Paris hasn't always shone in comparison to its big-hitting nightlife neighbours London and Berlin. France might have hosted some of the best of the jazz age and some wild parties in the ’90s, but recently nightlife critics had started wryly referring to Paris as Europe’s 'capital of sleep'.
Fed up with paying steep entry fees for sterile commercial venues, young clubbers took matters into their own hands. Paris’s nightlife scene is now ruled by independent 'collectives' – gangs of creative and enterprising young people determined to make their mark – each with its own vision, personality and musical agenda. See below for the LGBTQ+ selection in particular.
With dozens more 'collectives' cropping up each year – all with ambitious collaborative projects involving local artists, staged at improbable locations, often beyond city limits – Paris is gaining a new reputation as a cult destination for electro-techno scenesters the world over.
Our pick of Paris clubbing collectives
Founded in 2005 and taking its cues from the Berlin scene, the Die Nacht collective (rechristened BLANK in 2013) organises sweeping electro parties in unlikely municipal venues, including an airport and a former public pool.
Past venues: Piscine Molitor, Aéroport Bourget, Ferme du Buisson, the Sira at Asnières, La Cartonnerie, Parc de Bagatelle, Gare aux Gorille, a condemned building on Rue Royale and more.
This collective's self-declared mission (Berlinons Paris translates roughly as 'Let's 'Berlin' Paris') is to re-create the clandestine, out-of-bounds feel of Berlin's raves in Paris. No small task, but they manage it well with massive sound systems, all-day parties, industrial venues, low fees and, of course, techno.
Past venues: Au Paris 80, Le Batofar, Badaboum, Le Village Russe Club Future.
With a shared love of vinyl records and subterranean parties, La Mamie's six founders sought to unite their two passions when they created the collective back in 2007. Organising events by the dozen and mixing genres with gleeful abandon, they've played host to talents like Joe Claussell, Skudge and Tama Sumo. Co-creators (with Verveine Productions) of the Macki Festival, they've also made a foray into concert production, organising large-scale hip-hop events.
Past venues: La Ferme du Bonheur, 6B, L'OPA, Les Nautes, La Place Dalida, Les Agîtés, Batofar, Le Zorba and more.
Living room parties, furnished with giant sofas and kegs of beer, helped to establish Cracki as the stylish, laidback collective it is today. These young Parisians – still students when they founded Cracki in 2010 – went on to create an indie record label, signing artists like L'Impératrice, Isaac Delusions and Voiron. They've also collaborated on the Macki Festival with their friends at La Mamie's since 2014.
Past venues: Le Parc de Belleville, Le Palais de Tokyo, Bois de Vincennes, a Montreuil warehouse.
Visit Paris's pop-up 21st arrondissement at Saint-Denis's 6B, where the 75021 collective organises all-day parties during the summer months. The suburban venue is in high demand with organisers, which is hardly surprising: multistoried, canal-side and – most importantly – neighbourless, the 6B provides collectives like 75021 ample freedom to create.
Past venues: 6B, and La Machine du Moulin Rouge for after-parties.
In the same vein as OTTO10, Alter Paname specialises in outdoor recreation and bacchanalian excess, ensuring partygoers' entertainment with colourful plastic décor, carnival games and themed costume events. But all the hoopla doesn't detract from the collective's genuinely good program of techno and house artists, with the occasional participation of the always delightful Camion Bazar.
Past venues: Au Paris 80, Le Cabaret Sauvage, 6B.
'The Camion Bazar is love!' according to one track. Founded by DJ Romain Play and his wife Benedetta, this musical caravan, furnished with leopard skin rugs and other kitschy baubles, has been making the rounds since 2013. A mobile soundstage, the van arrives equipped with a vinyl turntable, which DJ Romain plays like it's a musical instrument. Friends and collaborators of Microclimat and music label Forecast, the couple has become something of a myth on the Parisian techno scene.
Past venues: L'Aéroport Bourget, La Chesnaie du Roy, Le Cabaret Sauvage, Au Paris 80.
