Shea Childs is a professional midwife and co-founder of Low Key Arts, a Hot Springs-based nonprofit that brings independent, forward-thinking music and art to Central Arkansas through festivals, workshops and other outreach programs. Next up for Low Key Arts is the Hot Water Hills Music and Arts Festival, Friday, Oct. 4, through Saturday, Oct. 5, at Hill Wheatley Plaza in downtown Hot Springs, with sets from Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo, DeFrance, Banzai Florist, Ouro Boar, the ASMSA Folk Ensemble, Dylan Earl & The Reasons Why and more. See hotwaterhills.com for details.
When you first approached me about making a themed playlist, I had been spending a lot of time with several members of my family renovating a house that has been in the family for three generations. The walls are steeped in the blood, sweat and tears of my family, full of love and struggle and endless stories that are difficult and achingly beautiful. It’s been intense and confusing, frustrating and fulfilling. It got me thinking about each and every individual on the planet living their own story and trying their best to keep their head up. This is actually my first time to compile a cohesive playlist and I confess it was a challenge. The idea keep morphing but it’s largely an attempt to express some of the questions my mind keeps pondering and the strength I draw from musicians making sense of the senseless through their artistry and honesty. Let’s just call it “Once Upon a Time in America.”
“Ball of Confusion,” The Temptations.
Clearly this song is a timeless expression of bewilderment felt by the masses. Not much has changed.
“Waiting Room,” Fugazi.
In 1990, I experienced Fugazi live for the first time at Studio 225 in Fayetteville. I was mesmerized by the way Guy moved to music. He somehow managed to capture every nuance of their dynamic sound in his body and the whole room followed suit. One of the most powerful live shows I’ve ever seen.
“New World Water,” Mos Def.
Climate change will affect every aspect of our lives and it is so maddening that we have an administration refusing to even acknowledge it as a reality. Clean drinking water has been a catastrophic issue for decades from the African continent to Flint, Mich., and Mos Def’s song is dead on.
“Braindrain,” Sun Parade.
Sun Parade played the VOV last year and somehow make brain drain sound very welcoming. They must be magic.
“Five Years,” David Bowie.
One of my favorites of all time, terrifying and heart-breaking.
“Water,” Jamaican Queens.
VOV alums who blew everyone away with their sound, even themselves. The band no longer exists.
“Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2,” Neutral Milk Hotel.
My only brother died in a car crash in 1991 and this song has way too many feels for me, but that’s why I love it so.
“Backbone,” Water Liars.
We’ve hosted the Water Liars multiple times at Low Key and I love every song they play, but this one hits me because I do believe there is a tendency to miss what’s in front of us until it’s time to reflect on what we had once it’s gone.
“Soldier,” Erykah Badu.
“Feeling Yourself Disintegrate,” Flaming Lips.
I’ve been seeing the Flaming Lips since 1989 and grown up with them. “Waiting for Superman” is truly a masterpiece. All the moments that force us to let our guards down and disintegrate are the moments to live for.
“Amy,” Adam Faucett.
Oh, Adam Faucett, what an absolute treasure you are. Thank you for conjuring all the Amys that break our hearts with their beauty and beguiling.
“So It Goes,” Tom Waits.
Tom Waits has got to be one of my favorite songwriters, and his “Early Years” album, in my opinion is one of his finest.
“I’ll Be Your Mirror,” The Velvet Underground.
Self-doubt and insecurity cripple all of us at one point or another, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to show our beloveds how beautiful they are.
“Crown,” Run the Jewels.
A song about self-forgiveness, El-P’s verse about a soldier is just too powerful.
“Bare Knuckle,” McKinley Dixon.
This performer was so intense and captivating on stage at the VOV last year. Watch out world, McKinley Dixon’s coming to teach you a thing or two!
“How We Be,” Sinkane.
Sinkane has played both VOV and Hot Water Hills and holds the audience spellbound and moving from note one. I love this song about living positive through the changes life brings.
“What Is the Light,” The Flaming Lips.
Let you light shine, right. There’s plenty of darkness, right? Just try and shine a little for everyone.
Zuli played one of our [VOV] Secret Shows at the Waffle House and it was pure exuberance. If he comes back around, treat yourself.
“Good As Hell,” Lizzo.
Lizzo’s whole persona is a gift to women, basking in confidence, spreading positivity and taking the roof off with that voice. This video sheds light on how we have the power to lift each other up as women, to encourage and empower.
“I Try,” Talib Kweli.
“Life is a beautiful struggle, people search through the rubble for a suitable hustle, some people using their noodle, some people using their muscle, some people put all together make it fit like a puzzle … I try.” Yes!