I have been known to gush on occasion that there are no bad seats at certain downtown Calgary music venues. The venue downstairs at the Palomino Smokehouse (109 7th Ave SW) is the antithesis of that; there are no good seats. Strangely, that’s one of its charms.
There are only about a dozen tables downstairs at the Palomino, varying vintages of mismatched kitchen tables with chairs rescued from family cottages. None of the tables really have a sightline to the stage. But it wouldn’t really matter if they did because once the open area in front of the stage fills up with 8 foot guys, as it will inevitably do at any concert worth its salt, you aren’t going to see anything on the stage anyway. So relax.
After filling our bellies with pulled pork and garlic fries (and trying not to breathe on anyone) in the smokehouse restaurant on the ground floor of the Palomino, we headed downstairs and pulled some chairs up to a wobbly 1970’s kitchen table tucked in beside a bank of speakers. The split-log walls, plastered with posters, the dated furnishings, exposed ceiling ducts, and big round bar opposite the stage give the place a comfortably retro rec room vibe. A rec room with a really great sound system.
It’s the sort of room that is perfectly suited to a performance by a musician like John K Samson. The Weakerthans frontman who is currently touring his solo album, Provincial, with a band of the same name, is renowned for mixing sweetly reflective songs with insanely catchy fist-pumping anthems. Long-time Weakerthans fans and recent JKS converts alike packed the dance floor of the Palomino, singing along with every word. The poetic lyrics of Samson’s songs may seem unwieldy for a Friday night bar audience, but you’ve got to love a crowd who will gustily belt out songs containing words like Gestetner, cartography and ampersand.
I’ll be back to the Palomino for more concerts. And I will definitely make sure I arrive early and hungry and fill up on smokehouse fare before the show. If we all have the garlic fries, we should all be okay.