The best live music bars in Paris

The city's greatest places to grab a bière and catch an unsigned band

L'Espace B

In a quiet street a stone’s throw from the Parc de la Villette, l’Espace B – or Berbère [Berber] – is a funny little place, somewhere between a neighbourhood bar, an Italian restaurant and a concert hall. If the warmth of the welcome leaves something to be desired, the big room hidden behind the bar is full of happy surprises. The program, which gives priority to new French and international acts produced by independent labels, is knowledgeable and well thought out, attracting avid fans of new music and underground novelties. The bill is varied, including synth-pop, electro-rock, hip-hop, indie, shoegaze, grunge, folktronica, noise, chillwave and more. On some evenings, you can even find burlesque evenings or bits of avant-garde theatre. The programme is available [online] (in French).

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Parc de la Villette

Le Motel

Squirreled away in an alleyway near the Bastille, Le Motel is the ideal hangout for fans of hip electro-pop-rock. The very friendly staff serve explosive cocktails like the Vodka-Tatin (apple and cinnamon flavoured, like the tart), the Joe (vodka and watermelon) or the Leon des Bois (vodka, lime, strawberry and mint), and the cheese and charcuterie boards are half price during happy hour (6pm-9pm). Find a seat on one of the semi-circle of second hand sofas arranged around the bar, and as the evening progresses, DJs perform electrifying sets that ensure a packed dance floor on weekends. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and alternate Sundays there’s a pop quiz that attracts many regulars, with their impressive musical knowledge.

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Bastille

Pop In

The temple to indie pop in Paris, Pop In is like a little island of London style in the lively Rue Amelot. Wedging a hip crowd of well-coiffed youth in checked shirts and leather jackets into its cramped space, the bar plays pop-rock from the Beatles to cutting-edge indie groups. On the first floor, there’s an idealised British salon with a piano and old second hand sofas, which is a lovely place for a beer. Illogically, you have to take the stairs from here to reach the underground performance space, where every evening little groups come and do their thing. The music is free, and the quality can be a little uneven, but it’s always a pleasure to discover an international and unpretentious alternative Parisian music scene. Come early on the weekends, as it’s full to bursting during happy hour.

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Bastille

L'International

It’s been a long wait for a venue dedicated to new acts in Paris, but now l’International has filled the void. There are two or three sets an evening, mostly rock, pop, folk, French singers, hip-hop and electro, all playing to an enthusiastic crowd – and it’s all for free. Not far from the lively Rue Oberkampf, l’International is distinguished by its friendly aura, a sort of best mates’ hangout that also doubles as a gig venue. Relaxed punters gather for well-priced drinks in the bar, a huge open space furnished with second hand furniture that gets very animated after cocktail hour. Once the gigs start, everyone crams into the downstairs event space that, much like a garage converted into a private club, is all pillars and walls in reinforced concrete.

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11e arrondissement

Les Trois Baudets

Founded in 1947 by Jacques Canetti, Les Trois Baudets is a mythical place where numerous great talents of the last century – Jaques Brel, Georges Brassens, Boris Vian, Raymond Devos, Jeanne Moreau, Boby Lapointe, Juliette Gréco – made their debuts. But the venue fell on hard times, and became just another Pigalle sex shop and erotic cabaret, until in the 1990s it became the focus of a massive government restoration project. After five years of thorough renovation, it reopened in 2009, rediscovering its true vocation as a breeding ground for French musical talent. Today, this huge art deco building with its vast glass façades includes a beautiful 250-seater underground concert hall and an upstairs bar/restaurant, and is the place to discover the latest trends in French music, in all its variety. Popular song, rock, electro, rap – anything goes, as long as it’s sung in the language of Gainsbourg. The programming is audacious and eclectic, and the concerts are either free or at a symbolic price. On weekends, there are occasional hip-hop or electro nights. Visit the website for more details (French only).

