A Guide to Music & Festivals in Cannes
If you’ve read our nightlife guide, you’ll already know that this glitzy Mediterranean town has a whole lot to offer after the sun goes down. Happily, Cannes’ vibrant nightlife also means a vibrant music scene, with a range of live bands, superstar DJs and jazz clubs to be found, along with a busy calendar of music festivals and street performances.
Why not get the evening started in style with a sunset cocktail, listening to the DJ spin some chilled summer beats in one of the gorgeous beach clubs that stretch along the promenade. Then dress up to the nines and hit the Carre d’Or, the ‘golden square’ area of Cannes that’s known for its nightlife and music scene.
We’ve broken up this guide into music sections with the regular gigs and special events, to make it easier for you to find what you like to listen (or dance) to.
JAZZ BANDS & PIANO BARS
If you’re in the mood for some jazz, try the Cotton Club, which has live jazz, blues and soul music on Friday and Saturday nights.
Meanwhile, if you’re after the sophisticated vibe just oozing with celebrity credentials, then dress up and head to the infamous piano bar l’Amiral at the Grand Hyatt hotel, where Frank Sinatra and Madonna are just two of the artists who have played in this elegant, art deco lounge bar. On weekends the piano is pushed aside to make way for a DJ mixing house beats. This is a true Cannes experience and worth the expense.
La Chunga is another piano and live music bar with plush décor and a sufficiently minted clientele- it starts out sophisticated and quite sedate during the dining hours but things deteriorate (or improve, depending on your viewpoint) as the night rolls on and the music starts- it’s not known as one of Cannes' most louche nightspots for nothing.
Jazz Festival: During July and August, jazz lovers simply must check out the Jazz a Domergue Festival, which hosts international jazz bands in a series of open air evening concerts in the stunning grounds of the Villa Domergue. Definitely worth planning your trip around.
LATINO MUSIC & DANCING
Since the very trendy La Caliente closed its doors, the only place to listen to regular live Latino music is Bar a Tapas La Hacienda, but be aware this is a small and rustic bar/restaurant with music and dancing, rather than a chic Cannes nightspot. Having said that, it’s very good fun and it’s unpretentious (sometimes a welcome relief in achingly fashionable Cannes.)
Latino Festival: If you’re a fan of Latino music, consider booking your holiday around the Fiesta Flamenco, which runs at the Palais de Festivals over a weekend in mid July.
There’s also Les Squares Dansant, an open-air dance event to live music that takes place in Le Square du Verdon in July and August. People can practice rock, waltz, tango and salsa with their partners under the stars to the sound of the orchestra. If you’re not up for dancing there’s a bar and tables where you can sit back and listen to the music, and if you don’t have a willing partner, there are even ‘taxi-boys’, men who will dance with unaccompanied women! As you can imagine, the average age at this paired dancing event is a fair bit on the ‘experienced’ side.
LIVE BANDS- ROCK AND INDIE
Outside of the larger concert events, the best places to find regular rock and indie music are the English and Irish pubs such as Morrisons, The Quays or Ma Nolans, which tend to have live bands on weekends. There’s also Couby’s café if you fancy listening to some live acts in a bar/restaurant; this place has a nice atmosphere and a little terrace to enjoy the warm summer air.
If you’re after live music and a jumping atmosphere, then Sun 7 is another Cannes institution, where a young crowd pack into this small venue for cocktails, shots, bands and DJs.
Festival: For a big international line-up of rock and indie bands (as well as trip-hop, jungle, rap, groove, hip hop and techno), book tickets for the Festival Pantiero at the Palais de Festival, each August.
Above all, this is where Cannes really comes into its own. Cannes has it all, from DJs in small cellar bars and pre-dinner cocktail lounges, through to the big name DJs in the super-clubs and the exclusive nightclubs full of beautiful people dancing until dawn.
The ‘early’ hours- 10pm- 2:30 am:
For those who don’t need to carry on until the sun comes up, there are really two very good options. Bar 4 U, despite the cheesy name, is a bar for you- well, particularly if you are one of the beautiful people who likes Mediterranean deep house music. This lounge bar is very cool, and the DJ plays Euro deep house sounds until 2.30 am. Given the choice, I’d head to Charly’s, one of the great Cannes institutions. Once an old pen where a Riviera farmer kept his sheep long ago, this cellar bar has been converted into a small but sophisticated underground dance club, with a cocktail bar and a waterfall. This funky little place has a well-dressed clientele dancing away classic dance tunes until 2:30, and it’s really good fun.
Dance until dawn:
If you want a club where you can dance all night, here are three of the best, depending on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for recognisable names on the decks and a huge event, head to superclub Gotha, which plays to a crowd of 2,500 clubbers each night during summer and also during the Film Festival. For some celebrity-spotting or to enjoy an experience just dripping in Riviera glamour, head to Balinese-inspired nightclub Baoli, where you can dance under the stars to big name DJs or lounge about on plush lounge beds and watch the beautiful people. It’s free entry but you need to look the part to get in- and do remember your wallet; the prices here are not for the faint hearted. If you’re gay or just love the energy and fun of the gay scene, then Le Night is the best of the bunch. With cabaret nights, disco nights and thundering dance anthems, this is a night to remember.
Like so many towns along the Riviera, Cannes comes alive in the summer with the sounds of street music, as performers gather to take advantage of the long warm evenings and throngs of summertime crowds. As you might imagine, some are brilliant. Others are not quite so brilliant, and sometimes you might wish to pay them just to go away. (Anyone who spends any length of time in France in mid-summer may find that accordion music, for instance, gets old quite quickly.) Either way, there’s a festival atmosphere that comes along with the music and street performers that is hugely entertaining.
FETE DE LA MUSIQUE
At the pinnacle of this public celebration of street music is the infamous Fete de la Musique, which takes place across France each year on the 21st of June. The streets are teeming with live acts, all competing for soundspace. A DJ might be set up on a corner, stopping traffic as everyone dances under the palm trees, a rock band plays under lights on stage in a crowded square, and people with guitars and microphones fill every available space. It is a noisy, incredible night full of crowds and fun and fireworks. It’s a true part of the French musical experience and something well worth booking a trip around.
For orchestras, ballets and other classical music events, keep your eye on the events calendar at the Palais de Festivals. During the Musical Nights of Le Suquet, international orchestras perform in the Palais des Festivals, and chamber orchestras play on the steps of Notre Dame de l'Espérance in Le Suquet.