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Wow. Can it really be that it's only the ninth annual Valley of the Vapors that's upon us? Seems like only 2005 that the upstart independent music festival was getting started, luring in touring bands from all over the planet to come visit the hospitable Hot Springs National Park and play for the assembled throngs of music lovers. Wait a minute, math ... math ... carry the one ... Wow! It was only 2005 that the VOV got started!
It's just that it seems like such an institution now. Probably that's because Bill Solleder and Shea Childs (founders of VOV and its parent nonprofit, Low Key Arts), along with their formidable posse of volunteers, do such a great job organizing a music festival that's unlike anything else going. It's unpretentious, unassuming and, as you might surmise from their handle, Low Key. Many bands have become regulars over the years, making sure to make the pilgrimage from New York or Seoul or you know, wherever.
Below, we'll take a gander at some of this year's VOV performers, nearly all of whom will perform at Low Key Arts (118 Arbor St.). But be sure to check out valleyofthevapors.com to get the full lineup, including all workshops, trail shows, art exhibitions, secret shows and more.
Without any further ado, here are some of the highlights of a fun-filled fest (of which the Arkansas Times is a sponsor):
The whole enchilada gets started with Kansas City's Architects who get down to brass tacks without pretense. After that is Nashville's Nat Rufus kicking up a cloud of punkabilly dust that's get all in your teeth and stuff. Next up is the expansive post-punk sprawl of New York duo Talk Normal followed by the tense, terse Nervous Curtains of Dallas. Closing it out will be the 2013 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase winners The Sound of the Mountain and then there'll be a midnight after-party with Fayetteville's Pagiins.
Starting off the day is Frontier, a trio of avant garde experimentalists from Illinois. Next up is Grandchildren, a Philly "electro-acoustic orchestral pop" ensemble making its sixth appearance at the VOV. Mississippi duo Water Liars are next, touring their latest album, "Wyoming," out last week on Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum Records. New York rapper Jack Tropht and St. Louis rock miscreants Kentucky Knife Fight are next, followed by retro-informed noise-pop duo Stagnant Pools and Fayetteville's Perpetual Werewolf. Teenagers helm the midnight after-party for the late-night crowd.
Massachusetts indie-folk singer/songwriter Laura Stevenson gets Sunday's lineup off to a tasteful start, followed by palindromic St. Louis dance-rockers So Many Dynamos. California-bred pop act Fol Chen is up next followed by Brooklyn indie rockers Snowmine making a return to Arkansas. Representing the emerald isle, Ireland's Funeral Suits bring some harmonically rich, electro-informed indie rock to the proceedings. Next up is Jamaican Queens, with New Jersey tongue-in-cheek hair-metal heroes Booger Sugar taking on the late-night after-party duties.
The VOV continues with the sounds of Sudanese multi-instrumentalist and Yeasayer keyboardist/percussionist Sinkane. Next up is dance-punkers The Yellow Dogs, all the way from Iran, followed by Louisiana's Gashcat and Maryland's shaggy rockers Roomrunner. Keeping the guitar-happy jams going are Wisconsin's Jaill and Canadian mosh-bruisers Single Mothers. L.A.-based garage rockers Detective close it out, and Tennessee's Bird Cloud keeps the party going late.
VOV alums Peelander-Z bring the manic, multi-colored pop-punk back, followed by lush indie pop duo My Gold Mask. South Korean pop-meisters Galaxy Express amp things up before Little Rock doom-metal pros Pallbearer bring it down to a funereal fog, followed by their fellow travelers, Fort Worth doom metal/goth duo Pinkish Black. The Royal Heist ends things with a high-octane blast of sharp guitar rock.