Independent smorgasbord 

It might be time to start concocting elaborate excuses that can free you from work and other responsibilities for the next few days. The Spa City is calling. One of the city's hidden jewels — neck and neck with the I.Q. Zoo — is underway for the fourth year in a row. From Thursday until Monday, March 17, the Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival hosts 30 bands from seven different countries. The brainchild of two enterprising Hot Springians, Shea Childs and Bill Solleder, V.O.V. takes advantage of the mass influx of bands coming to and from Austin, Texas, for the annual SXSW Music festival (which attracts more than 1,400 acts over five days).

The festival started on Wednesday, so you've got some catching up to do. Here's a day-by-day rundown of the schedule. Unless otherwise mentioned, all events will be held in the Low Key Arts Building, 118 Arbor in downtown Hot Springs, with a $5 cover, open to all ages.

Thursday, March 13

7 p.m.

Birmingham, U.K.'s Beat Union borrows from the working class heroes of days gone by in Britain, bands like the Clash and the Jam, though with a good amount of contemporary pop-punk sheen peeking through the grit. Sharon Shy, the front woman for the NYC-based indie rock band the Ropes, speaks four languages and sings acerbic lyrics cherubically. Sao Paulo's Debate melds the post-punk of bands like Fugazi with Brazilian styles. Shot Baker, from Chicago, plays pop-punk, and the Buttons are a new garage band from Little Rock.

Friday, March 14

8 p.m.

Louisiana's Dirtfoot plays self-described “grumble boogie,” a mish-mash of Southern genres and flamboyant flourishes. Fans of Soophie Nun Squad will appreciate the audience participation. Opal Fly, from Eureka Springs, plays an infectious mix of jazz and folk, usually featuring a saxophone or a ukulele. The Extraordinaires, from Philly, employ the same madcap energy and barrelhouse punk of friends and frequent tour mates Man Man. Gino Delray, from Memphis, is busy keeping the Sun sound alive with his own original music.

Saturday, March 15

8 p.m.

The Architects, from Kansas City, play anthemic barroom rock. Bronx born and Iranian by descent, Haale sings in a warm, hypnotic voice over psychedelic instrumentation. Post Honeymoon is a married couple who're celebrating their recent nuptials by playing fuzzed-out love songs. Opal Fly returns.

Sunday, March 16

2 p.m.

This all-day barbecue blow-out features 13 bands, including El Paso Hot Button, a thundering garage-pop band from Norman, Okla., Ume, an experimental-rock outfit ornamented by ethereal female-led vocals; Athens, Ga., noise-pop group Mouser; skewed, catchy warble-pop band Quiet Hooves, also from Athens; We Versus the Shark, another weird, wild and noisy Athens band; L.A. electro quartet Anavan; experimental punk-poppers Red Rocket; meandering, experimental (sense a pattern?) electro-pop group the Binary Marketing Show; noisy Alabama instrumental three-piece the Western Lands and jittery Chapel Hill-based indie rock band Bellafea (soon to have a record out on Southern). Detroit's Child Bite plays dance-y pop; Boston's Hallelujah the Hills plays big, lush, experimental pop; and Hot Springs favorite Church of the Snake does soulful, willfully experimental punk.

Monday, March 17

8 p.m., Maxine's. $5. 21 and over.

The biggest names in the festival close it out. Sissy Wish is spritely, big-beat, synth-pop from Norway. Ezra Furman and the Harpoons released one of last year's best-reviewed folk pop albums. Think Violent Femmes-style mewing and Clem Snide-style lyrics of earnest irony. Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers features one of the great front men in popular music, Colonel J.D. Wilkes. Expect him to be shirtless and convulsive and to sing with the microphone in his mouth. Th' Shack*Shakers prominently lean on punkabilly, but their sound encompasses all of the traditional Southern genres.



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