Traditional Music Sessions in the S.F. and Monterey Bay Areas

Updated: December 17, 2008

As most of you know, "sessions" or "seisiuns", are informal gatherings of musicians to play music. There is no "show", but often the music is quite excellent. Sessions in the Bay Area tend to feature mainly Irish music, but Scottish & Cape Breton tunes are often heard too. So, if you're a player, grab your instrument, ask politely if you can join the session, and learn (or teach) some new tunes.

For those just starting out playing this music, you may wish to join the Slow Players - these are folk like you that practice the tunes in informal sessions - at slower speed, about half speed or less. As users learn the tune and are more comfortable with it, the pace picks up to full speed. The toal of the session is to learn the tunes in a friendly and supportive environment with others who are at the same skill level.

The Slow Players have three SlowPlay groups in the Bay Area with regular meetings.

San Francisco:

East Bay:

  • in El Sobrante Berkeley Area Slow Session Every Sunday 3:30pm Tris
  • in Berkeley at The Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck Ave (3 blocks south of Ashby, 2 blocks east of Ashby BART start) next to La Pena and between Alcatraz and Ashby. with host Shay Black, every Sunday 8:15-11:00 p.m.. 10-15 musicians. Note that Shay gives equal billing to singing, including some excellent sean-nós singing. All ages and all musicians, singers, and dancers are welcome (510) 841-2082. ..Folks from as far as Sacramento tote in their fiddles, whistles, bodhrans and even washtub basses.  Throughout the night Shay calls on vocalists to sing between the instrumental sets.  The selections are mostly Celtic, with a bit of everything else sprinkled in for variety and good measure.
  • Also on Monday nights, Irish setdancing classes lead by John Slaymaker- Dance instruction is given from 7:00 - 9:00, and the session features music for the dancers until around 10:30. After that, the session is informal.
  • in Oakland Cato's Ale House - Second Wednesdays 6:00pm (510) 655-3349
  • East Bay Slow Players - meet the fourth Saturday of the month at various member's homes.

Marin County:

  • in San Rafael every Tuesday night at the Mayflower Pub,  1533 4th Street every Tuesday night 7.30 and usually goes until 10 or later. 


  • in Culver City - Joxer Daly's - Every Sunday 8:30pm
  • in Mountain View at Fibber McGee's - (408) 243-7001 Third Sundays 7:00pm

San Jose & South Bay:

  • in San Jose at O'Flaherty's Irish Pub, 25 San Pedro Square in downtown on Sundays from 5-8 pm. 21 and over only..Now also on Tuesdays from 6:30 until 10:00 (fast session)!
  • in Campbell
  • in Los Gatos
    • at CB Hannegan's, 208 Bachman Avenue at Santa Cruz. Music starts every Tuesday as soon as possible after 8:00 p.m. The musicians play on the "large, lovely, covered and heated patio with fireplace". All ages are welcome. For more information contact Tony Becker at (408) 223-6102, e-mail:
  • in Livermore
    • at the UK Cafe (190 South J St.) on the last Sunday of the month from 6:00 to 8:30pm. The session is hosted by Michael Mullen formally the fiddler for Caliban and Tempest, but recently of the Irish/Scottish duo called Mullen Fordyce. For more information call Debbie or Mark Chadwick at (925)447-7344 and email them at:

Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay:

  • in Monterey -Clifford-Hoban Branch of CCE
    • London Bridge Pub - (831) 649-0448 First Sundays 6:00pm
    • Monterey Slow Play Seisiún (831) 464-2128 Fourth Thursdays 7:00pm
  • in Santa Cruz
    • Clifford-Hoban Branch of CCE - Childrens Seisiún Matt @ (831) 662-9444 or 9334 Second Sunday Afternoon
    • Slow Play Seisiún Clare @ (831) 649-0448 Third Sundays 1:30pm
    • India Joze - (831) 427-3554 Fourth Sundays 8:00pm
  • in Aptos Britannia Arms - Celtic Society (831) 464-2128 Second Sundays 6:00pm


Sonoma County

  • in Sebastopol at Jasper O'Farrell's - (707) 823-1389 Second Sundays 8:00pm
  • in Sonoma at Murphy's Irish Pub First Sunday of the month at 6 p.m. info: Larry Murphy
  • in Santa Rosa at  The Black Rose Irish Pub, 2074 Armory Drive. -slow session the 2nd Wednesday of the month at 8:00 p.m. Fast session the 3rd Wednesday of the month. 8 p.m. info call (707) 546-7673.


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