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Paris gig venue shuts its d'Or

Mar 18

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009  RssIcon

Sad and surprising news for Paris music fans today: La Flèche d’Or, the popular concert venue near Père Lachaise in the 20th arrondissement, will close in April. A report in Paris freesheet ’20 Minutes’ today appears to confirm the rumour that has been circulating through the Paris music scene in recent days, which was fuelled by the venue’s schedule only listing shows up to the end of next month. No date has been confirmed yet for the Flèche’s last night.
La Flèche d'Or In true rock n’roll fashion, the problem is that the Flèche is too loud. The venue has been the subject of judicial complaints by local residents about excessive noise levels at late hours. However, the cost of renovation to reduce sound emissions is prohibitive. “The latest estimates for constructing a venue within the venue are too high,” said the Flèche management in a statement. “We don’t have enough money for this work and we must close.” Previous remedial works last year have proved to be insufficient.
A converted train station, La Flèche d’Or (meaning 'the golden arrow') opened in 2005 and quickly became a favourite of the city’s indie scene. Until recently, entry was free – and the nightly programme of evening live acts and post-midnight DJs was too good an offer to miss. It was a no-risk way of discovering new local and international music; punters could walk up and be guaranteed of four decent bands and a night’s clubbing afterwards. Prominent advertising inside the venue, particularly by one mobile phone manufacturer, was a source of income to offset the lack of entry charge.
Without paying a cent, Paris music fans saw cult or emerging acts like Dan Deacon, Ted Leo, Mystery Jets, The Posies, The Wombats and Menomena. The Flèche was the Paris venue of choice for visiting Irish acts, with Jape, RSAG, The Frank and WaltersNina Hynes, Neosupervital and The Immediate among those featuring there in recent years.  
The credit crunch, bane of every business, is not to blame for the venue’s imminent closure – not directly, at least. But a couple of minor factors have proved to be fatal for the Flèche.
A view of the Fleche d'Or StageTo howls of disapproval from its regulars, La Flèche d’Or introduced a cover charge of €6 last September – still excellent value (your entry ticket gets you a small beer at the bar) but an affront to the innate anti-capitalist principles of Jacques le Frenchman. The move coincided with the gentrification of the surrounding streets – across from the Flèche the newly-opened Mama Shelter hotel featured a bar/restaurant by ultra-hip designer Philippe Starck – and the new Paris taste for disco-flavoured indie chic. The crowd demographic shifted: now the indie kids were rubbing shoulders with young professionals using Blackberries. The quality of line-up decreased, as the Flèche seemed content to trade on its reputation and profit from its hipness. Competitors like L’International, in the lively Oberkampf area closer to the city centre, began attracting the original Flèche-goers with its own free concerts. Quite simply, La Flèche d’Or became uncool.
The smoking ban, introduced in France on 1 January 2008, is also indirectly responsible for the Flèche’s trouble with the neighbours. Because the building is perched over a disused train line, there was no space at the back for an outdoor smoking section. The only option was to use the front bar, with its prefab walls and canopy roof. And as Parisians smoke like chimneys, the smoking section was generally packed all night – which meant that most of the venue’s noise was now streetside, within earshot of local residents. When the area became more chic last year, so also the new neighbours proved to be less tolerant of the Flèche.
Your correspondent was at the Flèche d’Or last Friday night to see Kim, whose ‘Don Lee Doo’ was voted our Best French Album of 2008. Most other punters came to see drippy U.S. popsters Persephone’s Bees, currently featuring on a TV commercial soundtrack with their twee ‘Nice Day’. As usual for a weekend night, the place was packed. It’s unfortunate that a thriving music venture, rare in these times, will have to shut down.
When the Flèche closes, noise will be reduced and rents in the area will increase, thus feeding the gentrification of this corner of the 20th arrondissement. The nearby Père Lachaise, final resting place of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde, already attracts tourists and will surely be promoted even more by the new hotels and restaurants. Rock fans visiting the late Door should spare a thought for the late (Flèche) d'Or too.

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Aidan Curran, based in Paris, has been writing for CLUAS since 2004. More info about Aidan...

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