Here is a Celtic session (that allows the occasional non-Celtic song) with lots of experienced players but open to all levels. It is a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Hosted by the talented and welcoming Bob McLean on the third Sunday of the month, the ceilidh is a pleasant country drive away from Kitchener at the Scran & Dram pub in New Hamburg. It is an acoustic circle and players take turns choosing & leading songs. Fiddles, guitars, whistles and drums all join in on well known tunes. Bring your favourite jig, reel or song to share – the next one is Sunday, August 19th.
[Scran & Dram 338 Waterloo Street, New Hamburg; 3rd Thursday of the month 2-4 pm; no cover; licensed]
I’m posting this just in time for you to make plans for this evening!
The local microbrewery scene is well intertwined with live music, the Together We’re Bitter Co-operative Brewery (aka TWB) a case in point. In addition to hosting live music performances every Sunday afternoon, since the fall TWB has been a gathering spot on a Thursday night for an acoustic jam.
I don’t know if it is like this every Thursday, but on my first visit there was an impressive amount of talent and so much energy!
Dave Pike hosts an early event (6-9 pm) which makes it possible to participate even if Friday is a work day for you, or if it is just the kick-off to the rest of your evening. The jam has a friendly, boisterous feel to it, leaning slightly towards old time and bluegrass, but open to anything someone can lead. In the back, amongst the beer-making vats everyone is unplugged (except the keyboard) and there is quite a variety of musical instruments (often being passed around amongst musicians). There is a whiteboard where you can post a chord progression to help the group follow – especially if they can’t hear your instrument once the jam gets rolling.
Oh yes, and bring a DD so you can sample the array of brews on tap.
[TWB 300 Mill Street, Unit 1, Kitchener; Thursdays 6-9 pm; no cover, licensed]
The “Sunday Kitchen Table Jam” has been happening at the Pick & Shovel in Cambridge for about 6 months. It is (mostly) acoustic, held in an area just off the main room of the bar so people can come and go but the music has less competition from TVs and conversations.
While I wouldn’t have initially pegged this place as a live music venue, the atmosphere is very friendly and casual. Musicians take turns choosing the songs, or fielding requests from bar patrons. It’s great if you bring along songs people can jam to as this is more a participatory than performance event. The afternoon I went had a definite classic rock theme to it. Usually hosted by Scott Rhodes, regulars Barb & Peter stepped into the role this week.
Be forewarned – the bar does not serve any food (unless you count a bag of chips or peanuts) so don’t make the same mistake I did of arriving hungry.
[The Pick & Shovel, 30 Water St S, Cambridge; every Sunday 3:00-7:00, no cover, licensed]
A new addition to Elora, Lost & Found Café has started off well with a Saturday night jam. The café has a warm ambiance and great acoustics, which suit the unplugged music being played.
In addition to providing a lovely sounding place to play & hear music, owners Amanda & Kayla prepare scrumptious food and drink (the carmelized pear and aged cheddar pannini was delicious).
The website doesn’t mention the jam but you can find current specials and other info on their FB page. Lost & Found Café is off the main street, tucked inside “The Mews”, just next door to the Gorge Cinema, and it is definitely worth looking for.
[Lost & Found Café, 45 West Mill Street, Elora; Saturday 7-11 pm; no cover]
I had the opportunity to visit a brand new acoustic jam in Orangeville. Nando, owner of the Orange Café, seemed to really enjoy the music and his son was the by far the youngest (and bravest) participant. Hosted by Mark Ostrowski, the format is that of a song circle: everybody gets a chance to lead and this moves around the circle evenly. Once a song gets going, people join in with harmonies, instrumental breaks, whatever the song calls for. There were plenty of proficient musicians there, making it a lot of fun.
The menu includes a fresh pasta bar and local brews on tap.
This was just the second time the group had come together. The plan is to have an acoustic jam the third Thursday of every month; check the Orangeville Live Music Scene website to confirm the next date. And – one good thing leads to another – I learned about an open mic that will be happening in Acton starting this spring/summer. Details to follow!
[Acoustic Song Circle, Orange Bistro, 20 Dawson Road, Orangeville; third Thursday of the month (usually); no cover]