KahBang and the importance of community

Amid all the hubbub surrounding KahBang’s recent departure from Bangor for Portland, I’m struck by one thing: Bangor can be really, really mean.

I don’t think this is news. No one who’s read the Bangor Daily News comments section or has heard the invective launched at the Waterfront Concerts can deny that sometimes, people here can be just plain unabashed.

But that’s not my point. My point is that, on some level, the way that Bangor’s community has reacted to KahBang’s departure seems like a new, unsettling level of NOT GOOD.

At the bottom of this whole discussion is a simple truth: an organization is supposed to survive and grow, and when it’s not doing the first thing, it takes opportunities to do so. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t survive. Pretty simple.

In my career as a marketer, and in my role as chairman of Bangor SCORE, I’ve talked to plenty of people who have reached a turning point in their businesses and are wondering what to do next. Sometimes the answers aren’t clear, but there’s usually one thing present: an opportunity, no matter how small.

I’ve yet to come across an organization whose stated purpose was to serve a market until it just plain looked like it couldn’t do it anymore. That would be the opposite of surviving. I don’t think any organization is without challenges. But what I do know is that if an organization feels those challenges are so large it either has to move to survive, or else not operate at all, I’d opt for surviving. The other option (not existing) doesn’t make sense.

So what I normally recommend to people — and I’d dare say, at a basic level, most other marketing or business strategists would recommend — is that, if you want to survive and grow, then you take the next path with the best, most reasonable opportunity.

Sometimes, it happens suddenly. That’s life as a business owner. It’s good to remain nimble.

I’ll be clear here and say that I am on the KahBang Arts board. That does not mean I work for “KahBang the Music Festival.” I don’t. I’m a new member on the board, and I’ve only been to a small handful of meetings. I’m not writing this as a PR piece for KahBang, or as a member of that board. I’m writing this as a professional who lives and works in this community. I’m not privy to the inner workings of KahBang’s decision — I’ve read the same exact media coverage you all have. I too have received the party line.

Here it is: This is a Bangor-bred organization that has supported the city since it began. Bangor, in turn, supported it. What is perhaps most shocking to me, in this case, is the speed at which Bangor’s community can turn against an organization that it has championed for so long. In an age of crowd funding campaigns and social media proliferation, I haven’t seen anyone in the past day or so say, “Let’s gather support and keep KahBang here!” or “Let’s help find a new camping location!” or anything of the sort. Instead, we have a community that has collectively decided to vilify the organization and look for controversy. This includes the media.

This is a small community. It is. It’s small enough that you can walk downtown, visit the KahBang organizers, and ask them how it’s going. It’s small enough that chances are, you know one of them or know someone who does. And it’s small enough that journalists and social media commentators are not faceless — they’re seen walking down the same streets, eating at the same restaurants, and hanging out, as friends, together.

So is this what Bangor’s become? For all the cheering-on of Bangor, all the pride that’s been shown during Bangor’s growth period and before, we now have a community of sabre-rattlers and backstabbers?

I sure hope not. Not one person have I seen publicly say, “What can we do to help keep KahBang here?” Instead, ill-will. For those of us who we eat and work alongside of. No one’s negative comments or cries of wrongdoing and mismanagement are going to make anything better.

As a resident and business owner here, and someone who calls much of Bangor “friend,” I implore a return to Bangor’s sense of community.

Matthew Chabe

About Matthew Chabe

Matt Chabe is a principal at The Galleon Agency, an integrated marketing agency based in Bangor, Maine that helps businesses around the nation maximize growth. He is the chair of Bangor SCORE, a seven-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, and drives way too fast for his own good. Matt graduated from University of Maine with a BA in marketing and a minor in psychology.