BANGOR, Maine — Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino — also known as the fun, funky, indie rock duo Matt & Kim — described Saturday’s KahBang Music and Arts Festival in one, apt four-word phrase they said repeatedly:
“Things are looking up,” said Johnson, who windmilled his keyboard while Schifino hammered away at her drums. “The weather’s beautiful, we’re in Maine, and man, things are looking up!”
All told, 11 bands took over the waterfront that day, as KahBang, the brainchild of West Market Productions, rocked the crowd on the Bangor Waterfront from noon until 10 p.m. Saturday. Though the crowd was initially a bit sparse, as the day progressed and the evening air cooled attendance grew much larger. By 7 p.m., more than 1,000 people had come through the festival gates, according to Chas Bruns, co-producer of KahBang.
“The response has been so positive. I was worried people wouldn’t come out earlier in the day, but they’ve been here,” said Bruns. “We’re so happy we had such good weather, and that the crowd has been so welcoming and excited to see the bands. I’m really, really happy with how it turned out.”
Along with Matt & Kim, the Syracuse, N.Y.-based band Ra Ra Riot performed as the sun set over the Penobscot River. A seven-piece band, featuring violin and cello, their sweet, melodic sound landed somewhere between the music of Talking Heads and Arcade Fire. The audience, comprising mainly teenagers and twen-tysomethings, danced and hula hooped with the hoops lying all over the festival grounds.
“It’s really great to see all these people here,” said Adam Porter, a 26-year-old Hampden resident. “It’s about time Bangor had something like this.”
Kylie Beaudoin, a 19-year-old University of Maine student attending the festival, thought that indie chanteuse April Smith, who played in the early afternoon, brought the house down.
“She was amazing,” said Beaudoin. “She has an incredible voice. I just listened to her last week, because I looked at the bands that were going to be here, and now I’m a huge fan.”
In addition to Matt & Kim, Ra Ra Riot and April Smith, the festival featured the Boston-based bands Sex! and the Everyday Visuals, New York’s fuzz-rock duo the Gay Blades, and the Royal Bangs, from Knoxville, Tenn. A number of area vendors and organizations flanked the two stages, from WHSN-FM, the Husson Univer-sity radio station, to Crazy Dave’s Pit BBQ of Sullivan, serving up ribs and pulled pork sandwiches to hungry concertgoers.
Adding some international flavor to the musical mix was Ida Maria, a Norwegian indie punk vocalist with the stage presence of a true rock star. Decked out in a gold lame dress and creative makeup, Ida Maria stalked the stage like vocalist Debbie Harry or the daughter of Iggy Pop, making lots of new fans along the way. Later, she posed for pictures with some of those fans.
Rounding out the bill were local bands Sam & Yuri, The Bay State and the Killing Moon, the latter of whom reunited for one set at the festival. In honor of Paul Bunyan, the unofficial mascot for KahBang, the band members sported cut-off denim shorts and flannel shirts and decorated the stage with fake Christmas trees.
“We’ve got to represent for Bangor,” said Chris Michaud, sax player for the Killing Moon and a member of KahBang’s production team. “I’m glad there were some local bands mixed in with all this amazing talent from all over.”
Drew Hooke, drummer for Maine-originating indie pop-punk band The Bay State, was happy to play a show just for the fun of it — and to be a part of the first festival of its kind to hit eastern Maine.
“It’s definitely an experiment, for a lot of reasons,” said 24-year-old Hooke, a Lincoln native now making his home in Lowell, Mass. “If you’re going to take a risk on something, it might as well be on something like this. I’m so glad to see that people are coming out and supporting music in Bangor.”
By the time Matt & Kim finished their high-energy, crowd-pleasing set later in the evening, festival organizers told the crowd that it seemed KahBang 2010 was already on the horizon.