Jigs & Reels

Inishmor Pub | Photo by Winter Caplanson
Inishmor Pub | Photo by Winter Caplanson
Where to find the best live Irish music in New England this St. Patrick’s Day
By Lannan M. O’Brien

Amid the chaos of a lively pub, a few unassuming men and women make their way to a corner table with banjos, fiddles, and tin flutes in hand. They take their time settling in, retrieving pints, and bantering with their fellow musicians. Gradually, latecomers trickle in with more instruments. A few words are exchanged among the group before they begin to play a reel, the music filling the crowded room.

This is the session, or seisiún in the Irish language, an informal gathering of musicians to perform traditional Irish music. In New England, there are many venues where you can experience this important piece of Irish culture (although not all of them will be as informal in nature as a traditional session). Here are a few you can visit in each state.


Photo by DrStew82, via Wikimedia Commons

Paddy Murphy’s

A local landmark in the heart of historic Bangor, Paddy Murphy’s attracts busy crowds with its delicious pub fare and nightlife. The pub hosts a Live Irish Jam every Tuesday from 6-8 PM, followed by an Open Mic at 9 PM.

St. Patrick’s Day events: Live music all day and free pub swag; corned beef and cabbage and scotch eggs are on the menu.

Byrnes Irish Pub

With two locations in downtown Bath and Brunswick, Byrnes is the place “Where you’ll find good food, good drink and always a good time,” according to its motto. The family-owned pubs host weekly Irish music sessions (on Tuesdays at 6 PM in Brunswick, Wednesdays at 6 PM in Bath), along with Trivia Nights and other events.

St. Patrick’s Day events: Both locations will host live music, giveaways, and a special menu that includes Guinness beef stew and corned beef and cabbage.


McGrath’s Irish Pub

Located at The Inn at Long Trail in Killington, McGrath’s was the first business to sell Guinness on draft in Vermont. It has another claim to fame, too: the state’s largest selection of Irish whiskeys. Here, you can find live Irish music on stage every weekend, with the exact schedule posted on their website.

St. Patrick’s Day events: Special holiday menu, including corned beef and cabbage, Guinness stew, double-chocolate Irish soda bread pudding, and more; reservations highly recommended.

Rabble Rouser

Although not a pub, Montpelier’s Rabble Rouser – a chocolate and granola shop with a mission of social and economic justice – offers a lineup of weekly events through Rabble Nights, including open mics, trivia nights, guest speakers, art groups, and of course, Irish sessions every Sunday from 1-4 PM featuring the Vermont School of Irish Traditional Music.

New Hampshire

May Kelly’s Cottage Bar & Restaurant

This family-friendly Irish pub in North Conway hosts a traditional session every Sunday afternoon, which anyone is welcome to join. But it’s also a great place to fill your belly: corned beef and cabbage are on the menu all year long, as is “A Taste of Ireland,” a sampling of May’s beef stew, chicken pot pie and shepherd’s pie.

Salt Hill Pub

Named for the Salt Hill area of Galway, Ireland, this New Hampshire pub chain with locations in Lebanon, Newport and Newbury, serves Irish-American fare and offers a full calendar of events, including karaoke, pub trivia and live music (together, the three locations have hosted a total of 5,000 live musical performances).

St. Patrick’s Day events: all locations are hosting Irish bands throughout the day. Check the website to view the full lineup.


The Playwright Irish Pub

Self-described as one of the most authentic Irish pubs in Connecticut, The Playwright in Hamden celebrates Irish culture through its food menu, rugby match showings, and traditional music sessions every Saturday and Sunday (in addition, the weekend brunch menu with a traditional Irish breakfast is not to be missed).

Photo by Aaron Gustafson

Inishmor Pub

Scratch cooking with farm-to-table ingredients, a friendly atmosphere, and a commitment to giving back to the community are embedded in the Inishmor ethos. This year, the Colchester pub was included in Connecticut Magazine’s list of top restaurants in the state. Along with its top-notch food is weekly trivia nights and live Irish music, including regular performer Steve Cleary Music on Thursday nights.

St. Patrick’s Day events: serving a full Irish breakfast starting at 8 AM, and a limited holiday menu starting at 11 AM; Bards of Gungywamp, an Americana Celtic Folk Rock group, will be performing from 1:30-6 PM.

Photo by Winter Caplanson

Rhode Island

The Fastnet Pub

Newport’s The Fastnet Pub, named after Ireland’s southernmost lighthouse, boasts over 30 draft beers, a convivial atmosphere, and bar games like ping pong, pool and foosball. Plus, if you’re looking for traditional music, look no further: there is an Irish music session every Sunday at 6 PM, and all are invited to bring their instruments to join in.

Patrick’s Irish Pub

Located in Smith Hill, Providence, Patrick’s is a neighborhood gathering place that values the art of the “perfect pour.” Menu items like bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie and a Reuben sandwich are served year-round, and an Irish music session takes place every Thursday at 8 PM.

St. Patrick’s Day events: Irish breakfast available starting at 8 AM, and corned beef and cabbage will be available all day; performances by Irish dancers and live music by Garda

Inishmor Pub | Photo by Winter Caplanson


The Burren

This Boston-area pub has been a music destination since the 1990s, often with two concerts at once in its front and back rooms. Although all genres are performed here, you’ll find Irish sessions on the schedule Friday through Monday, every week.

St. Patrick’s Day events: live Irish music, including both bands and traditional sessions, throughout the weekend; check the website for event details.

The Snug

Known as the “home of the perfect pint,” The Snug in Hingham features a state-of-the-art European draft beer system and a regular lineup of local, national, and international music acts. Make sure to visit on a Monday for their traditional Irish music session at 5:30 PM, hosted by Richard “Skip” Toomey, a local artist/musician and former commercial fisherman.

St. Patrick’s Day events: full schedule of Irish bands and musicians; check the website for event details.




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