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RAINBOW IN THE DARK
The first time Undun was kicked off the stage was in 2000 at a cancer benefit show in Butte. According to guitarist Josh Warren, a promoter had invited the band to play the benefit, and the Montana Tech radio station had even advertised the show by playing some of the band's heavier death metal songs. But when the group plugged in the amps and started pounding out some grinding riffs, the promoter wasn't impressed.
"We started playing," says Warren, "and she comes over and says she doesn't like what we're playing. She wanted us to play 'Sweet Home Alabama' instead."
Clearly, she'd gotten the wrong idea.
Since then, the band counts several times it's been asked to turn down, turn off or play something else. The most recent example was at the Western Montana Fair, during a show sponsored by The Blaze. Three songs in, the sound operator told the band it would have to quiet down to appease some members of the fair committee. Warren recalls saying, "If it's too loud, you're too old," and launching into another song. But by then, the sound guy had shut off the PA.
"The grandstands were full," says frontman Corey Hayes. "There were old people in Rascal scooters, women pushing strollers. People stopped to listen. The special-needs kids were bobbing their heads. But I guess those [in charge] didn't like how loud we were."
It doesn't really faze the band members: getting the plug pulled, people misunderstanding the type of music they play—it's all par for the course with metal, says Hayes. But finding venues where they didn't have to censor themselves or quiet down or be asked to play covers was the band's main goal.
In fact, even before The Other Side closed, Hayes had his eye on the Palace. The Palace/Badlander complex on the corner of Ryman and Broadway opened in May 2007, hosting rock shows with relative success. Looking for an opportunity, Hayes volunteered to help with security during the August 2008 Total Fest.
"I kind of stuck around and started to nag [the owners] about doing metal shows there," he says. "They wanted a huge deposit because they thought we weren't going to draw a big enough crowd and, maybe, that somehow the place was going to get torn up."
Hayes persisted and ended up with a Thursday night show at the Palace called Metal Militia, just six months before The Other Side closed. He brought in big metal acts like Skeletonwitch. He hosted a benefit with Demonlily for the Watson Children's Shelter, which featured heavy rock band Royal Bliss and several local metal acts. Lazerwolfs played a tribute show to Judas Priest. Project Independent, a statewide metal competition, made its home at the Palace. And Dimestock, an annual tribute show to Pantera's late frontman Dimebag Darrel, which the Other Side used to host, spent its fourth year at the basement venue. All the while, new local metal bands sprung on the scene, including Beef Curtain, Maggedon and Doomfock, among many others.
Colin Hickey, who books shows at the Palace and Badlander, says that recent Metal Militia nights have been slow. There's a lull in metal bands touring to town, and metal DJs don't bring in the crowds.
"Metal Thursdays were great when real bands played," Hickey says, "but off nights, when there were just metal DJs, it was horrible. No one showed up."
Hickey acknowledges the void The Other Side has created for metal bands. At The Other Side, you could book a show on short notice. But for the Badlander and Palace, bands are booked three months in advance—at a minimum. And, unlike weeknights at The Other Side, he says, local metal bands are competing with indie rock, hip-hop and every touring act that comes into town.
"We love to do metal shows," says Hickey. "We're a fan of them. My issue is booking."