Harlo’s B-day: The Palomino’s pitmaster celebrates

Tuesday 02nd, January 2018 / 18:01
By Christine Leonard 

Calgary’s heavy metal honky-tonk bar celebrates their favourite birthday bash with headliners, Black Mastiff.

CALGARY – Laps around the sun, zeros on the odometer, pints of lager downed, pounds of shredded pork consumed – there are innumerable ways to count the rings on the tree when it comes to calculating the duration of one’s existence. And in the case of The Palomino Smokehouse’s pitmaster, Arlen “Harlo” Smith, the annual bash thrown in honour of his birthday is the best way to mark the passage of time in a manner that’s sure to resonate over the course of the next year. 

“I was born in ‘73,” says Smith, doing the math. “I’ll be 45!”  

A fine vintage to have achieved, but it’s not his first rodeo by any stretch of the imagination. Like Harlo (Smith’s alter ego) himself, these annual whoop-ups have a bit of a track record around Calgary. 

“We did this back at the Drum (& Monkey Public House), although it was a little less exciting at the Drum. This will be the sixth one here at The Palomino. It’s never really on the day of my birthday, unless my birthday happens to fall on a Saturday, because nobody wants to go to a fuckin’ rock show on a Sunday. My birthday’s on a Monday this year,” he grumbles. “Truth be told, I don’t really give two shits about my birthday, I just like a good rock show! And in January it’s hard to get a good rock show.” 

Ironically, despite presenting incendiary and mind-blowing musical acts throughout the year at his showroom and eatery, the amber-bearded Smith rarely has the opportunity to stop and savour the sounds coming from the venue’s two stages. Thus, curating a wish-,list of bands especially for his birthday, is truly the best gift the dedicated owner/operator could receive, as it gives him license to join the crowd on the other side of the bar. Not that he ever stands still for very long. 

“This party is essentially just an excuse for me to bring in bands that are probably too expensive to play this room normally. It’s like, fuck it, you work hard all year long and you deserve to do something totally self-serving once a year on your birthday. Out of all the shows we bring through I probably get to watch about four a year, this is one of them. Even at the birthday party, I’m still working. I’m so fuckin’ mild now. I’ve totally mellowed in my old age. Ah, that’s not true I’ve still got plenty of anger,” he says with a chuckle. “This is one of the four times over the year that I actually get to let it go and party!” 

2018’s festivities will likely prove to be no exception with a trio of groove-heavy bands slated to perform amidst the establishment’s heavenly garlic and brisket-scented atmosphere. Promising an equally drool-worthy menu of hard rockin’ entertainment, Smith has a meaty trio of bands lined-up to ensure the evening is packed with heavy hooks and gritty gusto. 

Rolled out in his customary whisky-cured, business-casual fashion, Harlo’s B-Day bash is destined to set an auspicious tone for the year to come. And what better way to defrost your January blues than by cozying up to some dry ribs, sparkling suds and face-melting riffs with a few dozen of your closest Palo-pals? 

“This is just a roomful of people I enjoy,” confirms Smith. “It’s all my buds, and all the bands, and all the people who come to rock shows and the people in my van club. It’s just a party. That’s what I like about it.” 


Don’t miss Harlo Davidson’s Birthday celebration with Black Mastiff, Woodhawk and Denim Machine Jan. 6 at The Palomino Smokehouse and Social Club (Calgary)

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