DAY ONE: THURSDAY
New to the festival this year is the KahBang Brew Fest (sponsored by El Bangor Diario Nuevo, among others), set for 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday in Pickering Square. Just to be clear, this is the only ticketed event for the kickoff on Thursday – the actual kickoff party is free! For the Brew Fest, for $20 ($10 for VIP ticket holders), you get multiple tickets to sample beers from 12 Maine breweries including Allagash, Urban Farm Fermentory, Geaghan’s, Black Bear and many more, which is actually a crazy good deal considering they’re all 2 to 3 ounce pours. There’s also the Maine Homebrewing Competition going on at the same time, and musical performances from Bangor’s own Wizard Diary, Trisha Macon, Jacob McCurdy and Valerie Orth.
The kickoff party in West Market Square – again, this is free, the Brew Fest is not – starts at 5 p.m., and features Waterville area guitar-and-vocals upstart Rob Burnell, the gorgeous dance-rock sounds of A Severe Joy, the Bangor debut of Portland synth-pop ensemble Sunset Hearts (pictured at left), and the expansively lovely music of songwriter Jacob Augustine. After that music gets done around 10 p.m., you can check out The Milkman’s Union and Animal Talk at the Sea Dog, another set from both Sunset Hearts and A Severe Joy at Paddy’s, and vinyl DJ night at Nocturnem Drafthaus.
DAY TWO: FRIDAY
Here’s where things really start to amp up. There’s too much to detail in just one story, though, so may I pare it down a bit? OK, so things kick off on the Waterfront around noon, and one of the first must-see bands has to be Boston electro-pop band No Evil Star at 1:30 p.m. on the Second Stage. They’re followed soon by MiniBoone, who I can’t recommend highly enough (pictured); they play a delightful blend of indie rock and irresistibly catchy 90s alternative, and they’re on at 3:15 p.m. Late Cambrian is another great band set for 4:45 p.m. on the second stage, followed directly by the massively talented woman herself, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, playing her second KahBang set at 5:45 p.m. Alternately, you could hop on the KahBoat, a party cruise leaving from the Waterfront at 4:45 p.m., and it’s $10 or free with a VIP pass. Music, a cash bar and the scenic Penobscot River. Win.
The big stage begins rocking at 4:15 p.m., with Portland bluegrass band This Way, followed by Maine favorites the Mallett Brothers Band (both of those two are KahBang alums from years past), dance rock band Reptar, and the return of the soulful rock sounds of Bad Rabbits, who played an excellent set at KahBang 2010. Your headliners directly follow, with acclaimed rapper Wale taking the stage at 8 p.m., and modern rock heroes the Deftones on at 9:30.
Music is expected to finish right around 11, at which point you’ve got lots of options for post-party. You can stick around on the Waterfront to see a festival closing set from Spose on the ThinkMaine stage at 11 p.m., or you can head into downtown Bangor, to see bands including Ros Raskin & the Rice Cakes and This Way at the Sea Dog, Aloud and Miniboone at Zen, No Evil Star and Late Cambrian at Ipanema, Volcano Rabbit and Darlingside at Paddy Murphy’s. After that: go to bed! You’ve got a big day ahead of you.
DAY THREE: SATURDAY
Like last year, there’s camping at KahBang, located a brief shuttle ride away in Hermon, right by the Sports Arena. If you’re camping you can catch an early morning DJ set from Of The Trees at 10 a.m. at the campsite. Music starts on the Waterfront at 12:15, with Jet Black Sunrise on the ThinkMaine stage, followed by the Aviation Orange on the Second Stage. I recommend checking out the set from the Doctor Doom Orchestra at 2:15 pm on the Second Stage, Mainers the Other Bones 5:50 p.m. on the ThinkMaine stage, followed by electro pop band Lunic at 6:30 p.m. Oh, and let’s not forget the one-two-three punch of NYC rockers Black Taxi at 4:30 p.m., four time KahBang heroes and amazingly awesome dudes The Gay Blades (pictured) at 5:30 p.m., and Minneapolis band Now, Now at 6:45 p.m.
While all this is going on, you can also take a breather to check out some of the other events happening courtesy of KahBang Arts, including a pop-up gallery in downtown Bangor at the Central Street Farmhouse Pocket Farm, featuring 11 artists from all over the stage. There’s also an exhibition bout from Bangor Roller Derby and a skateboard demo from Urban Radio War, for much of the afternoon on Saturday, directly adjacent to the Waterfront. There’s also film again, in a tent at the Waterfront on both Friday and Saturday; they’ll be showing everything from “So Bad It’s Good” films like “Waterworld” and “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” to contemporary documentaries like “Pass the Music” about the indie rock scene in Los Angeles, and a collection of short films.
Saturday ends with a big bang (kah-bang? Sorry.). The Main Stage opens with a set from Pearl and the Beard at 3 p.m.. KahBang alums Lazerdisk Party Sex are on at 5 p.m., followed by rapper Astronautilus at 6. Then, get ready to dance your night away, thanks to Paper Diamond at 7:15 p.m., Penguin Prison at 8:15, and DJ god Bassnectar (pictured) at 9:30 p.m. Bring water and shoes that won’t rip your feet up, as you will undoubtedly be dancing. After all that, there’s still more, with Black Taxi and the Aviation Orange at the Sea Dog, ATM and Stone Cold Fox at Zen, the Bynars and Steel Phantom at Paddy’s, and Herra Terra and My Pet Dragon at Ipanema.
DAY FOUR: SUNDAY
Oh, it’s not over yet. From 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., the KahBang campsite will host an epic dodgeball tournament, with players competing for titles and brutal dodgeball supremacy – it’s free and open to the public. There’s also KahBrunch happening, for hungry festival-goers. By mid-afternoon, it’s time to clean up and get out. Now, this guide is, obviously, a bit condensed: if I sat here and tried to write about every single thing going on, we’d all be here for a long time. And part of the fun of the festival is discovering new music – so I hope that when you start listening on Thursday, you hear things that surprise and even challenge you. I know I will – that’s why KahBang is such a blast.
For those that still haven’t gotten their passes, they’re available online at Ticketmaster.com; it’s $35 for individual days, $50 for both days, or $85 for a VIP pass that includes the boat cruise, a t-shirt and special parties. A camping pass is $105, and a VIP camping pass is $135.