BANGOR, Maine — KahBang organizers couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather for the first night of the music festival part of the KahBang Music & Arts Festival. Fourteen bands from all over Maine and the country, from a wide variety of genres, all converged Friday night in Bangor to play for a crowd of about 2,000.
Just a few hundred concertgoers camped out on the Bangor Waterfront for the first few hours, but by 7:30 p.m., the crowd had swelled, awaiting the arrival of Friday night headliners the Gay Blades, a garage rock duo who were a favorite of last year’s festival, and hip-hop legend Biz Markie.
It was a mix of Bangor locals and folks who traveled from as far north as Houlton and Millinocket, and from as far south as Portland, Boston and New York.
Millinocket native Shaun Michaud and his brother Ricky were accompanied by Ricky’s wife, Erin Michaud, and friend Abby Reid of South Portland.
“I’ve only driven through Bangor before, so I really had no idea what this town was like,” said Reid, 26. “I drove through today, and I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of people.’ It’s really cool to see.”
Shaun Michaud had a long list of bands he was excited to check out. He scanned the program given out at the main gate and made a mental checklist of names.
“I want to see Bad Rabbits, I want to see the Gay Blades, I want to see B.o.B. and Free Energy,” he said. “I want to see everything. It’s awesome.”
Erin Michaud has been to a number of concerts this summer. She’s six months pregnant and feel it’s good for her baby.
“Oh yeah, all the good vibes and energy,” she said. “He’s going to be a cool baby.”
An array of genres was represented at Friday night’s festivities. Jacob and the House of Fire, a Portland-based 11-piece band, mesmerized the crowd with their blend of orchestral folk, indie rock and mariachi horns. Zeek, a rapper from Los Angeles, offered laid-back charm and fun samples. The funk band Re-Up was unable to make it because of a “semi-emergency,” but the band Man vs. Fire was able to take their place. As it happens, two of the members of Re-Up are in Man vs. Fire, and their KahBang performance was their first-ever show. They sounded a little like Jane’s Addiction fronted by Jeff Buckley, and their high-energy stage antics were well-received.
Biz Markie was popular as well, though his short performance, lasting just a little more than 20 minutes, left some wishing there’d been more.
“I thought he was going to give us a little bit more, but it was still pretty exciting,” said Brian Higgins of Bangor.
The two-day music festival on the Bangor Waterfront caps a full week of music, film, comedy and other events throughout Bangor, many of which boasted strong attendance — especially Thursday night’s screening at the Bangor Opera House of the documentary “Blood Into Wine,” about Tool frontman Maynard Keenan’s wine company. A Thursday night band showcase at the Sea Dog Brewing Co. offered Bangor bands Queen City and Stiff Whisker and the Driftwood Kids, along with Kentucky-via-Pittsfield indie rock group Cabin.
Organizers seemed pleased by Friday’s turnout.
Saturday’s lineup includes young hip-hop phenomenon B.o.B. and indie rockers OK Go, and promises a much larger crowd. Chas Bruns, KahBang’s production director and co-founder of the festival, said the positive reception by festival-goers of the past week’s events proves that KahBang is here to stay.
“I think there were a lot of questions as to whether or not this was really viable, that we could actually do it and have it be a success,” he said. “Well, here’s your proof. It’s not going anywhere.”