I used to live in Paris and, a Frenchman aside, I picked up a thing or two about the City of Lights during my time there. Here’s one of my favourite nightclubs…
Le Tango ‘La Boîte à Frissons’ – 13 rue au Maire, Paris
This night-time haunt – tucked away in the northern reaches of the Marais district – first opened its doors in the 1930s. Back then, it would have been packed with couples pirouetting across the dance-floor to the foxtrot, the waltz and, as the name would suggest, the tango. Fast forward 80-odd years and the scene hasn’t changed that much except for one minor detail – these days the couples tend to be of the boy-and-boy variety.
Every Friday and Saturday sees this old-school dance hall host the popular gay club night, La Boîte à Frissons. Translated, that means ‘Thrill Box’. And while the sexual reference might ring true at 5am as the crowd begins to pair off for frissons between the sheets, the phrase is actually a slang term for the accordion – which is kind of apt given the music they play here.
Edith Piaf central
Like the soundtrack to a black-and-white weepy set on the banks of the Seine, the night kicks off with squeezebox tunes aplenty. As dance partners spin around to the paso doble, the DJs spin French classiques by the likes of Edith Piaf and Charles Trenet with a good sprinkling of the Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller thrown in for good measure.
Towards the end of this ballroom blitz – normally around midnight – everyone in the club is invited to take to the dance-floor for a spot of formation dancing. As Di-Gue-Ding-Ding plays, everyone busts out some fancy Madison footwork à la Tracy Turnblad and the kids from the Corny Collins Show.
Madonna and co
Unlike Cinderella, the fun keeps on going well after the clock strikes twelve when the musical baton is passed over to a wacky mix of Madonna and MGMT by way of French heavyweights like Desireless and Dalida. Pop is most certainly the order of the day with everything on the menu except techno. Just as well really as I’m not sure it’d lend itself well to the kitsch lipstick-red décor and retro diner-like banquettes.
Much like the music, the crowd is something of a mixed bag. Über-cool hipsters rub shoulders with and geeks and dweebs – the likes of which you’d expect to see in the Star Wars bar. Throw in a troupe of ropey old trannies headed up by Madame Hervé and her sidekick Jazz and you’ve got everything necessary for an unpretentious, almost underground vibe. The result means Le Tango is nothing like the rest of the Parisian scene, which to be honest, feels slightly Manchester circa 1995. Quite simply, Le Tango is j’amazing.