It must be exhilarating to have 6,000 people chant your name. Chart-topping hip-hop artist B.o.B. knows that, since that’s the reception he got at his performance at the two-day music festival that closed out the second annual KahBang Music & Art Festival. The charming, multitalented, 21-year-old Georgia native played guitar, rapped, danced and, at one point, dived into the adoring crowd, many of whom came out just to see him.
“This is my first time in Maine, and I definitely feel very welcome,” he said between songs during his hour-long set.
Capping nine days of music, film, comedy, and visual art events and exhibits, the two-day festival boasted nearly 40 bands performing on the Bangor Waterfront. By early Saturday evening, more than 6,000 people came through the gates to enjoy the music, the food, the vendors and the perfect summer weather. Attendees were well-behaved, overwhelmingly in their teens, 20s and 30s, and traveled from towns all over Maine and New England to check out what KahBang and Bangor had to offer. Organizers called this year’s KahBang a resounding success.
“It’s been a big success so far, despite the fact that we fell behind schedule on Friday,” said Chris Michaud, communications director for KahBang. “It’s all gone even better than expected. The team and the volunteers and everyone have worked together pretty flawlessly to make this happen.”
The festival has been a labor of love for the 12 volunteer directors, who have spent the past year turning the single-day music festival of 2009 into the eclectic, multiday festival of 2010.
“This is our town, and this is our show for our people,” said Michaud. “I’m already excited for next year.”
Fellow Saturday headliners OK Go offered a set that was both entertaining and musically sophisticated. Their smart, catchy power pop delighted the crowd, who got to witness a performance that included a song accompanied by hand bells, an a cappella interpretation of a song from the musical “Les Miserables,” and lots and lots of confetti.
Saturday afternoon was filled with the likes of the soul-rock fusion group Bad Rabbits, whose choreographed dance moves brought to mind Motown but whose guitar riffs were solidly based in the 21st century. The Philadelphia-based band Free Energy’s amped-up take on classic rock was the soundtrack to the sunset. Bangor bands Sam & Yuri and Good Kids Sprouting Horns performed on the free Bangor Savings Stage, set up outside the festival grounds, during the afternoon.
The festival was a reason for friends and family to get together and to visit Bangor. 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.”
Rose Presby and Heather Piawlock, both 20, traveled from Farmington to enjoy the festival Saturday.
“I really like B.o.B, but I also really enjoyed some of the other bands, like Atlantic Avenue and Free Energy,” said Presby. “I got my tickets last week when I heard about it on the radio.”
“I definitely want to come back next year,” said Piawlock.
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.
Rapper Biz Markie was popular as well, though his short performance, lasting just a little more than 20 minutes, left some wishing there had 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.
KahBang diehards, who purchased passes for the entire festival, got to enjoy some of the many new, challenging documentaries and features that screened at the Bangor Opera House, the Union Street Brick Church, Bangor Mall Cinemas and Bennett’s Market on Main Street. Thursday night’s screening at the Bangor Opera House of the documentary “Blood Into Wine,” about Tool frontman Maynard Keenan’s wine company, attracted nearly 100 people.
“I made a point of asking everyone that attended movies what they thought,” said Josh Whinery, director of the film festival. “It was really, really well-received. Some of the screenings didn’t have that many people, but I think that we got it out there, we had a really excellent product, and all those people that did come will tell everyone they know about it. We got the word out there.”
The KahBang @ Night events brought the fun right into the heart of downtown Bangor. The 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. The Mallett Brothers Band performed at Paddy Murphy’s on Wednesday night, and across West Market Square at Ipanema Bar & Grille that same night was a comedy show featuring a variety of Maine comics.
Chas Bruns, KahBang’s director-at-large 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.”