Growling vocals, heavy guitar riffs, mosh pits and long, headbangingworthy metal hair was in abundance at the first-ever Smackfest, held all day Sunday on the Bangor Waterfront. The last in the Hollywood Slots Waterfront Concert Series, the show was also the first all-day festival in the series, bringing approximately 10,000 fans of all things metal to the concert grounds.
Headliner Godsmack took to the stage just before 9 p.m., preceded by a video montage detailing the long history of censorship heavy metal has undergone over the past decades. Drummer Shannon Larkin’s kit was enclosed inside a glowing red half-moon, which rotated to reveal the drummer. Lead singer Sully Erna, guitarist Tony Rombola and bassist Robbie Merrill performed to a capacity crowd, which had been waiting all day to see their rock heroes. The band’s blend of metal, alternative and grunge has been wildly popular with rock fans for more than 10 years, from their multiplatinum, self-titled debut up to their most recent album, “The Oracle,” released just this year.
Before Godsmack, fellow headliners and Maine band Dead Season performed at 6 p.m., playing their technical, intense style of metal. Drowning Pool, a long-running alternative metal band, was up next, followed by the melodic metal of Five Finger Death Punch, a supergroup of sorts that features former members of the bands W.A.S.P. and BulletBoys.
Rebecca Hayward, 21, of Clifton and Megan Fizell, 26, of Brewer had been waiting all summer to attend the concert.
“Godsmack are one of my favorite bands,” said Fizell. “I saw them way back in 2005, when I was going to Army medic school in San Antonio. When I heard they were coming to Maine, I was like, ‘Oh my God, yes.’”
Hayward also attended the Oxxfest concert, held during the summer in Wiscasset, which had a similar setup to Smackfest.
“I like seeing all the local bands,” she said. “And I like [Smackfest] better than Oxxfest, because it’s a lot cooler out. It was too hot for that show. This is perfect. And it’s right near where I live.”
Concertgoers had a full day of Maine metal to enjoy from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the secondary stage, set up closer to Main Street on the far side of the concert area. Fourteen bands from across the state played on dual stages. It was a picture-perfect fall day, with temperatures in the low 60s and a mild breeze keeping concertgoers cool and comfortable. While some stayed put on-site, others waited until later in the day to get to the show, and attended a meet and greet with Godsmack’s Erna and Larkin, held from 4 to 5 p.m. at concert sponsor Mark’s Music in Brewer.
More than 300 fans carrying everything from drumsticks to drumheads, guitars and posters, and CD or album covers showed up to meet them. Kevin Erickson was first in line.
“I got here at noon and there was nobody else in line, so we were psyched,” said the Godsmack fan and New York native. “I’ve been a fan for 10 years. They helped me through a lot of tough times in my life with their music.”
Erickson and his wife, Dawn Bubar, drove down from Milo to meet Erna and Larkin.
“This will be my eighth time seeing them. I’ve seen them in New Jersey, Pennsylvania … this is the first time I’ve seen them in Maine,” Erickson said.
Sunday’s show was Bubar’s first Godsmack concert.
“He got me into Godsmack when we first got together,” she said. “He preached it like it was the Bible and now I’ve been converted.”
Elizabeth Mikotowicz, an Illinois native now living in Bangor, arrived at 3:30 and was last in line, but that was fine with her.
“I’m more a Five Finger Death Punch fan, but I like Godsmack’s new song and I love Drowning Pool, too,” she said. “I’ve had the concert tickets for about a month.”
Erna and Larkin came over as a favor to Mark’s Music owner Mark Braveman, who has known the band members for a few years.
“My association with Sabian cymbals has been going on for a while and that’s how I met them,” Braveman said. “The owner of Sabian was kind enough to put this together and it was short notice, but it worked out great.”
Though around 2,000 to 3,000 metal fans were in attendance for the first few hours of the festival, by 4 p.m. more than 6,000 had flooded the gates, and even more were steadily coming in.
A group of friends from Waldo County had been on hand since before noon, checking out all the local bands.
“I didn’t go to any of the other concerts they had here. They were too slow. This one is fast,” said Bryton Allen, 15, of Belfast. “I wanted to go see Dead Season when they played in Belfast last summer, but I wasn’t 21. This time, I’m in.”
“I like this show because it’s all local,” said Cory Merrill, 21, also of Belfast, who wore a Dead Season hooded sweatshirt. “I like seeing everybody from Maine. It’s pretty cool.”
The first Maine band, the Portland-based Fifth Freedom, started playing at 11 a.m. They were followed by 13 other bands, including Lewiston’s Beyond the Fall, Orono’s These October Skies, Newport’s A Days Confession and Waterville’s Afterblack. Starting at 1 p.m., bands began performing slightly longer sets, including music from Southwest Harbor’s Salvo, Darkside Out from Calais, Savior Serpent of Old Town, Uncle Jack of Lewiston and Lie Still Sufferer of Palmyra. Forty-minute sets from In the Kingdom of Nightmares of Milo, Shallow Path of Calais, Waldo County’s A Constant Battle and longtime Bangor rockers Nobis closed out the afternoon.
Metal fans traveled from far and wide to attend the show.
“I’m here to support In the Kingdom of Nightmares. I’ve been a fan of theirs ever since their old band, Tomorrow’s Tragedy,” said Chris Moran, 21, of Houlton. “I was in my very first mosh pit at one of their shows. I grew up on heavy metal. I’m pretty psyched to see Five Finger Death Punch and Godsmack, too.”
“I’m a huge Five Finger Death Punch fan. I got a tattoo of them,” said Moran’s friend Charles Long, also 21 and of Houlton, who has an FFDP design on his right arm.
“I think the fact that big bands come to Bangor is just awesome,” said Moran. “I don’t have to drive to Portland now. It’s great.”
After the local acts, Portland radio station WCYY sponsored an aerial photo of the crowd, which will be viewable at www.waterfrontconcerts.com and www.wcyy.com. Aside from music, festival-goers could enjoy an array of food offerings, a paintball shooting range sponsored by V-Town Paintball of Vassalboro, and design-your-own custom Smackfest t-shirts, courtesy of Ed Libby of the Work Store in Bangor.
BDN writer Andrew Neff contributed to this report.