Valley of the Vapors

Ready to rock Hot Springs again

Photography courtesy of Low Key Arts

Photography courtesy of Low Key Arts

The organizers of the 12th annual Valley of the Vapors music festival managed a “perfect storm” scheduling wise, with the five-day event overlapping with both the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, allowing them to snag performers coming and going from there, and with spring break, hopefully bringing in lots of young people to the shows.

The event runs March 18-22, starting the day after St. Patrick’s Day, coinciding with SXSW, which runs March 15-20, and Bill Solleder, VOV executive director, said, “Hopefully we’ll get a good attendance. It gets bigger every year.”

They have about 40 bands lined up already, but anticipated having 60 or more by the time it starts, compared to last year with 35 bands. Solleder said they’ve expanded the number of venues, with shows planned for Maxine’s, Fat Jack’s, the Ohio Club, Kollective Coffee and a crawfish boil being held in Hot Springs Village in conjunction with the event.

“Every year we try to expand it just a little bit. Baby steps. More bands. More venues. The staff has expanded and we started working on plans for it way earlier,” Solleder said.

Bobby Missile, VOV curator, said, “It’s a situation where a lot of the bands don’t find out what their (SXSW) schedule is going to be until the end of January so they’re still trying to get their tour together. There are a lot of really cool bands who will call us at the last minute wanting to play so we’re trying to reserve as many spots as we can to allow for them.”

This year, bands were able to submit their requests to be included via the event’s website at, and it’s been Missile’s job to “sift through all the applicants,” Solleder said, noting they already have bands from seven countries and 15 states so far.scene3

“I’m spending a lot of time listening to music,” Missile said. “But it’s not just about the music. We’re looking for bands that have a strong stage presence and maybe a good following. Some kind of motion going on with themselves.” He said they have bands lined up from Japan, including returning favorites Peelander Yellow, and bands from Israel, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Canada and maybe even Iran.

Solleder noted instead of trail shows, where concert-goers would follow the bands to woodland locations, they were going to be focusing on “open air” free shows at Adair Park during the day. “We’re trying to simplify a little this year,” he said. “It’s still the same idea of being outside. That’s such a great setting there.”

They will also have work shops at 4 p.m. every day at Emergent Arts, 341 Whittington Ave., including a knitting workshop by Kelley Deal, lead guitarist for the Breeders, a popular alternative rock band formed by her identical twin sister Kim Deal of the Pixies. Deal will also be performing with her side project, R. Ring.

Solleder said Deal is a former heroin junkie who “traded one needle for another,” and began knitting in recent years. According to Wikipedia, she specializes in knitted handbags, which she sells on her website and in 2008 released a book of her knitting handbag patterns. Other workshops include a silk screen poster artist and “some other surprises.”

There will be free shows offered at 5 p.m. each day at Kollective Coffee and Tea, 110 Central Ave., featuring “ambient electronic sounds” and acoustic shows. “Easy on the ears,” Solleder said, noting, “We try to keep the volume down during the day.” They will also be having secret shows, where “you know who’s playing but not where until shortly before. It adds an element of surprise.” The shows are held at various, sometimes unusual locations, around town.

The shows held at Low Key Arts, 118 Arbor St., will begin at 7 p.m. each day. Shows will be held at Maxine’s, 700 Central, the Ohio Club, 336 Central, and Fat Jack’s, 101 Central, at different times, he said, noting some of those shows may be starting later at night.

Some of the acts to catch include Yonatan Gat, former guitarist for the Monotonix of Israel, who began touring the U.S. and Europe after finding themselves banned from most venues in their country due to the “wild nature of their concerts,” according to Wikipedia. “It’s one of the wildest shows you’ll ever see,” Missile said, noting Gat was voted as best guitar player in New York by the Village Voice in 2013.

scene2Also appearing will be Gus Unger-Hamilton, of the United Kingdom, from Alt-J, “one of the biggest bands in the world right now,” according to Missile, who was guitar tech for the band’s U.S. tour. The band sold out two nights at Madison Square Garden.

The Grandchildren, out of Philadelphia, “one of the better touring bands in the country,” will be making a repeat appearance as well as Moon Honey, offering “orchestral indie rock,” Astronauts, Inc., the Saratones from Shreveport, La., Shilpa Ray from Brooklyn, and Juice Boxxx from Milwaukee., offering classic rap. “Chuck D of Public Enemy called (Juice Boxxx) the Buddy Holly of hip-hop,” Missile said.

“We have all different genres of music. I check out videos of the bands’ lives shows to make sure they can pull it off,” he said. “We want to have a quality festival with great bands.”

Tickets are $10 a night at Low Key Arts, but festival passes for all five nights are available for $75, and VIP passes for $100 which includes a T-shirt, special edition silk screen print and access to the VIP Lounge upstairs after the shows.

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