Maybe my Irish roots make me biased, but The Burren has always been my favorite music venue in town. Located in the heart of Davis Square in Somerville, The Burren has been around since 1996. Opened by Irish musicians Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello, the bar was created as a space for warmth, music, and good food and drink. Twenty years later, that vision is thriving as ever.
The “Vibe”. When you walk into the Burren, you feel like you’re walking into a pub full of friends – even if you don’t recognize a single face. The scent of Guinness, the playful sound of a fiddle, and the lively volley of voices combine to give the Burren the authentic community atmosphere it has generated since 1996. Divided in two, the Burren offers a Front Room where pub-goers can grab a pint, talk with friends, and enjoy small, live bluegrass, irish, and americana sessions. Sidestep a pairs of swing dancers to make your way to the Back Room for a more dedicated listening experience. With a feature stage, new sound system, attentive audiences, and bombastic seasonal decorations, the Back Room is your spot to indulge in some of the best live music the Greater Boston Area has to offer.
The Artists. Who you’ll see?: The broad swath of artistic talent that graces the Burren’s stage is all part of the venue’s charm. Many of Somerville’s budding artists got their start at the Tuesday open mic hosted by Hugh McGowan (Somerville’s longest running open mic) or the Sunday evening Acoustic Music Series. Earlier this year, the Burren kicked its music up a notch by offering early-evening shows on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays as part of the Burren Back Room Series. Hosted by local music legend Tom Bianchi, these shows have skyrocketed the Burren’s music roster, featuring acts like Pete Townsend, Cat and the Moon, and That One Eyed Kid. The venue stays true to its Irish roots by getting internationally renowned Celtics acts through its doors monthly. If you want to stick to the Front Room, you’ll hear sessions from Americana, Bluegrass, Swing, and Irish groups. And finally, if you happen to be a Tufts student looking for a place to get sloshy and sweaty, the Burren offers late-night cover bands on Fridays and Saturdays to whet your whistle.
My point is, if you’re a music lover, you’ll find a session that touches your soul at the Burren.
The Grub/Drinks. What to eat and drink?
It can be hard to tell whether the audiences at the Burren come for the show or the food. Like any good Irish pub, they’ve got a great selection of whiskey and other hard liquor, tons of beers on tap, and more Guinness than even the most Irish among us know what to do with. The menu features traditional Irish dishes like beef stew, bangers and mash, and shepherd’s pie – as well as commonplace dishes like burgers, salads, and a surprising amount of vegetarian options, too. My top picks? The fish and chips, the soup of the day with classic Irish brown bread, and my absolute favorite: the sweet potato fries with chipotle aioli.
The Burren has a celebratory atmosphere that makes you want to eat and drink well. There’s nothing more enjoyable than meeting up with friends, ordering a hearty meal and a couple of beers, and spending your evening bathing in the glow of it all.
(Don’t forget to swing by for brunch on Saturday and Sunday mornings! They’ve got one of the most affordable AND most satisfying brunches on the Elm Street strip.)
How do I play here? Because the Burren offers a ladder of musical opportunities, you can play here as an emerging artist, an established pillar of the Boston scene, or a nationally touring group. Tom Bianchi books this venue and he’s got a keen eye for talent. Before you throw your ring in the hat, get a sense of what the Burren is all about. This is a venue that rings true to its vision. Stop by some of the shows; get a taste of the open mic, the Sunday acoustic series, the ticketed weekend shows, and the nationally touring acts. Once you get the lay of the land, shoot Tom an email with all of your info and an idea of where you might fit in. He’ll hit you back, but it might take awhile. Last time we talked, he had 38,000 emails in his inbox. He’s a busy guy.
About the Author: Hailey Magee is a singer-songwriter based just outside of Davis Square in Somerville, MA (so you know she knows what she is talking about in regards to this venue highlight). With a penchant for writing “honest, gritty, captivating” songs and a delivery we have described here on RLR as “impactful” and “A fury of words that has a whole sh*tload of emotion behind it…” she is a promising an artist as they come in this town. Top that all off with the devotion and give back that she pours back into the community as the founder and director of EBASS, she is a curator of a diverse and growing community of up and coming songwriters and a safe haven for them to thrive within.