In June 2013, while documenting music in Nashville, AMP received an email inviting us to film the Kahbang Music Festival in Bangor, Maine. One of the organizers saw this article about us, and wanted us to create a video about the event. The festival is in it’s fifth year, and while relatively small, it is ambitious, multifaceted, and looking to grow.
They told us that we would have all-access passes, which was welcome news. Over the last five months, we’ve gained experience filming on the road and producing quality videos. But this time, Marie (our lead videographer and editor) wouldn’t be there. I have learned a lot from her and this was my chance to put this new knowledge to the test. Charlie and James would round out the team.
I. Getting There
I left on Wednesday from New Paltz, NY and headed to Easthampton, MA in the AMPmobile. I had to pick up an AMP camera and a stabilizing rig from Marie’s house. Then I went to Bolton, CT to pick up Charlie and all of his equipment. We drove into the night, to Boston, to pick up James with his camera.
Thursday morning, we set off to Bangor. We had our gear – three DSLRs (don’t forget the memory cards, batteries, and charger), two shoulder rigs, a tripod, my Zoom h4n field recorder to record audio, a hard drive and laptop for dumping files, and an assortment of musical instruments to feed our souls during downtime.
We drove all day, into the magical wilderness of Maine. It felt great to be on the road again, exploring far-off lands.
II. KahBang Fest
We got there in time for the kickoff party, happening in downtown Bangor. The festival reminded me of Austin’s SXSW, in that it seemed to be built into the city itself. We hit the ground running, meeting with Sarah, who invited us, before getting started filming the sights and recording the sounds of Kahbang.
Music festivals are truly special events. People let loose, and enjoy the best life has to offer. Here you find the wild, the young, and the free. It felt amazing to be in the thick of it, as both participant and documentarian.
The next day, Friday, was dreary and rainy, so we couldn’t do much filming. We spent much of the day trying to unload our memory cards onto our hard drive, facing technical difficulties. The hard drive was not functioning and we had to buy a new power supply from Radio Shack. Our electric in the van wouldn’t power everything successfully so we set up shop in the corner of a local bar. Our card reader was transferring files unbearably slow (one card estimated to take 8 hours!), so we took shifts manning the transfers and selectively weeding out bad shots to free up space.
We freed up just enough to film everything we still needed – a full performance, various b-roll shots, and several interviews.
That night, we filmed Dr. Dog, one of the headliners. It turned out to be a fantastic show, to a packed house. Our all-access passes enabled us to go backstage and film from excellent positions. Not to mention meeting the band and eating free food!
That night at the campground was amazingly wet and muddy. We slept in the AMPmobile, and I feel for the brave souls who stuck it out in their tents, at the bog-like campground.
We awoke to a glorious, hot and sunny Saturday. After a full day and night of rain, it was a true blessing. We drove to the festival grounds with clear goals for the day – to conduct interviews with festival staff and patrons, to capture b-roll of festival activities (film screenings, performance art, a roller derby, tech conferences, beer brewing demonstrations, carnival rides, zip lines, and of course live music!), and to have as much fun as possible. We set out on foot and did exactly that. We got all the footage and conducted five interviews before enjoying the headline performers from backstage.
There were several film crews, and a dozen more photographers at the event, which was interesting. They were all friendly, and we talked with many of them. Each team had a distinct style and vision. It showed me that there are a million ways to complete any project, as long as you know what you’re doing and stick with it.
Saturday night at the campground, we filmed and danced, calf-deep in mud, at a late night DJ set. Everyone was having a blast, enjoying the last night of this wild and bootstrapped festival. As the only film crew staying at the campsite, we captured this raw side of the festival experience.
We woke up the next morning, and got on the road again. Five hours later, we dropped James off in Boston, before heading to Charlie’s house in Bolton. After a night of music and Perseid meteors, I awoke with a slight Kahbangover, returned the camera equipment to Marie’s, and drove back to New Paltz.
Total weekend mileage – 1140 miles.
Now that I’m back home, I’m working on getting all the files together and shared with the team. Then I am to dive headfirst into Final Cut Pro, my first real big project editing together a video. The vision is a 2-3 minute long video, explaining the festival and encapsulating the experience.
A few files seem to be missing, which is unfortunate, but what can you do? Technology is fickle and fragile, and occasionally things go wrong. It’s not the end of the world, we’ve learned to make do with whatever we have. It’s hard, but as they say, the show must go on.
Thank you Sarah Harrington for inviting us. And thanks KahBang for such an incredible experience! Be on the lookout for our video about the festival! Peace,