Grace at the Palomino New Year’s Eve bash: ‘Bro! Don’t worry about it!’

It’s pretty sad when your cat has a busier social life than you do. Oscar, the ho’ (yes, he’s been nicknamed a whore) has stayed out overnight 3 times in the past 2 weeks: notice that 1 of those nights went down to -21 degrees Celsius! And we find him outside, running across the street toward a different house, after up to 40 hours away from home, and he’s not even hungry when he’s dragged back inside: tramp!

So it’s New Year’s Eve, and the blind music reviewer is contemplating the logistical difficulties of winter public transit, going to dark music venues: navigating through crowds of strangers without falling down stairs; how to get to the bathroom without embarrassing someone; and the added challenge of communicating with bar workers when the music is loud and you can’t see their face. Crap! Do we really want to do this?

Yes! Damn the torpedoes! If Oscar can bloody well go out partying in the winter (without shoes or a cellphone or keys to get back in) so can I! And, to ease your concerns, Oscar reappears.

At the 1st St. West C-Train station, we could have just hopped off the platform and walked straight across the street to the Palamino’s doors, but carrying a white cane includes some responsibility. If we expect others to consider our particular needs when walking down the street or negotiating a difficult set of doorways, we can’t be hopping down onto transit tracks and running across the street without giving SOMEBODY a fit, or disavowing our need for assistance.

So instead, I walk down the block, cross the tracks at the lights, and become completely lost in the interchange between roads, sidewalks, ramps, garbage cans, street posts, and, oh yeah, traffic! Where the hell am I?! It was just there!

I ask 2 passers-by if the Palamino is close, and Tanner and Kyle point out they’re going there themselves. They help me find the door, and when it’s mentioned there’s an ATM in the Palamino’s basement (as the door only takes cash, of which I have none), the lads offer to bring me up the ticket fee, and then refuse to accept repayment when we’re inside: “It’s New Year’s Eve, bro! Don’t worry about it!” I insist that there’s a beer tab with me if they wish it later, which they accept.

Oh, the dry ribs, bacon-wrapped corn cobs and craft draft of this place create nearly as much anticipation as the music: Cowpuncher (their website address is, fer crissakes), Sequicons (two women, bass guitar (Nicola), drums (Jennifer), microphone, talent and a ton of volume: divine!) and a bunch of other tasty performances! THIS is better!

And then, after Ashley the Aussie waitress and another patron are so low-key helpful regarding the music, the refreshments and finding us a table , Mona the Lovely introduces herself and invites us to join her table of NYE celebrants (Erin, Jason, Scott and numerous others who come and go). We must look abandoned, or their ‘bon homme’ is just overwhelming: a bit of both, it turns out.

When the hockey game FINALLY ends, Sean Hamilton starts to play, and it’s worth the wait. If Neil Young had been a pop musician in spirit, with bits of his folk-country-rock being voiced in a clearer, thematically changing style while still playing acoustic guitar, this is what he would’ve sounded like. Or not. Melodically and rhythmically dynamic post-folk?

Pictureless event listing with performers names and date and times
There’s music upstairs; there’s music downstairs; there’s even fireworks outside! My favourite New Year’s Eve venue so far. Image courtesy of The Palomino Smokehouse & Grill.

After Sean’s set, remarkably well-mixed for the small upstairs Palamino, the new comrades accompany us downstairs to catch the breathlessly-awaited Sequicon. Wearing a beautiful ballgown (Crowd: “You look like a princess!” Nicola: “I AM a f***ing princess!!”) and cranking out chest-shaking bass and drums, these two have described the essence of what they do as: “The sound is dirty, the songs are absurd.” Hence the ballgown with the bass guitar feedback chords, songs satisfyingly filled with rhythmic melody while occasionally making one think of a thunder lizard.

It was their Calgary punk-mate, Miesha of the Spanks who advised us that in these small venues the ‘headliner’ is still the band that closes the set. Given the quantity and quality of rock (punk? post? prescient?) these 2 produce, we assume they’ll be headlining Sled Island shows this year. Just don’t expect a Katy Perry cover. . .

U2 said that Grace was “a name for a girl (or) a thought that could change the world” (All That You Can’t Leave Behind, 2000), and as grace refers to the free and unmerited favour that brightens our circumstances, I was certainly experiencing it this New Year’s Eve.

May your year be similarly graced.

Posted by Allen Thai

Author: Carey Rutherford

Swallowed by the mutual loves of words and music (but far too chicken-shit to perform them with a band), Carey’s writing career started slowly as a freelance writer in 2003, starved him nearly to personal bankruptcy until 2008, and changed directions while writing for FastForward, Beacon Calgary, GayCalgary, and Examiner magazines. With the death of many old-school periodicals, and the explosion of musical diversity in Calgary, the modern approach to writing about live music performance in the Calgary region presented uncluttered landscapes for the focussed passion that Carey’s conversations with musicians, drag queens, festival producers and small animals has uncapped. He was moulded by the brilliance of paper-based periodicals old and new (Life, rolling Stone, Swerve! and Adbusters etc.), and sees the info-verse as needing creative, empathetic, but clear-eyed Agents to communicate these performances.