Founded in 2005, Soukmachines is the spunkiest of the Parisian collectives. With a penchant for irony, they organise irreverent themed parties, with a majority techno soundtrack (although hip-hop, afro-jazz, rock and disco are also featured). Live concerts, helium balloons, karaoke, Chinese shadow plays and other phantasmagoria make for an ambiance of cheeky nostalgia.
Past venues: La Fonderie at Bagnolet, La Miroiterie, the metro, the gymnase Jean-Dame, La Petite Rockette, La Rôtisserie, Loft 66, Le Glaz'art, Labo Suzy factory (Montreuil), a campus garage, 6B, etc.
Since its creation in 2011, this tiny but energetic collective has pulled off an impressive number of experimental ventures, bringing together artists and programmers for alternative, mixed events: 'cosmic' parties combining techno and cutting-edge visual projections.
Past venues: Le Balzac cinema (for their 'Champs Magnétiques' parties), various apartments and artists' ateliers, Rosa Bonheur, Garage Mu, the Bronco and more.
Débrouï-art is a young and prolific art-focused collective, which organises multi-disciplinary events in unusual venues. Apart from its colossal techno raves (Débrouï-art is behind monthly/seasonal favourites Lakomune, Tunnel and 1936), the collective has been expanding its horizons, with art installations, street music, barbecues, happenings and exhibitions (including one staged in a laundromat). Who knows what this canny team of artists and entrepreneurs will come up with next?
Venues: Les Chaudronneries (Montreuil), Le Palais du Culture (Ivry-sur-Seine), Le Sira (Asnières), Les Crayères des Montquartiers (Issy-les-Moulineaux), the Paris Docks, a warehouse at Nanterres and more.
La Douce Productions organises events in strange and wondrous venues, commissioning visual and sonic art for each occasion. The parties themselves – 'La Blue' being the most prominent among them – are feasts for the senses, with immersive digital installations, dreamy soundscapes and projections.
Past venues: Atéliers Cristofle de l'Orfèvrerie in Saint-Denis, the rooftop of the Little Grand Studio in Aubervilliers, Nüba, the Paris Docks and more.
After meeting on the party circuit, Moebius's founders went ahead and created their own collective and music label. Seasoned clubbers themselves, they organise grand, inclusive parties like La Draft in vacant warehouses or outdoor spaces, lasting upwards of 24 hours, with low entry and drink prices and an affable hippy vibe.
Past venues: The Touta narrowboat and the Quai de Clichy, Wanderlust, Le Palais des Congrès de Montreuil, etc.
DJ Céline collaborated on Sunday afternoon parties in New York before importing the idea to Paris in 2009. And where better to test the concept than at Café Barge, a péniche on the remote and tree-shaded quay at Port de la Rapée, far from city bustle and peevish neighbours? Céline's Sundaes took off immediately, gathering a following of good-humoured Parisians and breathing new life into the city's daytime party culture. Indeed, Sundae opened the way for other Seine-side projects like Concrete, Wanderlust and Nüba.
Past venues: Café Barge, Le Malibv and Rex Club.
Cocobeach formed soon after Sundae's arrival, squatting along the Quai de la Râpée and organising massive joint parties on Sunday afternoons. They've since moved on to bigger venues like the Chesnaie du Roy to accomodate their swelling numbers. Water pistols, plastic sunglasses, hawaiian leis and other clownish accessories are are all de rigeur here, giving these parties a romping, playful (if somewhat adolescent) vibe. Clubbers over 30 may want to skip this one.
Past venues: Quai de la Râpée, La Chesnaie du Roy, the Châlet des Iles, Club Haussman, Showcase, River Island at Ivry-sur-Seine and more.
Magie Noire came on the scene in 2013 and although their parties aren't the most original, organised in some of Paris's more conventional venues, they still warrant a mention for their impressive musical programming. They have featured artists like DJ Koze, Paul Ritch, Dan Ghenacia and Motor City Drum Ensemble – there's no black magic here, just a robust, well-curated line-up, perfect for a relaxed night out.
Past venues: YOYO, Espace Pierre Cardin, La Machine du Moulin Rouge, Le Zig Zag and more.
