I love Philadelphia, and when in Philly, I go to Fergie’s Pub, 1214 Sansom St., on Saturday from 4-7 p.m. In the corner of the downstairs bar is the best traditional Irish music around. The mood at Fergie’s is beyond cozy and the jigs, reels, and banter are fierce and energetic.
Philadelphia has loads of fantastic Irish musicians and this is a regular spot for some of the best. The session has been held down by guitarist Darin Kelly since it began 11 years ago. It’s best to get there early as it can get crowded; some days are standing room only. The exchange of tunes between the musicians never dominates over patrons conversations; this is an unamplified affair. Kudos to the proprietors as there is not 1 TV in the whole place-a rarity in this day and age. Another pint? Of course!
The Golden Ace Inn, Indianapolis, IN This eastside bar has been owned by the McGinley family since 1934. The weekly Irish session, begun in 1999 by Doug Lammer, is hosted by Jim and Kate Smith and Jenny Thompson, and has been strongly supported by the McGinleys throughout the years. A group of dedicated sessioneers ensure a lively evening with high quality musicianship each Tuesday from 8-10p.m. (often later).
The decor is nostalgic and homey, the music always lively, and the budget-friendly burgers ($3.75, including chips) are fantastic and rated as “One of Indy’s Tastiest Burgers” by the Indianapolis Star. You will be met with classic Midwestern friendliness and will feel welcome at this bar (I may be a little biased hailing from Indiana myself!).
The session focuses on traditional Irish dance tunes: jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, and slides with the odd song thrown in. Make no mistake, this isn’t an open “jam” but a traditional Irish session that is friendly to listeners and newcomers who understand (or are willing to learn about) the tradition.
Here are a couple of YouTube videos that feature the session as well as the owner of the bar talking about its history: