Trad Session guidelines at Tom Bergin’s Tavern

An interesting thing happened early this morning. Padraic Conroy, my co-host at the Tom Bergin’s Wednesday night trad session in LA, sends me a text message he received from the management of Tom Bergin’s Tavern. It seems that, after only two weeks of doing the session, we have become so popular with his clientele, management wants us to start the session an hour earlier so we can accommodate more of their customers. Starting today.

On top of that, we have 16 musicians who have confirmed that they will be in attendance this evening.

Both of these are marvelous signs that the Wednesday session will continue to be a regular event at this legendary LA landmark. It is also a good indication that Tom Bergin’s is committed to servicing and celebrating the Irish community and culture here in Southern California.

It also creates a bit of a logistical nightmare for Padraic and me. So I am reaching out to you in order to make things run a bit more easily.

First, a couple of basic items.

Normally, a trad session is totally acoustic … no sound reinforcement (i.e., PA system) is used. Due to the layout at Tom Bergin’s, however, we utilize a low-profile Bose PA system to push the music through the pub. There are several open microphones situated around the musician’s table to pick up the music, thus allowing more of the clientele to enjoy the tunes.

Normally, five or six musicians can sit around this table, and the resulting volume is enough to be heard, and yet low enough that customers can carry on conversations without shouting over the music. As hosts, Padraic and I usually remain at the table throughout the evening. The other seats are usually occupied by melody players and a couple of rhythm players (e.g., rhythm guitar, bodhrán, bones, etc). We like to to rotate players at the table so that everyone has a chance to play and be heard through the sound system, but there are no real rules to ensure that this happens.

What I suggest is that if you play an instrument which somebody else also plays, please give up your seat at the table after having played a few tune sets. Those who are not at the main table may continue to play, as long as they are sensitive to what is going on around the table.

I also suggest that there should be no more than one each of rhythm guitar, bodhrán, and bones at the table at any given time (aside from the hosts, of course). We’re not going to go all “Trad Nazi” on you and tell you not to play … but please, use your own judgement and exercise common courtesy. And if Padraic or I politely suggest that you give another musician your place at the table, please be assured that we only wish everybody who attends to have a grand time and be able to participate.

If you have a song that you would like to sing, or a set of tunes that you’d like to lead, please be sure to be seated around the table so that everyone in the pub will be able to hear and enjoy your music.

Using music books, tablets, iPads, etc is allowed. It is strongly encouraged, however, that you perform tunes and songs at the table with which you are familiar, and use your ears to pick up the tunes and songs that you aren’t familiar with. Recording devices are encouraged, as well, so you can bring the tunes home with you and learn them for the next session.

The management and staff at Tom Bergin’s have been truly wonderful and generous to us in the past, and we’d like to encourage them to remain so. Please do not expect that they will “comp” your drinks or your food, but if they do, please be sure to thank them. Leaving a generous tip will go a long way to ensuring that they continue to treat us so generously.

It is often intimidating to perform when surrounded by such fine musicians. We encourage you to step out of your box and jump into the fun; expand your musical horizons. If you have any questions or concerns about something that doesn’t seem right or makes you feel uncomfortable, please bring those concerns to Padraic or me so we can address them. We want you to be comfortable and have a great time.

Finally, I just want to stress that the success of this session depends on you, and musicians like you. Not only do you need to show up and play, but you need to help create a fun and friendly atmosphere. Thank you so much for supporting live Irish music in Los Angeles!

Now get ready for some of the best craic on tap!

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