Fragrance Sonore has broad and somewhat nebulous ambitions to 'subsidise the development of artistic and cultural initiatives'. But it also has all the makings of a great techno collective: plenty of ideas, DJs, VJs and weird venues. We need only cite the blow-out they organised in association with Little Margeurite at the old Bourse aux Cuirs (a former leather market, now the Théâtre Paris-Villette), which brought together la Mamie's, Chats Perchés and the Sundae team.
Past venues: The old Bourse aux Cuirs, UDO, Péniche Cinéma, Les Nautes, the Animals, Bouche B and more.
La Mangouste organises the famed multivenue 'Casse Ton Singe', a marathon party that passes through three locations in a single night, lasting from 7pm to noon the next day. Art is definitely not a priority for this debauched collective, which specialises in wild times set to an unrelenting soundtrack of garage rock, IDM, breakcore, techno, cold wave and trance.
Past venues: La Miroiterie, L'Espace B, Le Glaz'art, La Java, Le Klub, La Mécanique Ondulatoire, L'Alimentation Générale, Péniche Cinéma, Gare au Gorille, l’International, Le Lautrec, Le Zorba, La Cantine de Belleville, Pop In, etc.
The earnest young INMOTION collective was founded in March 2013, for the love of techno. Clean of tricks and gimmicks, the collective has nevertheless managed to surprise, introducing us to venues like Les Caves Lechapelais, a raw space with vaulted, exposed rock ceilings and walls.
Past venues: Badaboum, Bateaux De Gebeurtenis (Quai Saint-Bernard), Les Caves Lechapelais, La Pigallion, etc.
A veteran collective founded in 2004, Dimuschi has a reputation for throwing wild electro parties in fresh and original venues, transforming vacant buildings and garages into vast dancefloors with imaginative tailor made set designs and excellent DJs and musicians (their resident artist is REMOTE).
Past venues: Offices under renovation, Le Lycée Carnot, Pont Alexandre III (before Showcase's arrival), L'Abbaye de Saint-Sauveur, YOYO and more.
LGBTQ+ collectives and pop-up parties
Founded in 2009, Flash Cocotte organises a monthly bacchanal for Paris's LGBTQ community. All are welcome here, but you had better come adorned, embellished and bedizened – costumes and creative dress are strongly encouraged. Come for the buckets of candy, quality techno/deep-house, for the glamourous queens, eccentrics and impersonators, and a Parisian crowd that's (surprise of suprises) open and good-humoured.
Past venues: L'Espace Pierre Cardin, La Machine du Moulin Rouge, YOYO, La Place Léon Blum, La Java, La Cité du Cinéma.
With over 16k likes on Facebook, the original Parisian lesbian collective is at the top of its game. They throw massive multi-level blow-outs like La WET FOR ME (or simply La WET) at La Machine du Moulin Rouge, featuring big names like Peaches, JD Samson and Amplify Dot. Plus there are burlesque performers, projections and information booths for LGBTQ associations and publications. The collective also runs an online magazine/blog.
Past venues: La Machine du Moulin Rouge, Le Cabaret Sauvage, Nüba, Point Ephémère, La Bellevilloise, Social Club etc.
Trou Aux Biches's monthly queer party has taken up residence at La Java, where shirtless folk (women too) dance until the wee hours. The crowd is young and colourfully attired, packed into the Java's basement dancefloor (the line for the toilets is truly miserable, running the length of one wall). With coats and bags piled high on the club's wooden benches, you're sure to spot at least one pretty young thing looking concerned,having lost a phone, jacket or keys in the mess. Help them!
Past venues: La Java
La Gaston is a queer clubbing collective whose stated mission is to bring together Paris's scattered LGBTQ cultures: the lesbians and queers of Beaubourg, the gay boys of the Marais and other 'off-scene' Parisian queers who might not be tempted by Flash Cocotte's decadent costume balls or Barbi(e)turix's lesbian-majority blow-outs.
Past venues: L'OPA, Monseigneur, Club 56, Udo, Le Quai d'Austerlitz.
MENERGY is a monthly 'straight-friendly' men's party at Social Club, organised by Parisian duo BABYBEAR (Yannick) and WONDERBEAR (Oscar). The party takes its name from Patrick Cowley's 1980 song ('The boys in the bedroom / Lovin’ it up / Shootin’ off energy... / Talkin’ about MENERGY') and with its brawny, leather-clad crowd and pounding techno beats, it does feel like a throwback to another era. Entry is free between 10pm and 11pm, and €10 anytime after.
