by Carey Rutherford

The Palomino stands up to scrutiny. Well, perhaps we should define scrutiny: if sitting in the dark sloshing back “Steam Whistle”s and listening to well played and eq’d hard rock and punk is your definition of a good time, interspersed with somehow appropriate reggae and small crowds of cheering, cheerful patrons, then stands-up-to-scrutiny it is!

If you’re looking for the Berlin Philharmonic, this won’t cut it for you.

We FINALLY managed to get down to The Palomino Smokehouse and Grill, which has been teasing me with loads of interesting music for months, and I’m glad we did. My Seeing Eye Buddy #2 finds it right across from the 1st St. C-Train platform (who knew) (other than everybody else, of course), and the progress into the live premises downstairs is exciting and rewarding. But, who cares about the place, it’s the music that resonates here. The place chooses and frames it, surely, but if you nicely frame crap, you’ve still got crap.

Tall Ships opens the evening of ‘punk’ bands playing really well written and performed hard rock: because the soundman knew what he was doing, the mix was great and one could tell the instruments were well-handled. These guys can play, and after a couple of songs to warmup (and to thank us effusively), they really start to cook, and by the middle of their set the emotional dynamics of what they’re playing, including difficult slow bits in a small rock club, all ring true and engage the listeners solidly. Very tall. Very shippy.

Shamelessly, my comrade and I leave to powder our noses as the second band is checking sound levels. This is NOT a euphemism for doing coke in the bathroom: it’s a euphemism for going outside to have a Colt. And meet Hayden Brown, the lead singer of Tall Ships. Gracious fellow.

After surviving the crack Mac’s store and a drunk or two on the train platform, we manage to return to the Palomino cellar as “Bad Habits Die Hard” start to kick up their heels. The self-described ‘fat guys with beards’ (Santas?) are, in fact, more like a punk band in their songs, in their performance, and in their sound. Josh Jones, the vocalist, mentions liking the vocal mix ‘hot’, which means overdriven like a good guitar, and that certainly matched by the guitars, drums and bass in the 3rd and 4th gear driving they do through their playlist. Again, their performance is tight as a tourniquet, and it’s just a pity that more of the club’s patrons weren’t there for the midnight set.

Funnily, one of the better pieces seemed to be the one they were least familiar with. ‘brothers in arms’ is preceded by several warnings about it’s newness, but it really clicks with lots of musically interesting stuff going on, not the least of which is the lyrics. They are, like many of Bad Habit’s songs, surprisingly audible for music played with this much of a kick.

Shift into overdrive.