About This Festival
Street music is de rigueur in Paris: think accordion players on an Île Saint Louis Bridge, or the organ grinder outside the gates of Luxembourg Gardens. Assuming you’re not held captive by a busker on the Métro, you can savor or ignore these mini-concerts. But in September, the performance is unavoidable when the Paris Techno Parade asserts itself along three full miles of the City of Light. Meet street music turned up to eleven: DJs, subwoofers, and sound-mixers sit atop decked-out flat bed trucks, which ply through a heaving sea of 400,000 people—mostly young, cool, and determined to live out loud. The belly button rings, sunglasses, and electronic detonations are a freewheeling antidote to the staid Haussmann building facades that line the route. If the wrought iron balconies and old elm vines exude wealth, history, and power, the beats exude youth, diversity, and ground-level uprising.
Techno music was born in the United States—Detroit to be exact—and the Technoparade is a concept of German origin. It’s surprising, then, what a vigorous transplant the phenomenon has made in France—especially since the movement was met with initial resistance. Back in 1996, the techno-festival “Polaris” was cancelled at the last minute in Lyon because officials feared the scene’s association with drugs and disorder. The Parade’s sponsoring organization, Technopol, was formed in response to this incident and now actively promotes and defends the genre.
Government repression has turned into support with The Ministry of Culture providing some funding for the Parade and legitimizing the genre of techno with a multi-day cultural event. In 2012, “Paris Electronic Week” featured concerts, forums, and lectures and events at Pompidou. Such is the life cycle of art movements, be it Impressionism or Dada: resistance, acceptance, and eventually, celebration.
Pushing Past Politics
Parade participants are quick to point out the unifying spirit of the music, which despite its futuristic electro-sound, draws inspiration from tribal rhythms. “The beats are so loud they hit you in the stomach; the only thing you can do is obey them, and dance,” says one participant. The organizers have been keen to promote diversity, erase class and racial lines, and bring everyone into the same heartbeat. In 2011, the organizers themed the event “Indepen’ Dance“ as a tribute to the Arab Spring. Tunisian electronic music was showcased on a special float. In 2012, “Renew’all” featured a float of Algerian electro artists.
Techno Parade proceeds around the neighborhood of Boulevard Saint Michel, Saint Germain, Île Saint Louis and Bastille. The procession of one truck after another means that the music bends and blends, creating a kalediscopic audio experience. The German clubbers even have a word for this “overlap zone”: Verwirrungsgebiet.
Since 1998, both known and unknown DJs have been part of the parade. Some are world-renowned, like Martin Solveig, Bob Sinclar and David Guetta. Expect a massive crowd, but the density that is a drawback at other festivals only adds to the momentum of energy that makes this event so powerful.