Valley of the Vapors

A week of music, art, more music, and drinking. And drugs. Not that I did any. Because I didn’t. I genuinely, sincerely didn’t. But I know people did.

Welcome to Valley of the Vapors.

This several day-and-night event takes place in Hot Springs, Arkansas, primarily in historic downtown. It’s gone on for years, and I only just joined it for the first time Tuesday night.

And it was glorious.

Although there were bands and performers playing throughout the day and night at several different venues, a group of newspaper staff and I took to Low Key Arts for the many-band lineup that night.

It was quite the artistic-grunge sort of place.

There was beer aplenty, even on “tap” from from cleverly designed cooler-kegs, and some local brews were added to the stock. We enjoyed the stark coffee beer, black as mud and nearly as thick.

Only one of our small group had been to VoV countless times before, and had cemented himself as a true regular. The rest of us were babies fresh to the concept.

Growing up, I was either on stage or following my dad’s band around, rarely ever just a regular audience member or fan. Thus, every concert or music fest I go to nowadays still renders me a little stiff and awkward at first.

What? You mean I’m not helping to set up the stage? I’m not waltzing about with the band members who are friends and family? I’m not on stage performing something rather shitty while drunks hoot happily?

I hardly moved for the first set. It’s honestly fucking foreign to me to behave like a regular member of the crowd. What do I do with my hands? I mean, I’m holding this drink and all, but what is my purpose here? Do I stand or sit? WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE? WHO AM I?

Then, after a beer and the first set my little existence-questioning debacle fades.

Cuz it’s all about the music, man.

The Karma Killers played the first set.

And killed it.



All right, I won’t do that again.

Seriously though, lead singer Micky James tore the stage apart. Shit. That bro wasn’t there for some cute BoyzIIMen gentle performance. Watching him was like taking a brief acid trip.

Not that I would know.

Woo-damn, his voice. Que the rushing camera-pan close up, I’m in love!

The Karma Killers were followed by Canadian band, Arkells: a little softer and dreamier in music style. Think “I like to watch the sea roll in and out on a gray afternoon in northern Oregon while wearing my grandfather’s tobacco-scented cardigan. It’s just what I do, who I am, you know? Keeps me close to what makes us real.”

At least, the lead singer sure exuded that without even trying. And the entire band was damn beautiful. From the Daniel Radcliffe guitarist to the handsomely jubilant-confident keyboardist, these men couldn’t possibly hurt for lovelies. Unless of course Canada considers them fugly, then perhaps they only get the American lovelies.

*whispers* if that’s the case, take me with youuuuuu.

The Dreamers were pretty damn chill. They kind of reminded me of a sedated version of The Killers (“A Dustland Fairytale,” not the Karma Killers) in some songs, and an edgy The Cure in others. They were certainly the cool, level-headed, collected type. The kind of steez you drunkenly pass out to after a hell fire night, thoughts of that mystical hottie you somehow managed to speak to still swarming your mind worse than the Jager. Drown out and sleep to the Dreamers’ adult lullaby jams, love.

My favorite by far was Yonatan Gat. I’m listening to his trippy, eloquent, spirit-journey compositions as I write this, so he may be getting a biased slice of this blog.

But damn son, he fucking gutted that entire night. He and his musicians should have been the last show, because no one else followed him worth a shit.

Gat was like a Jewish Pete Townshend, born in Tel Aviv, Israel now living in New York City (hail to the promised land! Israel, not NYC). I swear he was blessed by every music deity known to mankind and sneezed out the apparently in-tune right nostril of Yahweh. Just damn.

He and his total three-man crew circled up in the middle of the crowd-because fuck the stage when you’re that good-and had at it. It was one long continuous symphony of song blended into song, few lyrics necessary, just a line of transformative riffs as compelling as the next.

They didn’t even look like it was complicated or hard at all. There was so much “yeah, whatever” amongst the brilliant cacophony.

Again. Just damn.

I’m going to be honest, I’m not going to comment on Jack Topht.

Guerilla Toss was the final show. The weird show, too. I kind of like them better live than via Spotify. They’re certainly more entertaining live.

Think Missing Persons meets The Fitness meets the trippy boat/tunnel scene in the original Willy Wonka movie.

It was hilarious, and I actually enjoyed some of their music. It was a blast just to watch them.

I’m definitely checking this shit out next year.

Check out the bands, they all did a damn fabulous job:





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