the traditional music scene in Chicago…

the traditional music scene in Chicago…

Hey everyone, I’m considering a trip to Chicago in early June, and just thought I’d submit a discussion to get some input from you folks on the traditional music scene there. If you could let me know of any events and concerts going on around then, any acoustic music shops or CD shops that cater to this style, and of course any sessions and general information/opinions about them, etc., I’d really appreciate it. Basically, if there’s anything of interest to the traditional musician in central Chicago or anywhere nearby easily accessible by public transit, let me know! I’ll note that I mostly play Irish and Scottish music, but I’m interested in Appalachian and bluegrass as well. Also, any input on the scene in general, opinions or suggestions would be much appreciated. I’ve never been, and before I schlep my bouzouki all the way there, I’d like to know if it’s worth it ;)

Additionally, I’ll be travelling with someone who doesn’t play music, so if a pub or other session location has other attributes, like good food, beer or something, or is near other landmarks, attractions, that information would be very appreciated as well 🙂

Thanks to any who contribute!

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Re: the traditional music scene in Chicago…

I’ll ask my friend. I know he went to one where John Williams plays.

Here are a couple which I found just looking through the archives;
The Grafton
Submitted on August 19th 2003 by Tusong200
https://thesession.org/sessions/437

Tommy Nevins Pub [Evanston]
Submitted on April 17th 2007 by busterlily.
https://thesession.org/sessions/1591

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Re: the traditional music scene in Chicago…

Random_notes: John Williams leads the session at Nevins in Evanston, which is about a half hour or so outside the city of Chicago.
There’s the Abbey on Sundays and Chief O’Neill’s on Tuesdays. I’d say those are two of the best sessions in Chicago. Also, there’s Gaelic Park on Thursday and sometimes sessions at Chief O’Neill’s and The Grafton on Sunday afternoons as well. I’d go with the first two though, depending on what you’re looking for. The Abbey is a small session with a great group of regular musicians. I’m probably better acquainted with the session at Chief’s, which is a large, high-energy session that may be better suited to someone looking to just sit in and/or observe. Chief’s also has a great atmosphere for a non-musician. For a bouzouki player, I know for a fact that you’ll almost always find at least one top-notch bouzouki/guitar player there on Tuesdays, which you might be interested in.

Re: the traditional music scene in Chicago…

Also, most of the traditional music events going on at the Old Town School of Folk Music and the Irish American Heritage Center would be worth checking out. Both places often bring in great musicians for concerts, ceilis, workshops, etc.

Re: the traditional music scene in Chicago…

John Williams runs open sessions at Nevins Pub in Evanston Sunday afternoons after 3 They usually are up and running by 4 through 7 or so.

He also does one in Highwood, way north of the City. I don’t know about public transportation. Evanston is a bit better.

Irish American Cultural center has a session on Weds nights at 7. I would check to see its status. Very freindly group last time I was there. Easy to get to if you have a car. I don’t know proximity to public transit.

Re: the traditional music scene in Chicago…

That’s fantastic, thanks for the tips! Chief’s sounds great, and I’ll be sure to check the schedule for the Old Town School and the Heritage center. 🙂

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Re: the traditional music scene in Chicago…

There’s a lovely session at Celtic Crossings on Sunday nights. It’s Lawrence Nugent’s session and the last time I went it was a lot of fun. The bartender comes out and blows the pub away with his voice!

Check it out!

Re: the traditional music scene in Chicago…

I didn’t know Celtic Crossings had sessions. Great location in Chicago if you rely on public transportation.

751 North Clark
Red, Purple Express and Brown lines are close by.

Pricey hotel area though, but just down the road a bit from some of the others mentioned here.

Re: the traditional music scene in Chicago…

I remember one nice one at O’Shaughnessy’s, on Ravenswood, near Lincoln Square. I was last there in August, and it was a nice session. I would call and check, first. The pub is off the Brown Line, and there’s a bus that stopped right in front of it.

I hear great things about The Grafton, and Nevin’s can be a nice session.

Re: the traditional music scene in Chicago…

The Grafton session is on Sundays 5pm. On the 4500 block of N. Lincoln Ave., steps from the Old Town School of Folk Music. Check out oldtownschool.org for upcoming shows for both ITM and traditional American folk/old time/bluegrass. All this on the same block! From downtown take Brown Line CTA and get off at Lawrence; you’ll be one block away. I play at Grafton on occasion. I can also recommend Molly Malone’s in Forest Park, IL. Thursday nights at 8pm. From downtown take the Green Line CTA to end of line, Harlem Ave., then hop a 318 Pace bus south. This will take you down Madison St., which is downtown Forest Park. MM is right on Madison St, at the wesf end of downtown Forest Park. 25 minutes on train, 10 min on bus. Very close. I don’t drive either, and live in the suburbs; this is all easy by way of public. I’ve played Molly Malones session it is also good. All the previously mentioned places are good; the Irish American Heritage Center is on Knox St., just off the Kennedy Expressway. You can take the Blue Line CTA, get off at Montrose, and it’s a 3 block walk. Stay to the right (east) side of the expressway, walk north then west. It’s a big building, formerly Mayfair Community College. I believe sessions there are 7pm on 3rd floor. I’ve played there a few times and it’s mostly older gentlemen, all very nice and a wellspring of knowledge. The pace is a little slower there, which is great for a player of my caliber. Can’t stress enough how nice those guys are. Will know almost every tune name. they sit in circle in an old classroom and go around the circle for choice of tune. Sessions usually run 2 hours.
You could likely spend your whole week in either the North Side or the South Side and have a different session every night. I know little about the South Side sessions but my old whistle teacher is a South Sider and would mention several regular sessions throughout the week.
There are a couple of sessions in downtown Chicago but I have no details of them. Most of the sessions are north or south.

Re: the traditional music scene in Chicago…

I just read your profile and see you’re from Boston. I plan to be in Boston this year to see a White Sox/Red Sox game Aug 26? Maybe you could return the favor and recommend some spots for ITM sessions in Boston. We’ll be staying in Cambridge.

Re: the traditional music scene in Chicago…

Man, that’s fantastic, thanks everyone! It looks I certainly won’t be in short supply of places to check out and things to do.

To Ralphus:
Here are a few of the sessions I’m familiar with:
-The Druid - Friday nights in Inman Square (Cambridge, a short walk from Central Square) - quite good, small
-The Burren - Sundays/Mondays(?) in Somerville (north of Cambridge, take the Red Line to Davis Square)
-The Greenbriar - Monday nights in Brighton (take the 57 bus from Kenmore Station in Back Bay to Waldo Terrace) - there’s a slow session at 7pm for about 2 hours, then a more advanced session afterward
-Brendan Behan pub - Saturday afternoons, 4-7pm I think - Jamaica Plain, take the Orange line to Stony Brook - never been, but my roommate’s a fan

I haven’t been out and about as much as I should be due to school and such, but I know there are some more as well. I’ll check with my roommate, who is a lot more active on the session scene than I am, and get back to you.

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