As host to the National Folk Festival, Bangor proved it could be a cultural draw. The success of the follow-up American Folk Festival and the popular Waterfront Concerts, which this year has drawn big names like Toby Keith and Lady Antebellum, confirmed that the city had a new vibe. Now, the growth of KahBang, the nine-day music, dance and movie festival that officially begins Saturday, is stretching the city’s cultural image in positive new directions.
KahBang started in 2009 after a couple friends, Timothy Lo and Chas Bruns, brainstormed about how they could put on an event similar to the American Folk Festival.
Since then, the festival has only grown. This year’s performers include national headliners such as My Morning Jacket, Lupe Fiasco, Atmosphere, Chromeo and Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. In addition, more than 40 other bands from all over the state and the country will play at KahBang’s two-day music festival — Aug. 12 and 13 on the waterfront.
Leading up to next weekend, KahBang features a full slate of movies, social events, art installations and even a boat cruise on the Penobscot River.
All of it adds up to a confirmation of Bangor’s rising arts and music scene. Such a scene is vital if Bangor wants to be seen as a place where young people want to live and work.
Here’s how KahBang’s creative director, Joshua Gass, describes it: “We’re all from Bangor. We all remember growing up and there being nothing to do, and everyone just wanted to leave.
“I think, after a while, people got tired of letting Bangor just kind of slide off into obscurity. And I think a lot of things worked out at the right time, very quickly. And I think some creative, passionate people got involved in the city. I think a lot of things just worked,” he said.
Of course, KahBang isn’t just for young people. The film festival, which runs through Aug. 13, features an array of films, from those starring Bill Murray to movies that are so bad they’re good.
Artists ranging from a tattoo artist to a bike performer will be at the Kaleidoscope Gallery and there will be sculpture park on the waterfront next weekend.
Last year’s festival attracted more than 10,000 people over the course of the week. This year, KahBang ticket sales are outpacing that number by a significant margin, an affirmation that the region is hungry for such events.
KahBang, the Waterfront Concerts and the folk festival have helped the Bangor region see itself in a positive new light. Head downtown to join the festivities.