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Pigalle

L'Alimentation Générale (ALG)

It might translate as General Foods, but Alimentation Générale is no supermarket – rather, it’s a bar, restaurant, concert hall and club all rolled into one. Evenings at ALG are warm, colourful, ultra festive and always affordable – entrance is usually around €5 to €10 with a drink. The concrete room, furnished with big convivial wooden tables and a table football set, also includes a crammed dance floor, allowing revellers to get up close and personal with the acts. Evenings start off quite quietly, with decorous drinks and nibbles ­– there’s cheese and charcuterie and some pricey but good things à la carte (pasta, prawn skewers, tapas). The room fills up quickly though, and before you know it the table football is being pushed to one side and the volume turned as the gyrating crowds overrun the dance floor. French crooners, rumba Columbia, Brazilian samba, funk, gypsy jazz… all the sounds of the world have their place on this stage. At weekends, enormously varied DJ nights (funk, hip-hop, electro, tropical electro) are the meeting point of a young and very friendly cosmopolitan crowd. Just be aware that there’s no re-entry after 10pm and that the smoking area, out the back in an unventilated bunker, is pretty unbearable. Also, don’t come too late on the weekends, because the ALG is the only bar/club in the area that closes at 5am, and once it fills up they close the doors.

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Oberkampf

Les Disquaires

In its newly-renovated, shiny red interior, Les Disquaires’s little stage directly faces the dancefloor and the decks, and temporary exhibitions by Parisian artists decorate the walls around the bar. The venue is a good Bastille quarter bet for enjoying a quality gig over a cocktail or a beer during happy hour, and even music novices will always find something to enjoy in the programme of live jazz, funk, hip-hop and soul. For those who want to press on until the early hours (2am), the organisers always have a DJ set or two up their sleeve. It’s always a good idea to look in here to get an idea of what’s setting Parisian pulses racing – for the programme details, take a look at their website (French only).

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Bastille

La Mécanique Ondulatoire

The Bastille area is well known as a haunt of rock fans, and La Mécanique Ondulatoire [the wave machine] is a fantastic bazaar of retro souvenirs and vintage furniture spread over two floors. On the ground floor, a stunning wall of every imaginable alcohol gives you an idea of the well-priced cocktails concocted here. Downstairs, there are DJs and rock, ska, punk and metal gigs (even on Sundays, sometimes), inviting you to hum along, tap your feet or, if you’re feeling really brave, to get down and mosh. Entry to the bar is free and downstairs is around €5-€6, so there’s nothing stopping you donning some leather and tattered jeans and giving that day’s act a look.

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Bastille

Les Combustibles

Beneath the impressive arcades of Avenue Daumesnil, Les Combustibles is a very rock’n’roll restaurant-bar, opened in 2009, that energetically combines music and food. From Wednesday to Saturday, rock groups, punk, metal and free jazz set the downstairs room alight with their furious rhythms and electric guitars. On some evenings, expert DJs mix ska, reggae or northern soul, and you can even find occasional bits of theatre and comedy shows (check the (French) website for details).Follow the enormous frescoes that run along the length of the staircase and you reach the restaurant, decorated in a handsome symphony of wood and white tones. Contemporary drawings and industrial lamps give the venue an arty feel that recalls the style of the artists’ ‘after-squat’ exhibition space on 59 Rue Rivoli. The menu covers simple things like burgers or fish of the day, while curious epicureans can also try more creative dishes like langoustines wrapped in bacon with an aubergine purée, savoury veal piccata with blueberries, or eccentric spring rolls with chocolate (mid-day set menu €15, evening à la carte around €30). There’s also a range of rustic wines and craft beers to accompany the food and music.

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Gare de Lyon

Onze Bar

A little boho bar that’s just the way we like them, Le Onze seethes with people day and night. Very hip and popular right now, its been done up in (very) shabby chic – the stuffing of the big sofas is oozing out, witness to many wild parties. Daily concerts range from Balkan folk to rock’n’roll, via via jazz, blues, funk or afrobeat (see the program on the (French) website here), and the music never fails to produce a fantastic atmosphere, with people getting up to dance wherever they can find room between the tables and chairs. Even during the week, the bar teems with regulars topping themselves up with the very well priced beers or house rum cocktails. There’s also a menu with things like roasted Camembert with garlic, duck pie, herby beef skewers and cheesecake, all at reasonable prices.

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11e arrondissement

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