Laurent Garnier says he wouldn't be where he is today without Rex Club, and the same is true of the club without Garnier. In the late '80s, a young Garnier convinced then-director Christian Paulet to turn the rock venue into Paris's mecca for electronic music. Rex was where Garnier ran his Wake Up parties from 1992 to 1995, bringing many artists, including members of Underground Resistance, to Paris for the first time. The club would go on to host everyone from DJ Deep and Daft Punk to the Ed Banger and Kompakt crews, but it all began with Garnier.
Housed in the basement of a cinema complex called Le Grand Rex, the single-room, 850-capacity club is a smaller and somewhat more ordinary-looking space than one might expect, stretching from DJ booth to bar with minimal seating on leather benches. Drinks are overpriced and the decor is sparse, save some projections lining one wall. But it's the legacy, history and consistently great lineups that make Rex special, and it felt especially so with Garnier playing all night long to celebrate the club's 30th birthday.
The place was just over half full when I arrived at 12:30 AM, and Garnier was warming the floor with upbeat house like "It's You (San Soda's Panorama Bar Acca Version)." Within an hour, the club was packed, the vibe was high, and Garnier was wading into heavier territory with Pablo Bolivar's remix of Pablo Sanchez's "Daydream" and the Aren Suarez remix of Lucio Spain's "Upon Time." He dropped some of his own tracks throughout the night, the most rapturously received being the techno classic "Wake Up," but he saved his best-known for a surprise performance from Meute, Hamburg's "techno marching band," who stirred the room into a frenzy with a brass-and-percussion version of "The Man With The Red Face"—the party's most unforgettable moment.
After a few more numbers from the band, Garnier went back-to-back with another former Rex regular, Scan X. They blew through Garnier favourites like Satoshi Fumi's "Hayabusa," unreleased tracks including Maceo Plex's "Mutant Quasar (Fabric Dub)," and nods to the club's past with tracks like Christophe's "Tangerine" featuring Alan Vega, who performed at Rex in its rock days.
Paris's clubbing scene today owes so much to both Garnier and Rex, who essentially paved the way for its existence, with no small amount of opposition from the government and the then-dominant rock and roll crowd. Celebrating its good health with the people who made it possible felt like a historic moment, and one that everyone present was lucky to be a part of.
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