Admit it: You've been salivating over the thought of eight stages and 130 bands ever since the announcement that Lollapalooza's coming back. Well, that's not until August. St. Patrick's Day celebrations, however, are here now, and we've got top spots to catch authentic Irish jam sessions. If your instrument of choice isn't the flute or fiddle, did we mention these gigs are all free?
Chief O'Neill's Pub
Located in the middle of Lincoln Park, the Hidden Shamrock isn't exactly hidden. Management doesn't want aspiring musicians to stay hidden, either; their weekly Celtic jam session, open to the public, typically includes between four and 13 participants. Wannabe players and closet fiddlers (as well as flautists, guitarists and those with chops on other traditional Irish instruments) are encouraged to join in. Partaking of $3.75 pints of Killian's Red Ale and Labatt Blue, or $4 vodka lemonades should calm those preshow jitters.
Whether or not you're new to the Irish music scene, a jam session may leave you primed for a more professional performance (no offense, triangle gurus). In that case, head to Martyrs', where the weekly, informal jam session, hosted by fiddler John Daly, is followed by a concert featuring one of four rotating acts. Traditional Irish instruments abound, including pipes, tin whistle and the bodhran, an Irish drum. In keeping with the alternating-music roster, pint specials vary each week as well.
Tommy Nevin's Pub
Sometimes when you have a craving--pizza, chocolate, Irish jigs, whatever--you just can't wait. Grab a good ol' fashioned jam session early in the day at Nevin's, where the tunes get going around 3 p.m. Accordion player John Williams, who composed a piece for "Road to Perdition" and appeared as an Irish musician in the flick, hosts the weekly event. Unscheduled musicians aren't encouraged to pitch in, but pub-goers are invited to sing or dance on stage, as long as you ask Williams in advance.
Jeremy Lanigan's Irish Pub
There's no Sunday drink specials at this Mount Greenwood pub, but there is a four-hour open jam that burns straight from 8 p.m. until midnight the first Sunday of every month. Sessions are run by Uilleann pipe-player Kevin Henry, who'll also perform at 6 p.m. St. Patrick's Day as part of a bill featuring Irish music and dancing. The St. Patty's event isn't an open jam, but with $4.50 domestic pitchers--sorry, the beer won't be green--you can wash down great Irish tunes on the cheap.
Originally published Feb. 24, 2006.
Matt Pais is a metromix intern.