Chicagoans - where to stay if I want to play tunes?

Chicagoans - where to stay if I want to play tunes?

I’m taking a trip to Chicago in March/April and am going to be there on a Sunday. If I want to check out all the sessions on that day, where would be a sensible place to stay for getting back late/getting around town. I won’t have a car but have budget for Ubers and public transport et cetera.

Thanks for reading and hope to play with some of you soon!

Fred

Re: Chicagoans - where to stay if I want to play tunes?

Hi Fred: I’m very new to the scene and haven’t been to any of the sessions you’ll find in the link below, but I think the posting is about as up-to-date as you can get for Chicago (though I’d love to be corrected by other members). I’ve heard very high praise (from someone in the know) about Kevin Henry’s playing. He’s getting up there in years, so I wonder if he might merit a pilgrimage to the South Side while you’re in town? I’m not sure that session locations would be the best criteria for picking a place to stay, since they seem to be pretty scattered. If you want to shoot me a message when you have a date nailed down, I’d be happy to ask around and do a little more investigating for you.

https://jimmykeane.com/sessions

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Re: Chicagoans - where to stay if I want to play tunes?

I go to the Lanigan’s session whenever I visit family in Illinois. There are plenty of very good Airbnb rooms in that area, so very convenient.

And you will not find a kinder, more welcoming bunch of folks. Oh, and the music is great. They do it right.

Cheif O’Neill is buried in the cemetery nearby, so make the pilgrimage.

Re: Chicagoans - where to stay if I want to play tunes?

I’ve been waiting for a real Chicago person to answer. I live nearby so if we are staying we usually stay with my daughter.
I wouldn’t think there is a convenient place to stay unless you know what sessions you want to go to. They are really spread out.
My favorites: The Celtic Knot in Evanston with John Williams. This is the most welcoming session I’ve ever been to - ever. John will know your name in about 20 seconds and is likely to remember you the next time. He is remarkable. There are some really great players but the lesser players are right at home. You really want to meet John. It’s a great experience for his playing, his knowledge, and his warm personality. Evanston can take 30-40 minutes from downtown.
My favorite is at the Grafton with Pat Finnegan who is very welcoming. Brendan Bulgar is usually there and he’s probably the most underrated fiddle player I’ve ever known. He’s as good as anyone anywhere IMO. He is not outgoing at all and is off putting for some but his playing is so gorgeous that I always assumed he must be a warner person than he may seem. You really need to hear him play solo to understand how good he is. There is a ton of subtle detail that gets bowled over in a session. The Grafton is in Oldtown which is close to downtown.
Galway Arms is the most popular session in Chicago but it is amplified and not for the faint of heart. Unless you’re a near world class player I wouldn’t recommend it. I don’t think they want you there. For me the volume was annoying and it was more a gig than a session. There is a lot of songs and there are always great players there and always have a large exuberant crowd. For me it is worth going to listen and experience but not to play. I think it’s in an area called Lincoln Park which is close to downtown.
I’ve been out to The Corrib which is Northwest in a blue collar area and a bit of a drive out there. It’s another amplified session and I really don’t like it but I keep going back to see Larry Nugent. He hasn’t been there the two time I went. The last time I was there I saw Chris Bain who is another great Chicago fiddler but his tone was ruined by the lousy sound system.
Lannigan’s is worth a visit but it’s south side Chicago and very late. It has the lengendary Kevin Henry and Malachy Touhy who are both over ninety now. Kevin plays remarkable well for his age. You definitely get a sense of the old south side Chicago music scene as I imagine it. It’s not uncommon to see some of the best young Chicago players stop in but they are not regulars.
It depends on what you’re after as to where you might stay but I might suggest you just settle on something around downtown.

Re: Chicagoans - where to stay if I want to play tunes?

Thanks for the great advice everyone. Thinking I will get a place near downtown and travel around.

On a related note, I’m going to be there on the 25th of March. Anyone fancy doing the rounds with me?

Re: Chicagoans - where to stay if I want to play tunes?

Wish I could; going out of town the same day. I’ll keep my ear out for goings-on in the meantime.

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Re: Chicagoans - where to stay if I want to play tunes?

good luck Fred - might see you at the ‘Tales ’ b4 you go!

Re: Chicagoans - where to stay if I want to play tunes?

I’ve been working in Chicago for the past year and found Clancy’ In Oak Lawn. John Williams leads sessions there, and it’s a joy to participate. Such nice people, and John is a great person and player.

Great food also…

Re: Chicagoans - where to stay if I want to play tunes?

Thanks for sharing these, everyone.

Re: Chicagoans - where to stay if I want to play tunes?

I might make the rounds with you but unfortunately I’ll be Ireland :)

My session hopping in Chicago always starts with The Knotted Cord in Evanston (early) and then to the Grafton awesome. There are more you can try to make but if you have the time and energy and historical curiosity I still highly recommend Lannigan’s (late). I forgot to mention Sean Cleland’s (incredible fiddler) session at Chief O’Neil’s - He seems to always have a couple of students around but they can play. Jesse Langen (guitar) and James Reilly were also there when I visited - both very good players.

Have a great time - I know you will.