Festival Preview: Paris Popfest 2019 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, September 22nd, 2023  


Festival Preview: Paris Popfest 2019

Seven Artists to See in Paris, France, September 20-21

Sep 13, 2019 Photography by Alicia Aguilera Bis
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For the third time in a row, Paris, the love capital of the world, will turn into the capital of indie-pop. On September 20-21, the Paris Popfest will take over the Hasard Ludique, a hip bar and music venue in a revamped train station, for a celebration of jangly guitars, DIY pop songs, vocal harmonies, and quirky electronica.

Making sure to blend established and young talent in their carefully curated line-ups, the four friends behind Paris Popfest regularly invite bands from as far and wide as the USA, Sweden, Scotland, or Spain-while making sure the local French scene gets its fair representation too. Under the Radar takes a look at what’s in store for this year’s edition.


It’s a rare feat to come back from a hiatus of more than 10 years and still deliver songs that are (at least) on a par with the DIY-dance-pop hits that made the 1990s and early 2000s sound so good. Yet that’s exactly what Bis have done. Their fourth studio album, Slight Disconnects, was released earlier this year, garnering enthusiastic reviews and leading to a fresh wave of excitement for the Scottish trio’s idiosyncratic noise pop anthems. Following a string of solid live performances at Long Division and Indietracks, among others, Bis’ show (Friday 20th) will definitely be one of the highlights of the festival (just make sure to put your dancing shoes on).

BMX Bandits

Famously hailed as the only band Kurt Cobain would have joined, if he hadn’t formed Nirvana, BMX Bandits are another hugely underrated Scottish legend in this year’s Paris Popfest line-up. This brainchild of Duglas T. Stewart took off in the post-industrial town of Bellshill on the outskirts of Glasgow back in the 1980s. Over the years, through their subsequent incarnations, the Bandits have been churning out guitar pop gems that alternate between elation and heartbreak with unflinching, soul-bearing honesty. Expect a headline Saturday performance (September 21st) that is as powerful as it is moving.

Andreas Dorau

How do you even start describing someone whose career spans almost as many years as it does genres? Andreas Dorau’s first notable music moment came in 1981, when he was just 16, with “Fred vom Jupiter,” a catchy song that combined German New Wave with a Talulah-Gosh-like chorus. Since then, Dorau has regularly readjusted his focus, breezing through bubblegum, dance, leftfield electronica, junk shop glam, and yacht rock, making it all the more difficult to pigeonhole him into a single slot. His Friday (September 20th) show will definitely provide a healthy dose of eclecticism and humour: think two-minute anthems about the ability to say “no,” invisible dancers, or a surprisingly prophetic 1988 song “Demokratie,” with a chorus that goes: “That’s democracy/it never gets boring.” Now there’s an earworm for our interesting times…


The youngest band in the line-up, this up-and-coming Parisian four-piece combine ‘80s UK indie and ‘90s U.S. lo-fi influences into a surprisingly fresh blend of jangly rock backed with some pretty ace synthesizers and intriguing lyrics. With just two EPs under their belts so far, it will be really interesting to hear a full-length set from this lot on Saturday (September 21st).


A personal favorite of mine, Hidrogenesse are a Catalan duo whose quirky, off-kilter electronica can be used as a vehicle for just about any concept: from celebrating the little joys of life like not overcooking your rice to drawing parallels between a malfunctioning escalator and a broken relationship. From conjuring an animal world full of interspecies integration to recounting the history of the world as told by computers. Occasionally, the two Catalans venture into more serious territory, like in their song in memory of Alan Turing (meant as “a kiss to wake him up”), released a year before the unfortunate codebreaker was granted a royal pardon (he was convicted for homosexual activity in the 1950s and poisoned himself two years later). As if that wasn’t enough, Hidrogenesse are born performers: whether they play at large festivals or in small clubs, Carlos Ballesteros and Genís Segarra always put on a show, so expect some pretty dazzling clothes, make-up, and exhilarating kitsch on Saturday (September 21st).

The Last Detail

If you’re a fan of stylish chamber pop with elegant female vocals, look no further. The Last Detail was born as a French-American collaboration between Mehdi Zannad (Fugu) and Erin Moran (A Girl Called Eddie). While Moran will not be there at the festival, the band will perform as a five-piece, with Zanad accompanied by Helen Ferguson (Queen of the Meadow) on vocals and the cream of Paris’ indie musicians. (They play on Saturday, September 21st).

The Royal Landscaping Society

The second Spanish band in the line-up, The Royal Landscaping Society, play a shimmering, melodious version of classical indie-pop. Think The Field Mice, Trembling Blue Stars, Harper Lee, and all those bands you’ve been missing for years. The duo’s live sets also feature a brilliant cover of Etienne Daho’s 1988 hit “Bleu Comme Toi,” so Friday (September 20th) should be off to a pretty amazing start.

The Paris Popfest line-up is supplemented by Jan Dark’s piano karaoke (yes, with an actual real musician accompanying you as you exercise those vocal chords) and a DJ set by Denis Quélard, owner of the famous Paris indie club Le Pop-In. And, to end on a typically French foodie note (music and food are two of life’s greatest pleasures, after all): when in Paris, whether for the festival or otherwise, you’re strongly advised to try aligot-a fascinating dish of mashed potatoes, melted cheese, and garlic that’s bound to keep that hangover at bay. Or so I hope, at least!

Tickets for the Paris Popfest are available here.


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