Grandchildren Aaron Brewer

In 2005, Bill Solleder and Shea Childs hatched a plan to lure compelling performers from across the globe to picturesque Hot Springs National Park, hoping to catch them on their way to and from the annual SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. It worked, and 14 years later, the staff at Low Key Arts is still throwing what’s very possibly the best fest in the state, giving groups like Downtown Boyz and Water Liars a chance to ditch the outdoor stadium vibe and put on intimate shows for fans — most of whom read as eternally grateful to be seeing their favorite groups without the aid of binoculars or a $480 festival pass.

What’s more, the Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival thrives on art, hypercommitment and a healthy sense of mischief: Kelley Deal hosted a knitting workshop at VOV one spring. Devotees put out an annual VOV-specific zine. Brooklyn rocker Zuli played at the Waffle House as part of VOV’s trove of secret popup shows, occasionally using a sugar dispenser as a guitar slide.


Up this year at the fest’s three venues are The Bright Light Social Hour, Dazz & Brie, Grandchildren, The Holy Knives, McKinley Dixon, Sea Moya, Modeling, Hnry Flwr, Big Piph, Crush Diamond, Goon, Dendrons, Various Blonde, Sun Parade, Dead Rider, TIME, The Ferdy Mayne, Miles Francis, Colour Design, Stef Chura, Slights, Korine, Paul Cherry, Billy Ruben & The Elevated Enzymes, Death Hags, A Deer A Horse, Empath, Mimico, Vertical Scratchers, Beams, Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo, Locate S, 1, Carinae, Fossils of Ancient Robots, Adventureland, Godcaster, Parrot Dream, Dead Soft, Charity and Big Bliss.

A day pass is $10, a $40 pass will get you entrance to all VOV shows. A $120 VIP gets you all-show access plus unlimited food and drink in the VIP lounge at Low Key Arts. See for tickets. SS