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]
This newly renovated venue is spacious – both the seating area and stage – with exposed brick providing great sound for acoustic music. Simon Fleras hosts this event and keeps the music going between performers, and has been doing so for over 3 ½ years.
The menu offers interesting choices for food and drink (you can check out the menu on-line). The Kiwi attracts a younger, creative crowd (spontaneous songwriting and butterfly wings) who share their music and their enthusiasm.
[47 Dickson Street, Cambridge; Thursdays 9pm-12am; no cover]
We visited the Rabbid Fox to kick off a tour of Thursday night open mics in the Cambridge area – all listed on the Cambridge Live Music site.
This is a brand new open mic – so new that we were the inaugural open mic participants! Hosts Jack & Danyka, who start off with a set of covers are happy to share the stage and hope to have more musicians join them. There is no mention of the open mic on the venue’s website or FB page which might be why they haven’t had a lot of response yet.
Surrounded by residential streets, the location is a bit unusual. The ambiance is low key & comfortable – choose from bar stools, booths, couches or regular table seating – almost a hybrid between a family restaurant and a bar.
[58 Beech Avenue, Cambridge; Thursdays 7-10pm; no cover]
The tiny sign is hard to spot but the building is easy to find.
One thing about song circles and jams is there are a lot of guitars. Not that I have anything against guitars – but there are a lot of them. In a Hespeler heritage building which houses the Brownestone Gastropub you’ll find a music session where the guitars are outnumbered. This is where the Mill Race Folk Society hosts traditional English music sessions. On the afternoon I visited, of the 14 or so players, there were two guitar players surrounded by the sounds of flute, whistle, fiddle, viola, mandolin, mandocello, button accordion, banjo and concertina. It was fun to watch people arrive just to see what instrument would be brought out next.
Like many traditional sessions, the occasional ballad is sung with or without accompaniment, but the majority of the music is instrumental and played as a group. The tunes are played mostly from memory – a few pieces of sheet music and tablets were in evidence.
While there may be some overlap with other British Isles and Celtic folk traditions, according to Brad McEwan (session host and Artistic Director of the Mill Race Festival), the Mill Race English pub session is one of the few events where people can come to play English folk tunes.
The sessions have been happening since the 1980s – even before the first Mill Race Festival – and have had several homes over the years. The Brownestone Gastropub is a relatively new venue, welcoming musicians and listeners the 2nd Sunday of the month. If that isn’t enough for you then you can join the group on the 4th Sunday at the Argyle Arms. For details on these and other traditional music events visit the Mill Race Folk Society website: http://www.millracefolksociety.com/
[British Isles Traditional English Music Sessions, 2-4 pm; 2nd Sunday @ Brownestone Gastropub, 39 Queen St E, Hespeler Village, Cambridge; 4th Sunday @ The Argyle Arms, 210 King St E, Preston, Cambridge]
It is the time of year when we dust off our favourite Christmas themed songs, the ones we don’t sing the other 11 months of the year, and let them loose in public. Christmas carols have a way of creating impromptu ensembles out of neighbours and choristers out of usually reluctant singers.
If you are anywhere near Guelph, Hamilton, Cambridge, Kitchener, Toronto or Ottawa, here are some ideas of where to go to share in some seasonal and participatory music:
Sing along with Sam & Jane
Friday, December 14. 8-10 pm. *Holiday edition*
Magnolia Café 88 Yarmouth Street, Guelph
Reservations recommended, but not required: 519.766.4663
The usual singalong, plus a few holiday songs & carols!
Mill Race Folk Society presents Pub Carols with the Orange Peel Carollers.
“These carols are not the standard Christmas stock we hear piped into every mall; they are often more boisterous and secular in nature than the familiar fare. . .
If you would like to hear more, or better yet come out and sing along with the group, they invite you to join them at the Kiwi on Sunday, Dec. 16, from 3 P.m. to 6 P.M. Admission if Free, but donations for the carollers are welcome.”