Welcome to le club

Snooty Parisians are at last waking up to dance culture.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
"Parisians are beginning to have an ear for dance music," says Charles Schillings, one of the city's top DJs. "Mind you, they still can't dance. The ones dancing and talking with enthusiasm are English."

Among visitors to the city, Paris clubs have long had a reputation for being snooty places, dominated by posers and deadened by discriminating door policies. But having been victims of their own attitude, many clubs are now trying to tailor their resources to suit the demands of the new generation of club-goers.

"Our parents used to go into discotheques in the late 1970s, but the scene died out in the 1980s," recalls Christophe Vix of FG Radio, one of Paris's dance music stations. This was largely due to the hostile attitude of the French Government, which is notorious for its harsh response to illegal raves, and which banned from the radio every record containing the word acid (bang goes most late-Eighties house music). But now Parisian night-life has bounced back.

"The city is full of new techno and house venues - bars, clubs, raves and concerts - as club culture becomes popular with young Parisians," says Charles Schillings. And young Brits, who grew up with the euphoria of the British club scene in the 1980s, are now catching the Eurostar and cashing in.

Just yards from the somewhat haughty exterior of the classic designer boutiques, Parisians browse enthusiastically in Le Shop (3-5 Rue D'Argout), the only clubwear shop in the capital, now celebrating its first birthday. "For years Paris clubbers have been dressing as if they were going to a wedding, wearing their best clothes, all primped, preened and proper, but finally it's changing," says Daniel Poole, a British designer whose space-age, anti-chic clubwear does a roaring trade.

The government is loathe to encourage such channel-hopping; it has now passed a law making it illegal for radio stations to play more than 60 per cent of music featuring non-French lyrics, a step that effectively outlaws the majority of non-instrumental house tracks. "It's like going into reverse gear,'' says Schillings. "I was asked to produce a song in French, but I refused, French is not a language that lends itself to house music."

Luckily, Parisian clubs are free from these strictures. Ben Turner, associate editor of London's Muzik magazine, enthuses about the city's club scene: "Although Paris is still well behind other European cities in club terms, the clubs have got plenty of potential," he remarks. "They're turning out some wicked music, they've got superb venues, good sound systems and they are booking internationally acclaimed DJs who even London clubs can't get - all they need is enthusiasm."

Where to go

Le Palace: 8 Rue du Faubourg, Montmartre. Metro: Rue-Montmartre). Admission F100. Tel: 42 46 10 87.

Opened by Mick Hucknall, this huge converted theatre epitomises much of what is still wrong with the French scene: its roped-off "VIP" section, conspicuously placed between the bar and the dance-floor, where stuffed shirts sip vastly overpriced champagne, is an embodiment of a die-hard elitism. However, good for a dance.

Le Rex Club: 5 Boulevard Poissoniere. Metro: Bonne-Nouvelle. Admission F80. Tel: 42 36 10 96.

This recently re-opened club is the one young Parisians are most proud of, particularly because it is home to Lauren Garnier, Paris's internationally famous producer and DJ. The decor is chrome, orange and ultraviolet; a homage to techno.

Les Folies Pigalle: 11 Place Pigalle. Metro: Pigalle. Admission F100. Tel: 48 78 25 56.

Also popular, this former cabaret theatre retains the spirit of its location - right down to the exotic dancers. Smaller and more intimate than Rex, and with none of the pretensions of Le Palace, it has a young, energetic crowd which thoroughly enjoys DJ Charles Schillings set of irresistible "funky house".

Queen: 102 Avenue des Champs-Elysees. Metro: George V. Admission on Saturday, F80. Tel: 42 89 31 32.

Paris's most famous gay club. "Gay French men are only just waking up to the fact that women exist," Didier Le Strade, the city's leading music journalist, warns; although women are allowed into Queen, their presence is only just tolerated.

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