Boston Fêtes Bastille Day
Salut, Francophiles! Monday, July 14 is Bastille Day—the anniversary of the beginning of the French Revolution—and a number of Boston establishments plan to fête the holiday.
On Friday, July 11, Marlborough St. between Berkeley and Clarendon will be closed to all but 2,000 merrymakers when the French Cultural Center hosts its 39th annual Bastille Day Party, one of the largest of its kind in North America.
Bastille Day serves as “the perfect opportunity to extend the remarkable French ideals of Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité to the wider community in a celebration of longstanding and ever-growing French-American friendship,” says French Cultural Center marketing manager Erin Quinn in an email, adding that a receptive neighborhood has helped the event grow.
The party this year will include musical acts Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate, a duo that melds hip-hop and rock with African rhythms, and H’Sao, a Montreal-based Chadian quartet that mixes modern musical influences with traditional African ones. Local restaurants Brasserie Jo, Petit Robert Bistro, and others will sell French and Francophone food, including foie gras, crême brulée, and Senegalese dishes.
The Bastille Day Party unites Francophones and Francophiles in celebration of the holiday. “It’s really a good mix between the both of them, which is one thing we strive to do here in Boston: bring the two audiences together,” Quinn says.
“[The Bastille Day Party] celebrates our community and what makes it truly special: its vast diversity, its openness and appreciation of other cultures,” says French Cultural Center president and executive director Catheline van den Branden in an email. “This isn’t just a great party for the French and Francophile, everyone is happy to come out and listen to great music, dance in the street, share good food and wine—there simply is no other comparable outdoor party in the region.”
“It’s not often that you get drinks [and a] dance party all on a street in Back Bay,” Quinn says. “The ambiance is really cool and everyone is just happy and excited.”
Entry is free to Harvard Square’s Bastille Day and World Cup celebration on Sunday, July 13. A collaboration between the Harvard Square Business Association and Sandrine’s Bistro, the annual event was spearheaded more than a decade ago by Sandrine’s chef Raymond Ost who solicited the HSBA’s assistance in celebrating his French heritage. “We loved the idea, of course,” says Denise Jillson, executive director of the HSBA.
One goal of the event is “to mimic what you might find in France,” Jillson says. “We really depend on Chef Ost to guide us with that.” Park restaurant will arrange a beer garden, and local eateries including The Elephant Walk and La Voile will sell food all with “a French flair.”
The celebration will include live musical acts handpicked from Harvard Square’s June 21 Fête de la Musique.
“We always try to match the music to the event,” Jillson says. “We always try to find bands that are really exciting, that attract a lot of attention.” This year, rhythm-and-groove group Billy Wine will take the stage first, followed by The Dan Searl Group, a jazz band. The celebration turns into a dance party when French techno DJ Kamal performs. His music energizes young Francophiles, who come in droves, Jillson says.
This year, the celebration coincides with the final game of the World Cup, and the public is invited to come to Holyoke Street and watch the match on a big screen before the Bastille Day party begins. Overall, Jillson expects between 3,000 and 5,000 attendees over the course of the afternoon and evening.
“[The celebration is] very typical of what they do in France,” she says. “People just come out into the street, there’s great music, they dance [and] they enjoy good French food.”
In addition to these two celebrations, sister restaurants The Beehive in the South End and Beat Hôtel in Harvard Square are hosting their own in honor of Bastille Day.
Both restaurants will add a Bastille Day supplement to their regular menus: Beat Hôtel’s will include dishes like steak frites and bouillabaisse, while The Beehive will serve plates like moules frites and tuna Niçoise.
Sunday night at Beat Hôtel will feature percussionist Lamine Touré, a French-speaking artist from Senegal and current artist-in-residence at MIT. “The idea behind our event is to celebrate Francophiles around the world,” co-owner Jack Bardy says.
Contemporary French singer Chloe Perrier will take the stage the following evening. At The Beehive, Australia-based French jazz band C’est si bon will play traditional French and bossa nova music throughout the evening.
Reservations are recommended for both restaurants.
Bastille Day Party: $28 in advance, $35 at the door, Friday, July 11, 6-11 p.m., Marlborough St. (between Berkeley and Clarendon, entrance at Clarendon), Boston, 617-912-0400, frenchculturalcenter.org.
Harvard Square Bastille Day: Free, Sunday, July 13, 5-10 p.m. (World Cup showing at 3 p.m.), Holyoke St., Cambridge, 617-491-3434, harvardsquare.com.
Beat Hôtel: Sunday, July 13, and Monday, July 14, music 7:30-11:30 p.m., 13 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-499-0001, beathotel.com.
The Beehive: Monday, July 14, music 7:30-11:30 p.m., 541 Tremont St., Boston, 617-423-0069, beehiveboston.com.