Paris is Burning: French music in Angel
The Lexington in Angel has long been hailed as one of the gems of London’s small-venue circuit. Now two music lovers are using the pub to bring French music to the capital. We spoke to one of them about the project
The music industry in France is well-known for its cynicism and profit-based strategies, which leads to commercial and – most of the time – bad quality music. At least that’s what Mélissa Thierry and Jérémy Levy, two young French music lovers living in London thought. For the same reason, alternative musicians from France have always been attracted to London, seen by many of them as the holy land of counter-culture.
Those were the bands that Mélissa and Jérémy had in mind when they created Paris Is Burning, a monthly concert promoting French music in Angel. They decided to join this expat community and share their passion. Every second Saturday of the month, they organise concerts at The Lexington pub in Angel, giving young French bands and DJs the chance to perform in one of the most lively pubs of the area.
“I decided to come to London because I’ve always been keen on music, and I wanted to live this passion more freely than in France,” says Mélissa. “I also wanted to improve my English and find a job, but with the economical crisis five years ago I quickly found myself jobless.
“Meanwhile, lots of musician friends from Paris were regularly asking me for bars, concert halls to perform in. Instead of simply giving them the name of places and promoters, I decided to produce them myself, with Jérémy, who had free time to dedicate to the project.
“After organising parties in different bars and concert halls, I realised these events were having an increasing success, and we started to look for a permanent place where the events could occur on a regular basis. We met with the Lexington staff, and it is how our project Paris is Burning really began; from eight to 11, young bands perform on stage, and then leave the room for DJ sets. People are generally happy with this formula, because they can attend a live show with a cheerful atmosphere and then prolong the night, all in the same place.”
Mélissa is particularly happy with the location of the Lexington, a 2-minute walk from Angel station, because of the diversity of the area and the people. “In Angel you can meet those ‘hype’ people fed up with Shoreditch and Brick Lane, but also students and locals. And the bands we are promoting generally respond to this cosmopolitan spirit; electro, pop rock, nothing absolutely extreme, but fresh, efficient music, attracting diverse audiences.”
Mélissa and Jérémy aim to build good relationships with the bands and the audience of Paris is Burning. And their passion is contagious. “We use the same patterns of communication as professional promoters through Facebook, Twitter, flyers,” says Mélissa, “but our contact with bands is clearly more friendly and this can be felt in the general atmosphere of the concerts.
“Bands are really happy to find a place to play in without having to deal with the demanding requirements of professional promoters, who sometimes ask for a minimum quota of tickets to be sold. We want to give the best of us when we organise these events, so that the public can trust our choices and be happy to discover a new band. We want to enhance and facilitate proximity between the bands and the public.”
- Watch the Naïve New Beaters perform at The Lexington
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One of the remaining challenges for Mélissa and Jérémy is bridging the gap between French and British tastes. “In the last sessions, we saw an increasing number of English people coming to discover the bands. But there is still a lot to do to promote more heterogeneity, and less French exclusivity.”
To Mélissa, there is no fundamental difference between French and English rock music. It is more about a psychological effect. “French and English are the best illustration of what being best enemies can mean,” she says. “Mutual influences and mutual admiration, but difficulties to mix up. And it is somehow sad to see how invisible barriers are sometimes the most splitting.”
That’s why the pair now focus more on the bands and the line-up rather than on the French identity of the events. “We want to go further now, to go over the national identity markers and develop our project towards music rather than national belongings,” Mélissa says. Their last event was promoting two promising French bands, Fools Ferguson and We Are Match, as well as Scanners, a talented Londoner group playing a quiet and ethereal pop.
The duo is currently working on the 50th session of Paris is Burning, and is looking forward to inviting a special band for this event. “We were very lucky to welcome the Naive New Beaters a few months ago, who make really nice work. Now we are seeking for another great band like this one, because the concert was an absolute success. So stay tuned!”