There’s something alluring about partying on a boat, isn’t there? After all, ports and sailors have always had a reputation for debauchery and loose mores, just like dance music. A sense of danger, of escaping the norms and sharing a bond. Boats are cool. Now, a boat fitted out with two dancefloors, a tailor-made Funktion-1 sound-system and a team dedicated to bringing the best DJs and producers in the world, is very cool. And that’s what Concrete is, and much more. If you’ve ever been to the club, you know that there’s a special feeling to dancing on the Seine river, the morning sun seeping in through the main room’s shades in the wee hours of the morning. Concrete is also a roster of much-loved residents that counts historic veteran, such as Cabanne, and young up-and-comers like Sweely and Leo Pol; and a label arm which, faithful to the eclectic spirit of the club, is divided between three branches named after different hours of the night and the day.
Perhaps more importantly than anything, Concrete has come to symbolize the French scene’s vitality in the past few years, which seems light-years away from when it was declared dead and buried, dwarfing compared to London and Berlin. Whether you’re a Concrete supporter or not, it’s impossible to deny their role in shaping the current Parisian scene. The club has come a long way too, from its days as one of Paris’ few irreducible Sunday after-hours in 2011. It’s opened a second dancefloor, the Woodfloor, on its upstairs deck, and grew increasingly ambitious in its bookings, which are now a ridiculously reliable weekly occurence of “Is this even real?”.
Indeed, the boat has unveiled its full February programme, and it ain’t no exception. There’s something for everyone — and then some more.
Opening the month on February 2 at Concrete is one of the final dates in Token’s ten-year anniversary tour, so of course it would feature Antigone — one of the club’s residents as well as one of the most prominent affiliates of the Belgian label. He’ll play alongside label-boss Kr!z, expect richly-textured cosmic techno. Ø [Phase] will continue in the same vein, although slightly more abrasive, while Neel will offer the deeper, more hypnotic vibe that can be heard on his brilliant debut for the label.
Not gonna lie, I don’t know much about Philip Jondo and Jules, who are handed command of the Woodfloor that night, but seeing they’re Salon des Amateurs regulars is enough to convince me that this one’s gonna be a trip.
The Concrete crew has always had a soft spot for minimal sounds, as can be heard from their dedicated sublabel Concrete 7AM, and their resident Cabanne’s Minibar label will host a night full of them on the 3rd, headlined by none the less than Daniel Bell. The Detroit hero came up with an idiosyncratic take on techno in the 1990s that still sounds as alien as ever more than 20 years forwards. Denis Kaznacheev and the ever-productive Ion Ludwig will provide the housier, dowsier fare, while some historic members of the Minibar roster, namely Pit Spector and N’Eric playing b2b, as well as Ultrakurt — not mentioning Cabanne himself of course — will deliver the label’s trademark take on the microhouse sound. Expect micro-styled music in all shapes and forms — blips, clicks and most importantly groove.
The following weekend features two veterans on the Friday. Andrew Weatherall is a UK legend, a genre-defying maestro that never left the scene and never did anything like anyone else since the days of London fanzine Boy’s Own, back when acid house was just starting in the UK. Jennifer Cardini, on the other hand, is a definitive Paris local hero. I was too young for the Pulp, but the early noughties lesbian club where she was a resident remains a mythical figure for many older scenesters. Cardini shares with Weatherall an open-mindedness that goes far beyond the constraints of dance music, so expect this one to go awry any minute. Indeed, it seems to be the night’s signature, as they’ll be supported by Mozhgan, who shares such a playful approach, while Toby Nicholas and Hamish Cole can be expected to play anything from house and techno to jazzier stuff and hip-hop on the Woodfloor — where Sofiane, a member of the Rakya crew throwing some of the best minimal parties in the city, completes the bill.
On the 10th, Rebekah is playing all night long inside the boat. The Birmingham DJ might have only recently enjoyed the life of a top tier performer, but she’s actually been in the game for many years and knows how to work a room with techno bangers. MEOKO readers, though, might swarm the Woodfloor that night. Playing all night long under the Monkey Nenufar guise are Ben Vedren, one of the club’s residents, and Leiris, the Berlin-based minimalist. We’re promised both live and dj set, and if it goes as last year’s, it should be booming.
The next Friday, the 16th, seems intriguing, as both rooms will host all-nighters again, the main one being Marcel Fengler and DJ Tennis. The former is one of the Berghain residents while the latter rose to fame with his Life & Death label’s melodic take on the genre (although he’s got more than one trick up his sleeve, since he’s never hidden his past in post-rock circles and has recently launched a label dedicated to the style, Eraclea) — so who knows what their confrontation is going to end up like. Upstairs, two local figures — Na’Sayah and Amnaye — will also play b2b.
Saturday 17th is going to be nosebleed-inducing. Powell has spent the past few years de- and re-structuring techno, EBM and post-punk into a deadly, in-your-face, witty mixture. There’s also Xhin, who I caught on the boat years ago for a memorable set, and who has since built an ever-more impressive discography stacked with hypnotic and banging tunes. But for any French person, the real hero of the night will be Manu Le Malin. The man is a hardcore French legend, one that seems to represent a certain sense of authenticity inherited from the free party scene of the 1990s. Besides Laurent Garnier, I can’t think of anyone so dear to the French scene’s heart. Nosedrip b2b Theorama sounds pretty interesting too, as the former’s Stroom label is a gold mine of demanding yet exciting music, while the latter is one of the Bordeaux scene most active members. And finally, Cuften is a Purusu affiliate already supported by Manu Le Malin.
The 23rd is for the heads. You might be drawn in by Hunee’s well-deserved reputation as a killer house DJ with a bag stacked full of party anthems. Or by Intergalactic Gary, the Dutch veteran with one of the finest ears in the world for all synth-heavy sounds, from Italo to electro. Both of them would be worth the price of entry alone but trust me, this one’s all about Eris Drew. The smartbar resident DJ in Chicago will bless the lucky crowd with her Motherbeat’s transcendental message of emancipatory and healing dance music. Check her recent RA podcast; this is raw, fun-drenched party music in its purest form.
Indeed, healing sounds will be a constant of the night, with D.K. and Suzanne Kraft taking over the upstairs Woodfloor, promising all kinds of chilled-out vibes, from house to balearic to new age to ambient. At ease.
Careful not to spend too much time on the Woodfloor if you also intend to go the next night, or this one might seem excruciatingly intense. The club’s resident and DEMENT3D cofounder François X is hosting some of techno’s gnarliest names on the 24th. Banging is how I’d define Dr. Rubinstein’s style, as she’s been known to seamlessly weave in acid, electro and absolutely jacking techno in her sets; while Oliver Ho will don his EBM-influenced Broken English Club moniker for a live appearance rich in odd synths and punishing grooves. Iceland’s finest export in recent years Bjarki completes the line-up. If you only know him as Nina Kraviz’s protégé or for “Wanna Go Bang”, you’re in for an (extremely good) surprise. His own productions go far crazier and wilder than the easy techno of his 2015 hit, while his bbbbbb label is just as zany — put simply, Bjarki is from this rare breed able to reconcile experimental leanings with good old dance floor fun. Don’t sleep on DEMENT3D’s other boss HBT’s set though. I once saw him rock the bowels of the neighbouring and equally infamous Batofar, and his set on the Woodfloor is not to be missed — nor is YSC’s, one of the capital’s scene most dedicated and yet unsung heroes.
Seems like Concrete’s tagline should still hold on in February: “No standing, just dancing.” If you wanna learn for yourself why Paris est une fête, see you there.
Pictures by Virgil Gesbert
Words by Pierre-Alexis Chauvin