Manu Chao, special guest for the 40th anniversary of Bikini, the temple of rock in Haute-Garonne

Manu Chao in concert at the Bikini, in Ramonville-Saint-Agne (Haute-Garonne), on May 29, 2023.

“I’ve seen concerts, but this one! » Monday May 29, Julien, 55, came to listen to Manu Chao’s concert. He does a lot of concerts, but the Bikini room, for him, “it’s a shrine”. For Manu Chao too, it is an essential room. In the early 1980s, the former leader of Mano Negra performed there with his first group, Los Carayos. The Bikini was then placed on the banks of the Garonne, in Toulouse. Without knowing it, the Sansonetto family, mother and son, had just set up, in a former guinguette that had become a nightclub, a room where all the rock elite were going to perform.

“We stood out straight away,” remembers Hervé Sansonetto, 68, a rugby player, cheeky from the South-West, and still at the helm of this ship sailing to the sound of rock’n’roll riffs. “We wanted to democratize nightclubs and get bands to play on stage when café-concerts didn’t really exist at that time”, he continues. A small makeshift stage, a DIY sound system, a beer dispenser behind a long bar: the recipe seems simple. “I didn’t know much about music, but I loved rock. With my brother, little by little, we created a network, we made ourselves known to certain turners or groups. »

Created on June 25, 1983, the room, which could then hold 800 people, quickly stood out in a France completely under-equipped in terms of contemporary music. Like the Ubu in Rennes, the Salle Victoire in Montpellier or the Rock School Barbey in Bordeaux, Le Bikini became a pioneer of rock culture in France. And accompanies the creation of free radios by welcoming the Toulouse-based FMR in its premises.

More than 200 concerts per year

After Alan Vega in 1983, the world’s first big name, Rita Mitsouko, Noir Désir, Mano Negra, Bérurier noir, Arno or later Zebda will perform there. Regret: Iggy Pop or David Bowie will not have set foot on the “Bik'” stage – “You have to know how to stay in your place”, comforts the owner of the room, also known for its swimming pool and its toilets graffitied from top to bottom. In 2001, on September 21, the explosion of the nearby AZF factory devastated the place. “I had the impression that something was stolen from us”, remembers Hervé Sansonetto.

Read also: Eric Roux, a rocker among the notables

Having become an institution, accompanying the associative movement and all its struggles, Le Bikini was then supported by most local authorities. Six years later, the new building, costing more than 4.8 million euros, designed by the architects Didier Joyes and Alain Grima, was reborn on the banks of the Canal du Midi, a few kilometers from Toulouse. The new building, sober, equipped with a high-performance sound system, covered with wood and pebbles from the Garonne, houses a modular room that can accommodate from 400 to 1,500 spectators. In the meantime, the Bikini team will continue “homeless” the production of concerts, emigrating from hall to hall during these six years.

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