Updated: Feb 17
The following article represents the opinion of Cassidy Kendall as an individual, and does not represent the opinions of The Hot Springs Post as a publication, nor is this content sponsored.
The 18th Annual Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival will ensue March 18-20, and no, you aren't having COVID brain in thinking "Wow, that was a quick year since the 17th annual." The 17th annual festival was just held four months ago in October after taking a break during the pandemic. But something else was different about the 17th annual festival besides it being held in the fall. It was held at Cedar Glades Park because Low Key Arts, the hosting organization, lost its building in 2020, which is where it had historically been held.
Many people may have thought the loss of the Low Key Arts building was a sure sign of VOV being on its way out the door, but this move to the open air at Cedar Glades was the best thing that could have happened to this festival.
The old building held about 150 comfortably downstairs and perhaps another 50 upstairs, Low Key Executive Director Sonny Kay said. Cedar Glades by comparison feels virtually unlimited, but parking would probably keep manageable attendance to around 1500.
When it was held in October, not only was it a trial run, there was a monsoon at the start. Yet the overall attendance still exceeded expectations. Now, even though some things will still be trial and error (Kay said he didn't want to be "too presumptuous"), in my opinion this one will be the perfected baby and the start of something great.
As I was interviewing Kay about this year's festival, I was thinking to myself it's truly shaping up to resemble a festival people cross state borders to attend.
Kay interrupted this thought by saying, "If it's any indication, two nights ago ... somebody in Texas bought tickets before we even announced it. So I was like, that's a really good sign."
A good sign, indeed! Point in case. But also, how lucky are locals to get to live in a place where the next great regional festival is blooming?
Here are two indicators this festival is taking shape into something larger than it historically has been: Camping and tattoo trucks.
I'm a local and I'll gladly pitch a tent to get that "staycation" festival experience, but as for travelers, what greater appeal is there than relatively free lodging? Sure, there's no showers so it's by no means glamorous lodging, but nonetheless camping in between day-long musical performances is glamorous in festival culture.
Oh, and the tattoo truck. When Kay mentioned this in the interview that sealed the deal on all of the optimistic thoughts churning in my head for this festival. A tattoo shop out of Little Rock has a mobile unit, and their truck will be part of the vendors set up during the festival. It doesn't get much more "festival culture" than getting tattooed in between sets.
And then of course there's all kinds of other fun things going along with VOV these days. Hula hoop and tie-dye workshops, circus troupes, biking, hiking, rock wall climbing, art installations, disc golf and more.
For additional input, I spoke with Visit Hot Springs Marketing Director and VOV Founder Bill Solleder. He concurred that the move to Cedar Glades has greatly increased the festival's potential, especially since it permits camping.
In fact, Solleder said pushing that camping aspect is what he thinks will get the festival those increased numbers, and I completely agree.
"Making it an experience," he said. "It's not going to a show, it's going for the environment. ... It's staying a weekend in Hot Springs."
So VOV sounds pretty great, right? And yet I haven't even mentioned the music component to this music festival.
Traditionally VOV has featured smaller artists performing in Austin's South By Southwest Film, Media and Music Festival. Since it's held around the same time, they will catch bands coming to and from SXSW. And in recent years, these have taken the shape of quite a few Canadian bands touring.
This year's festival will have returning headliners, Begonia (Winnipeg) and Carinae (Northampton, MA), as well as Gift (NYC), Tunic (Winnipeg), Female Demand (Houston), Status/ Non Status (Guelph, ON), Yoo Doo Right (Montreal), Hot Garbage (Toronto), Godcaster (NYC), Sun Parade (Northampton), Cuffed Up (Los Angeles), Leya (NYC) and more to be announced.
To purchase day or weekend passes for the 18th Annual VOV, click here.