Hamilton’s Corktown Tavern is probably one of the best small live music venues North America. I say this based on the numerous live music venues I have visited in music cities like Austin, Memphis, Nashville, as well as Dublin over the past few years.
My discovery of it was a bit serendipitous. A recent visit to Hamilton, to visit my mother who happens to live in Corktown resulted in me asking around about live music venues. When someone suggested the Corktown Tavern, I thought “I perfect can walk there.” I love to listen, drink and walk!
Kitchen Party vs Blues Jam
The first time I went was for the Friday night Kitchen Party. But the place was packed and we couldn’t get in. Lesson learned: Get there early or make a reservation. I then went back for the Sunday afternoon Blues Matinee to hear Brent Parker and the Corktown Blues Band. Again, I got there in what I thought was good time, but the place was again packed. Lucky for me, I found a single seat near the front and was warmly welcomed by the couple already there to join them. Gotta love the friendly atmosphere!
As soon as the band started to play, people were up dancing - always a good sign in my mind as it means people are engaged and enthusiastic. The music was great as was the people-watching. The band put on a great show and the acoustics were great – what’s not to like.
At the break, I struck up a conversation with my table mates, quickly learning they were regulars and that this Sunday matinee was typical of most Sundays. I was impressed. They strongly encouraged me to also check out the Tuesday Irish Jam.
So, Tuesday night I headed back to Corktown Tavern for dinner with my brother and open mic night presented by the Hamilton Irish Arts. As we enjoyed the burger and beer (both very good), musicians started arriving and sitting at tables in the dining room and unpacking their instruments. Over a period of 30 minutes, 16 musicians of all ages arrived and were soon jamming in what was a magical experience.
It reminded me of a Saturday afternoon jam in Dublin where seven musicians jammed on a Saturday afternoon in a micro pub creating an unforgettable experience.
Corktown, one of Hamilton’s oldest neighbourhoods dating back to the mid 1800s, was home to many of the early Irish settlers in Hamilton. The pub building itself dates back to 1880s and has been a live music venue since 1931. Over 10,000 bands have graced its stages, including the Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, Arkells and Tom Cochrane. It even hosted Jeff Healy’s last show, just 4 weeks before his death in 2008.
If you live in Hamilton, are at all interested in live music and haven’t been, I would highly recommend you go. Or, if you love live music and you are in the Hamilton area it is a “must do!”
And if Corktown Tavern isn’t working for you, check out the Cat & Fiddle a few blocks away it also has live music every night. Corktown is a wee bit of Dublin in Canada.