Van-clover – Celtic Music in Vancouver

THE SCENE

As the province’s name suggests, British Columbia is steeped in old world tradition, particularly that of Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Vancouver is no exception, with numerous Irish societies and associations catering to the community of Celtic-descent residents who call this West Coast metropolis home. From yearly festivals to a Gaelic Football league, their cheery influence is clearly apparent, but nowhere quite so obviously as the pub-scene. Whether cozy and intimate or large and raucous, Vancouver has a little piece of Old Eire waiting for you. Rest assured, somewhere in this town, there’s a dram of single malt and a pint of stout with your name on it. Top o’ the evenin’ to you!

THE ESSENTIAL CELTIC AND FOLK VENUES

The Rogue Folk Club

#31-1465 Lamey’s Mill Rd., Vancouver, BC, V6H 3W1 tel: (604) 732-1305

The Rogue Vancouver Liz Carroll and John Doyle at The Rogue - Photo by SteveEdge

The Rogue is not actually an establishment, but rather a twenty-year-old, non-profit society that presents Celtic, Folk and Roots music at several city venues. As one of the founding members of the North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance, it has been responsible for a variety of uniquely personable performances by an assortment of world-class acts. Additionally, the society has sponsored workshops, produced publications and been involved in numerous peripheral aspects of the scene, all with an eye to promoting the cultural heritage of folk music. The majority of concerts are held at Kitsilano’s St. James Hall (3214 West 10th Ave.) although approximately two-dozen performances take place at the North Vancouver campus of Capilano College Theatre for the Performing Arts. Overall, the Rogue Folk Club produces an average of sixty concerts yearly. If family-friendly is what you’re looking for, it would be hard to find a more satisfying evening than a Gaelic one under the vaulted, wooden ceiling of St. Jim’s.

Doolin’s Irish Pub

654 Nelson St., Vancouver, BC, V6B 5B6 tel: (604) 605-4343

Doolin   by Urban Mixer Doolin's by Urban Mixer

Like a fine whiskey, Doolin’s is the perfect blend -- part traditional Victorian pub, part high-octane Celtic frat-party. The beautiful polished-wood bar boasts an impressive sixteen beers on tap, not to mention a huge array of both single and double malt scotches and whiskeys. Live music features Mondays to Thursdays starting at nine o’clock, while any other night (or day for that matter) can play host to anything from a televised soccer or rugby game to a Guiness-pouring competition. The musical repertoire ranges from melodic Gaelic ballad to boisterous Celtic rock, but house-band, the Halifax Wharf Rats are the local favourites. Here’s the bottom-line at Doolin’s: whether you’re here for the stained-glass, the rustic brickwork and the crackling fireplace or here for the match, some music and a few drinks, come in wearing a kilt any given Thursday and the first pint of Guinness is on the house!

The Blarney Stone

216 Carral St. Vancouver BC, V6B 2J1 tel: (604) 687-4322

168700771 118ea8ed42 o Photo by SqueakyMarmot

Not only is this room one of Vancouver’s most historic, but also one of it’s most popular. In fact, Gastown’s favourite bar/nightclub is a cracking good time any night of the week. But it’s the weekend line-up of live Celtic house acts that bring the crowds to the cobble-stoned corner of the city. This medium-sized venue has sweetened the deal with a new larger stage, better seating and a superior sound-system. House regulars, Killarney, bring their straight-from-Ireland brand of Classic Celtic and Rock’n’Roll every Wednesday to Saturday starting at ten o’clock. Look for an ever-changing roster of local events and fundraisers that regularly occur at this downtown landmark. This is where young Canada comes to play with Old Ireland. Just follow the sound of the Gassy Jack Steam-Clock.

Atlantic Trap and Gill*

612 Davie St, Vancouver, BC, V6B 2G5 tel: (604) 806-6393

Atlantic Trap and Gill by Mussels
Atlantic Trap and Gill - by Matt Musselman

On the bustling corner of Davie and Seymour in the heart of the Granville Entertainment District, sits this West Coast’s tribute to East Coast Canada. Open since 1998, this establishment was once called ‘The Newfie Tap and Grill’. In the decade since its inception, the ‘r’ in ‘grill’ migrated to the ‘tap’, the ‘Newfie’ was dropped for an all-encompassing ‘Atlantic’, and the rest is history. Nowhere in the city can one find a more authentic East Coast experience, from the selection of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick brews to the sumptuous seafood menu. ‘The Trap’ features live music, primarily of Maritime origin, Thursdays and Saturdays. If you can find a better place to eat a steaming pot ‘o’mussels from off a keg-turned-table while, slogging back a pint of ale to a rousing chorus of ‘Barrett’s Privateers’, you’re probably East of Ontario.

Limerick Junction*

315 Carrall St., Vancouver, BC, V6B 2K8 tel: (778) 896-8840

Last Sugartune night@ Limerick by unityproject
Last Sugartune night @ Limerick - by Barbara Doduk

Most locals will remember this establishment as ‘The Brickyard’, but if you ask the more wizened-face patrons they might even regale you with tales from its earlier days as ‘Minto’s’ or even ‘Paddy’s’. In fact, since the 1920’s, this Eastside watering hole in the Ranier Hotel has been the haunt of many a thirsty Vancouverite. And the haunting continues. Allegedly, the bar’s legendary ghosts lend their occasional door-slamming and phantom footsteps to the overall Old-World mystique and pleasant creepiness that defines this large, Irish bar. With its cigar lounge, games room and a huge marble and oak bar, ‘Limerick’ is truly the city’s portal to its early days. Although the music is not strictly Celtic, the impressive stage and dance-floor plays host to a variety of hot acts throughout the year. And did I mention the ghosts?

The Irish Heather Gastropub

217 Carrall St., Vancouver, BC, V6B 2J2

The Irish Heather by cr03 The Irish Heather - by cr03

The Irish Heather is a Gastown institution. For eleven years, it has plied its trade, offering Dublin-inspired pub-fare as well as an astounding variety of quality whiskeys and beers. It’s the mellow restaurant ambience and smaller crowds that make this establishment a must for patrons who appreciate a relaxed night of lilting melodies and toe-tapping jigs over the typically boisterous Irish pub-scene. Here, you’ll always find a perfectly poured pint of Guinness. And if you’re inclined to get peckish a little later than most, the lunch menu is conveniently reinstated at ten pm.

But what really sets ‘The Heather’ apart, is the two sister-establishments that share the same block of Old Vancouver: Shebeen Whiskey House and The Salty Tongue Deli.

Shebeen occupies the coach house at the rear of the building, offering over one-hundred-and-thirty brands of whiskey ranging from the velvety to the smoky and everything in between. A favourite for weddings, wakes and wandering whiskey aficionados alike.

The Salty Tongue is as rustic a deli as you’ll find anywhere. It boasts a fine selection of artisan breads and cheeses, as well as a myriad of gourmet sandwiches.

It would seem that there’s one thing that goes best with Irish music – everything else Irish.

BACKYARD TALENT

Vancouver is lucky to have a fine mob of Celtic musicians. Here are a few.

  • Rebecca Blair
  • Across the Sea
  • The Clumsy Lovers
  • Killarney
  • The Town Pants
  • The Streels
  • The Whiskey Dicks
  • The Copper Sky

Chapter 6: Bowties And Ballgowns - The Elegant Nights Out

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