I was first taken to L'International in Paris' grungy Menilmontant/Oberkampf district in the fall of 2010. I was on vacation and my French friends invited me along to see a band play at the still relatively new bar and concert venue. The entry room and bar were so narrow and tiny that you could feel the dirt and sweat that caked the walls jump onto your skin. In essence, it was a typical rock and roll dive, with virtually no seating, and peeling walls and furniture serving as decor. I never forgot it. So when I returned more than a year and a half later, it was a great surprise to find that the entire top floor had not only been expanded, but decorated in a style that made me think a round of tapas was coming my way. L'International had gotten a "bo-bo" facelift-- perhaps to the consternation of some who liked it divey.
Grunge SwitchWith wicker baskets serving as lamp shades, and smooth light wooden tables lining the white walls, the new top level of L'International is incredibly bright and airy. Having purchased the space next door, the spot now has plentiful seating and a long circular bar, rather than the slippery surface shoved against a wall that made up the former. The once sleek (by rock bar standards) downstairs stage area that previously held dark purple velvet couch seating is now the grungy level. Accessed by two different sets of steep spiral staircases, the bottom level has removed all of its seating, except for two withered black leather couches and wobbly tables. It seems to have been done with good reasoning though as the packed crowd that converges around the small stage leaves nothing but standing room underneath the brick-layered basement ceiling.
L'International Location and Contact Info:
Address: 5/7 Rue Moret
Metro: Menilmontant (line 2)
Open: Every day from 6 pm to 2 am
Tel: +33 (0)1 49 29 76 45
Visit the official website
GigsBands and DJs play every night of the week and are clearly described on the venue's website. Do not be intimidated by the bouncer and velvet rope outside. It's just a procedure to check bags and block off the smokers.
Sights and Attractions Nearby
Why to Go:The best part about L'International is that entry is entirely free. On any given night of the week, you can walk downstairs without paying a single euro to see both new and well-known bands perform. Each nightly lineup features a different musical genre as well, with dance and electric bands performing on Fridays and Saturdays. For a small venue, the sound system is incredibly well composed, with the house's sound engineers situated behind a red-lighted cage in the back of the space. The 20's and 30's crowd varies depending on the night, but the majority of the clientele are musicians (or at least friends of them) themselves, providing the rare sight of tattoo-adorned Parisians.
There are between two and four bands each night who finish their sets by midnight when a DJ takes over and concert-goers begin to dance. The bottom level is also equipped with a full bar. After leaving the darkness of the basement only to be blinded by the light of the new upstairs area, it was almost with delight to find that the unisex bathroom has remained the same in being both being slippery and awkward. I am still not sure if this was left intentionally or if perhaps they just ran out of wicker baskets.