of the tourist-saturated jazz bars, repulsed by the stadium acts and prices, and fancy cutting edge indie music and the occasional French pogo, it’s hard to beat the free shows at La Flèche d’Or.
Key Info:
Myspace page
102 bis, rue de Bagnolet 75020 Paris
Subway / Métro : Gambetta (3) & Alexandre Dumas (2)
Must be 18 years old or over

also published at Ivy Paris News, a great site and resource on Paris.

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Formerly "Parisnormale: Paris Rocks"