Past venues: Social Club
Like the Flash Cocotte, House of Moda takes its inspiration from New York's 1980s ball scene. Well attended by voguers, drag artists and quirky scenesters alike, the party places its emphasis on originality. Every event is loosely themed around a word or phrase — 'incognito', 'borderline', 'garage', 'sorcery' or 'post-apocalyptic'— which partygoers are invited to interpret through costume. The result is parties that are visually lush and almost overstimulating, complete with locally sourced talent (DJs and live musicians). Don't miss this one.
Past venues: La Java, Café de la Presse...
FukTheName, founded in 2012, is a queer (primarily lesbian) collective that organises parties, events and a Sunday tea dance at Café Tomate. The collective's stated focus is on 'the music' as well as fundraising for LGBTQ associations and projects. FTN was created as an outlet for Paris's marginalised queer communities and although everyone is welcome, the collective caters especially to queer people of colour. Past collaborators include Fol Effet, Playnight, la Kidnapping and My Tiger Is Rich.
Past venues: Café Tomate, Les Disquaires, Acte 3, etc.
Founded in 2011, COCKORICO has been in residence at the Rex Club for three years now, collaborating with other queer organisers at home (Barbi(e)turix) and abroad (London's Horse Meat Disco and Berlin's Cocktail d'Amore) to produce sleek, cabaret-style 'happenings', featuring house and techno DJs as well burlesque and erotic performers. Every year, the COCKORICO team partners with alternative queer festival JERK OFF, organising live hip-hop and rock concerts.
Past venues: Rex Club, Social Club, La Scène Bastille (now Badaboum), Point Ephémère, etc.
Dolly Stud is a digital magazine devoted to France's black lesbian community — billing itself as 'the first French media for Afro-Caribbean lesbians and bisexuals' — although they also organise the immensely popular 'Dolly Stud by Night', inviting iconic DJs and artists from the New York and Chicago scenes (and beyond). DS's last party sold out within a matter of days and although these events cater specifically to Paris's queer of colour community, all are welcome.
Past venues: Jammin Club
La Kidnapping is actually DJ Sophie Morello and friends. Morello organises a queer bust-up at the Quartier Général about once a month, hosting DJs and live artists like Acid Arab, Lebanon Hanover and Yan Wagner. The party has a punky, homemade feel to it: the rowdy (mostly lesbian) crowd packs the QG to the gills, smoking, moshing and crowdsurfing. Most recently, La Kidnapping has been featured at Barbi(e)turix's WET FOR ME and Morello has also started organising larger-scale events like La Bordelika and La Kermess du Kidnap Crew.
Past venues: Le Quartier Général, La Scène Bastille (now Badaboum), Rosa Bonheur, Le 114 etc.
Fils de Venus is a gay-friendly collective that made a name for itself organising the louche 'Trash / Romance', a sleazy, sexy bash most known for its porn projections and international roster of live artists and DJs. The collective has collaborated with Flash Cocotte, OK Jeudi and Barbi(e)turix.
Past venues: Social Club, Nüba, Le Gibus, Batofar, Rivoli59, etc.
Jeudi OK got its start collaborating with bigger names, like Barbi(e)turix and Fils de Venus, organising a series of Thursday-night parties at Social Club. Lately, it's been striking out on its own with its Summer Camp, OK Podium and KINK parties at Wanderlust.
Past venues: Le Gibus, Wanderlust, Social Club
Les Ginettes Armées was the lesbian collective behind Rue Quincampoix's now defunct dance bar the Troisième Lieu. Once Paris's hottest women's spot, the Troisième Lieu shut its doors in 2011 after a very public tax spat. The collective went mobile, organising pop-up parties like Le Bal du Grand Fuck and RADIOGINETTE. At first well attended, these events have declined in popularity, although the collective still organises some lovely quayside afternoon events during summertime.
Past venues: Le Troisième Lieu, Mad Boat & Mad Garden, La Scène Bastille (now Badaboum), La Flèche d'Or, etc.