Celtic musicians gather at Tugboat Annie’s on Wednesday nights at 6:30 p.m. I’m listening to the music from the bar while other patrons are enjoying the tunes and simultaneously transfixed with the World Cup. Toddlers dance up to the musicians while their parents enjoy the music from their tables.
The bar manager, Jason, tells me that Wednesdays are always busy, even in the winter. Once the Celtic players have stopped playing for the night, the crowd tends to die down. When the players have finished for the evening and are putting away their instruments, I am able to talk with Tom. He acts as the contact for the Wednesday session at Tugboat Annie’s. Tom begins by telling me what the Celtic sessions are. It’s not Irish, Tom admitted to me, “because this is America.” As such they don’t pull off the Irish vibe, as much as Celtic music as a whole, from which the Irish get a lot of their influences. This allows for a truer representation of the music that is played.
One of the things Tom really loves about the Wednesday session is the connection with the audience. Most Celtic sessions focus on the tunes only, which tends to lose the interest of the audience. But incorporating songs with lyrics changes the dynamic of the performance by engaging patrons, such as when they played “Wild Rover.” It pulled the audience out of the listening sphere and allowed them to participate as well, banging on the tabletops at appropriate places in the song. And as a result, the song got a great and thunderous reaction from Tugboat Annie’s diners.
Another reason Tom enjoys the Wednesday session is the sense of comradery. Between eight and twelve musicians attend weekly, with some regulars playing for up to 25 years. Tom says the Celtic music nights are open to any musician. New tunes are played at the beginning of the set and because of the presence of regulars, like Dusty, Tom feels open to play around with minimalism and harmonies. He also comments that Dusty has a great voice with great projection.
The Wednesday session has been around for 25 years. It began at what is now Cascadia Grill, but was then the Columbia Street Pub. Burton Dime Meyer was running the session at the time.
Tom confided that his best session was one Thursday night at the (now closed) Bally Hoo Irish pub. He equated the environment to playing in someone’s living room. To him, the environment fit with the music in a special way, which made the music really come alive.
Musicians and Tugboat Annie’s diners enjoy the night and leave on a happy note. If you enjoy Celtic music, or want to get a feeling for what it’s like, stop by and give them a listen. The session meets every Wednesday at Tugboat Annie’s and plays from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. If you want to know about other events held at Tugboat Annie’s, you can look at their Facebook page.