End Ever/I’ve Had Better at the Rainbow Bar
If you’ve had any exposure to the Billings metal music scene in the last decade or so, then you’ve probably heard of End Ever. The heavy-metal quintet has been rocking Montana and the surrounding states for almost fifteen years now and shows no signs of stopping. If you’ve heard of End Ever, or know any of the band members or local fans, then you’re probably familiar with the Rainbow Bar. The downtown watering hole has become famous in its own right, its legend built on its long history, colorful clientele, and the strongest drinks this side of a Roaring-20s speakeasy. It’s not uncommon to see a couple End Ever members down at the Rainbow in front of (or in guitarist Mario Castillo’s case, behind) the bar. The band and the bar share history. The Rainbow rarely hosts any concerts, but the Rainbow recently hosted a concert to celebrate the release of End Ever’s latest album, Awake in the Grave. I headed downtown Saturday night and, upon paying the $3.00 cover and strapping on a fuchsia wristband, strolled in to check out the scene.
The Rainbow is an eclectic space; little more than a bolt-hole between an office building and the opulent Rex restaurant, its tin ceiling and imitation gas lamps share space with high-definition TVs and video poker machines. Inside, a crowd of maybe 150 people had gathered, trending toward the long-hair-and-black-shirts metal-fan set. The rest was a broad mix of people, all downtown looking for live music, strong drinks, or both. The stage took up the back of the establishment; cramming a stage into a bar as narrow as the Rainbow seems to defy several laws of physics, but it was there, complete with speaker boxes the size of dorm refrigerators and a full-size drum kit.
The flyer stated that the concert would start at nine PM, but opening act I’ve Had Better took the stage at 9:55. I’ve Had Better has playing events for a couple years now and has shared stages with some big names in the punk scene (such as Guttermouth), though this was my first time hearing them. Despite small issues with the sound board and a few bursts of feedback squeal during the show, I’ve Had Better’s set went off clean.
The audience enjoyed I’ve Had Better’s particular brand of late-90s slacker-alt rock. The band proves that no matter how far modern rock music has come since its humble origins in the twentieth-century jazz scene, people will always love the basics. The market for simple, hooky, three-chord rock is far from dead, and I’ve Had Better proves it. The band jammed until 10:45, said their good-byes to an appreciative crowd, and cleared the stage for End Ever at 11 PM.
End Ever has played more shows than I can count, and has toured across the US. They have opened for big-name acts, such as Sepultura and Skeletonwitch, but are perfectly capable of drawing a crowd as headliners. Their hour-plus set at the Rainbow was immediately familiar to their fans; End Ever’s classic thrash metal, cut with some melody-driven dirge, is always a crowd-pleaser. They took the stage under the incongruously cheery light of neon beer signs, whipped their long headbanger manes, and played songs from the new album and older tunes at a ribcage-compressing volume that would make any metal fan happy. A small but energetic mosh pit formed in front of the tiny stage, cramped space and beer-slick floor no impediment to fans’ enthusiasm. This is End Ever’s last local show until September, and in the interim, they’ll be touring all over the American Southwest.
After End Ever wrapped for the night, I caught up with Mario Castillo, guitarist and Rainbow bartender. I asked him how he’d enjoyed playing the venue that night. “Yeah!” he said. “Good energy, good crowd. They feed off us, and we feed off them.” He also added he enjoys playing the Rainbow the most, “’cuz this is my bar, and I get to see all my peeps and play some music.”
If you’re a metal fan and haven’t checked out an End Ever show, you should. If you have to see them anywhere, it’s at the Rainbow Bar. The Rainbow doesn’t usually host live music, but on those rare occasions that it does, it proves the old adage about two great tastes tasting great together.
Of course, strong drinks taste pretty good in that mix as well.
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