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Toulouse, France

by Laurence Estanove

“La ville rose” – the pink city, as its nickname goes: red brick, sun and warmth, if not heat, the good life, in the day time and at night. It might sound a little cliché, but this is truly what it feels like, especially as Toulouse has a very large student population, which definitely makes cultural life more vibrant during term, and allows things to cool down – metaphorically speaking – come summer.
  Local culture and traditions are often mostly associated with tasty rich food and rugby playing or post-match partying. And musically speaking, to the general public, Toulouse usually evokes the cultural diversity and political commitment of raï/rock band Zebda, or the unmistakable voice of the late chanson française icon and local pride Claude Nougaro.
 But indie life has always been going steady. In recent years, after some difficult times partly due to the forced closure of the Bikini club, things have been getting ever so much busier. Although the scarcity of record stores might be one of the city’s weaknesses, the eagerness and dynamism of local associations ensure a continuous choice of things to do, on a human scale: apart from the somewhat distant Bikini, most spots of interest and activity are within walking distance from one another.
 Place St Pierre is where nightlife is at its most bustling if not rowdy, but definitely not where you’ll find the most interesting indie places. Instead, it’ll take some wandering through the city’s smallest cobbled streets and quaint fountain squares, and some chilling out along the Garonne riverbanks or in the gardens (Jardin Raymond VI is a favourite for a quiet break after visiting the nearby contemporary arts museum Les Abattoirs) to get to enjoy the mixture of laze and genuine partying that makes French Southern life.


Venues and clubs


Le Bikini

Rue Hermès, Ramonville Saint Agne (Metro - B line)
This Toulousain mythical indie venue takes its name from the original tiny club by the Garonne, which was badly damaged by the explosion of a chemicals factory across the river in 2001. Relocated to the outskirts of town in 2007, it is now a modern venue of bigger capacity hosting major indie or some more mainstream acts, as well as clubnights at the weekend. Also has a restaurant and a nice patio to eat or have a drink in.
(www.lebikini.com)

La Dynamo
6 rue Amélie
The latest and most spoken-of venue in town right now, self-proclaimed “café culture” also acting as club, cabaret, gallery. Recent shows include Fools Gold, Mystery Jets, Jonathan Richman, Shannon Wright, The Ex, Emily Jane White.
(www.myspace.com/ladynamotoulouse)

Le Saint des Seins
5 place Saint Pierre
Retro-punk look, gigs of various genres, great sound quality, trendy young customers – a fairly recent addition to the city’s bars and venues, located on the busiest square for student drinking and nightlife.
(www.lesaintdesseins.com)

Le Larsen Lupin
2 rue Maletache
Rock bar with a strong hardcore tendency, but has regular “Popissimo” indie clubnights, usually on Fridays.
Have a drink with the locals at the bar, or join the cool kids for a dance in the basement.
(www.larsenlupin.fr)

Le Cri de la Mouette
78 allées de Barcelone
The most unusual club and venue: a barge on the canal, which gives a peculiar atmosphere to the place. Local bands and clubnights, from reggae to electropop.
(www.lecridelamouette.com)

Les Musicophages - Médiathèque Associative
6 rue de la Bourse
The smallest venue in town, originally a small local CD library, it now hosts gigs in its cosy space, specializing in either folk or hip-hop artists.


Bars and cafes


The Petit London

7 bis rue Riquet
A dynamic punk-spirited bar, club, and venue to be supported: despite its efforts in soundproofing, it’s been threatened of closure because of some unfriendly neighbours’ obstinacy.

The London Town

14 rue des Prêtres
The favourite place of English language students. Old and new Britpop, darts, quizzes – warm and noisy as any English pub should be. You might also want to try its sister pub, The George and Dragon (Place du Peyrou).

L’Impro
7 rue Gambetta
Neat and well-tended by father and son, both jazz lovers and connoisseurs, Toulouse’s coolest jazz bar is the best place to chill out with coffee and croissant from the nearest bakery in the daytime, or to taste one of the homemade flavoured rums at night. Regular free gigs in the evening.

La Tireuse
24 rue Pargaminières
Old institution among Toulousain bars. A wide variety of Belgian beers and Scottish whiskies, for which the owner will most willingly offer advice. Wooden benches, warm and friendly atmosphere.

Le Champagne
4 rue Peyras
Rough and raw but rock to the core. Music quizzes, local bands.

Soul Kitchen

16 rue la Colombette
For a cheap and tasty vegetarian bite in a cool basement.


Record Shops


Gibert Joseph Disques
22 rue des Lois
A chain store across France, with a fairly good selection of indie music and second-hand CDs.

Armadillo
32 rue Pharaon
The place to go for second-hand records of the sixties or seventies and sound advice from a knowledgeable owner.

Paul Emile Vinyls
5 rue Temponières
For more recent vinyls, and a reasonable range of second-hands.

Vicious Circle
7 rue des Puits Clos
The only shop which actually promotes local bands and independent labels, and has a truly personal selection. Obvious tastes in hardcore punk and metal, but also good indie rock, pop, and folk items.

Le Laboratoire
9 rue de la Bourse
Vinyls and CDs, both new and second hand, as well as t-shirts and posters.


Local bands and labels


Call Me Loretta

Female fronted noisy pop.
(www.callmeloretta.com)

Aquaserge
Prog rock with a sense of humour, at times backup band of French latest indie pop nouvelle vague household name Bertrand Burgalat.
(www.myspace.com/aquoisersje)

Michel Cloup
Noisy rock/pop - Diabologum and Expérience frontman, now gone solo.
(www.myspace.com/michel-cloup)
(www.myspace.com/diabologum)

Dead Bees Records
A very active independent record label which has signed various French and international bands, and has promoted in France such acts as The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
(www.deadbees.com)

Winter Records
Local label specializing in theme-based compilations.
(http://winterrecords.bandcamp.com)


Miscellaneous


Let’s Motiv
Free monthly small-format magazine that will tell you all the good things going on in town. Usually available in various spots – cafés, venues, bookstores, galleries… Also has editions for Bordeaux, Brussels, Lille, Lyon and the Mediterranean area.
(www.letsmotiv.com)

La Chatte à la Voisine/2000Records/Friends of P
Three local associations promoting most indie acts in Toulouse.
(www.lachattealavoisine.net)
(www.2000records.com)
(www.myspace.com/friendsofpop)

If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

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