Feb 7th, 2019, 11:37 PM

Supersonic: Paris' Cleanest Rock Club

By Sofie Granberg
Live performance at Supersonic. Image credit: Sofie Granberg.
A gateway venue into Paris' underground music scene.

Supersonic is not completely unknown to AUP students. You might have already been to one of their infamous Nuit Rock weekend performances, seen their flyers in the library, or had upcoming events pop up in your Facebook feed. If you are unfamiliar with it, or memories from your night spent there are a little foggy, it's a rock nightclub just south of Bastille. Nestled in a neighborhood well known for its nightlife, Supersonic has unique qualities that set it apart from both its neighbors and other rock spots in Paris. The atmosphere is unlike most nightclubs in Paris, with genre and subgenre themed nights spanning from classic rock to indie house. They combine these DJ nights with a hyperactive concert scene, creating a tightly packed event calendar with happenings almost every night. This February, they host various events on more than 20 of the month's 28 days. 

On genre concept nights and at DJ performances, the space takes the shape of a typical club, though slightly less polished. The ground level serves as the dance floor which is usually inhabited by a substantial crowd, with braver (or drunker) dancers leading the party from the stage. Vibrations from the music blasting below can be felt on the smaller first floor where you can take a break from dancing to hang out, get a for the taste grossly overpriced hot dog, or visit the smoking room.

The top floor is sonically cut off from the rest of the venue and will often play different music, or hosts jam sessions. However, in my experience,  jam sessions mostly consist of half-drunk Frenchmen severely butchering the lyrics to anglophone hits. However, on all other nights, this room has a more relaxed vibe than the rest of the club with people chilling out in the sofas, talking and playing foosball.

Like most of Bastille, they stay open until 6 a.m. on the weekends, allowing you to dance the night away and catch the morning metro home.

Smoking room at Supersonic / Crowd at a Nirvana tribute concert at Supersonic, February 3rd. Image credit: Sofie Granberg

It's on themed weekend nights when Supersonic really reaches its full potential, but the club should not be overlooked as a concert venue for up-and-coming rock bands. As Supersonic only charges an entrance fee of five euros after 11 p.m. and most concerts start around 8 p.m., the shows are typically free with the exception of occasional performances by more profiled acts. There are usually two to three bands playing each night with sets lasting 30 to 45 minutes long, and it can be a great way to discover parts of the underground music scene of Paris.

Every other Sunday, Supersonic hosts band tribute nights with a list of bands covering one famous rock band. These events are the perfect mix of the venue's different concepts, with known songs interpreted and presented by unknown bands. Tribute nights are definitely worth a visit if you've escaped having early Monday classes this semester.

The overall vibe of Supersonic is not easily defined. The music and audience change with each event resulting in a new energy every night. "Dancing Queen" disco nights they attract a rather "girls' night out" type audience, while themes like the 60s and 70s rock nights draw more diverse crowds. Concerts and tribute nights often see a wider age span in the audience, and they can definitely get lively. I once witnessed a boy make no less than 12 rapidly successive, half-successful attempts at crowd surfing, and a recent Nirvana tribute night left yours truly with a full set of bruised limbs and a hole in her head from being hit with a swinging guitar mid-moshpit. 

First-floor bar at Supersonic. Image credit: Sofie Granberg

One thing that can be said for certain is that for a rock club, Supersonic is as clean as it gets. The moment you enter, the pink neon signs above the ground floor bar give away that the warehouse-like venue is quite different from a shabby, underground rock scene. Instead, it's the kind of rock venue where you will never step on a cigarette butt because everyone obediently uses the ashtrays in the designated smoking area. Where if you inspect the audience, you will likely see more perfectly done makeup than sign of the horn gestures. A look at the program sets Supersonic further apart from the typical underground rock club. Concerts can touch on a harder, punkier sound, but for the Nuit Rock events, they stay comfortably within the mainstream, pop-related part of the rock music spectrum.

Although accommodating to broad audiences, the club is not a sell-out concept. It is admittedly easy for a place like this, a rock scene stripped of much of the dirt, danger, and unpredictability the genre is known for, to come off that way to the experienced eye. With a wider perspective, it looks quite different.

For what it is, Supersonic is a great place to experience good music in a fun, comfortable environment. By booking so many little-known acts to a scene with such a wide reach, it does great things for the Paris rock scene, yet, Supersonic is far from everything this scene has to offer. 

Concert at Supersonic's Nirvana tribute night. Image credit: Sofie Granberg

This venue is just the tip of the iceberg to the true rock scene in Paris. Even after subtracting the countless small, crammed rock bars in the city that are not comparable to Supersonic in anything other than their preferred music genre, there are still a lot of great venues discover. Within a 10-minute walking distance from Supersonic, there is La Mécanique Ondulatoire, a punk bar with DJ events and concerts in their vault-like basement, and Les Furieux, a bar for those seeking even harder music. Both spots are both excellent examples of places that offer more than just beer and rock classics played on repeat.

Supersonic is as much of a gateway to the Paris rock scene as it is a part of it. I highly recommend going to the events at the club that cater to your music taste and dipping your toes in the depths of the Paris music scene, just try to take a proper swim once in a while too.

The stairs leading up to the top floor of Supersonic. Image credit: Sofie Granberg
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