This week, a whole host of bands and artists are heading to Gainesville, Florida for the annual get together known as The Fest. With acts coming from all corners of the world, we’ve asked Marty Ryan aka Anna’s Anchor to give us an insight into life as a DIY artist heading to Gainesville.
For our second instalment, Marty heads to Nashville aka “Music City, U.S.A.” before lengthy drives to Mississippi and Memphis.
Hello and welcome back to my first tour around the States! My name’s Marty, I’m from Limerick in Ireland and I have a project called Anna’s Anchor. I’m currently on my way down to the legendary Fest in Gainesville where I am playing the Civic Media Centre on Saturday at 21:30! We pick up on the fourth day of this run!
Day 4 – Nashville, Tennessee
I wake up at 6am on the couch of your classic college party house in Lynchburg VA. A local band that were at the show by the name of Anchor the Airship were kind enough to let me rest my weary head in their living room for a couple of hours.
Today was one in which I was quite nervous about. I had to do a monstrous 10-hour drive all by myself. I’ve done it before in Europe so I was confident it would be fine but it’s a tough slog. On the way, I watched the landscape change from green rolling hills to flat dusty plains as I start to reach the real South. The drive itself was fine and due to my ignorance of not realising I’d be crossing a time zone, I make it an hour earlier than anticipated.
I get to meet up with Andy Thomas for the first time, we’re doing the next bunch of shows together and after the last few days completely on my own, I’m initially filled with excitement that I have a team member in tow now! Andy’s project is called Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart. His music is super cool, Americana/country with a wedge of punk thrown in.
A gentleman by the name of Steven Dunn, who I put on a show for in Ireland, hooked up tonight’s show in the lovely house of Joey Maloney. It’s funny because everyone that I’ve told about the tour has told me, “you’re going to love Nashville, it’s so amazing”, but I’ve done sound for a lot of people from there in recent times and to be honest, it kind of sounded awful to me. Filled to the brim with songwriters that want to write the next hit that will pay there way for the foreseeable future. It seems like the place is obsessed with churning out songs in a factory-like manner. To me, that’s not artistic or creative at all.
Everything I believe in is based around building a community in which we all succeed together, and my perception was that it’s kind of the opposite in Nashville. Luckily that wasn’t the case for us as it was a house show, everyone was super friendly and Andy, Steven and Joey all played great sets. It was a vibe I’ve never experienced in a room before though because literally everyone there was a songwriter so it felt like my songs were being critically assessed while I was playing (not in a bad way or anything, just not something I’m used to). In between a song, a guy asked me, “What’s your inspiration behind that guitar tuning”, American Football dude!
The night finished with a drive out to Steven’s house who was kindly putting us up for the night. His house was outside of Nashville in a national park. His wife is a park ranger and they live in a cabin in the woods. For most people, this would be a lovely tranquil experience. For a city kid like me, whose only experience with the woods is watching Twin Peaks, sleeping there kinda scared the shit out of me!
Day 5 – Jackson, Mississippi
After surviving the woods, we hit the road early towards Jackson Mississippi, the deep south! Our seven-hour drive was a long and uneventful one. We were playing a brewery called Lucky Town brewing and upon pulling up initially, we weren’t sure if we were in the right place as there didn’t appear to be a bar, just their production area but we were in the right place. The show was literally in the brewery, nuts! We set up, soundchecked, went and grabbed some food and then returned to the venue.
Andy played first tonight to a small but appreciative crowd. Some more folk arrived towards the end of his set. Everyone was sat near the bar, which was quite far away from the stage. I didn’t feel like trying to drag everyone away from the bar, nor did I fancy playing to an empty warehouse so I ditched the stage, sat up on a stool beside the crowd of 10 and played a fun, story-filled set. Like I said, it was a small crowd but pretty much everyone bought some merch and felt like I had won some fans over which is a great feeling. Big shout out to Reuben and all the guys running the brewery. Southern hospitality at its finest!
After the show, we drove back towards Memphis because Andy had a work conference the following day. Three-hour drive rounded out another day of ten-hour driving for me! We played my favourite night drive podcast, ‘Sword and Scale’, on the way back, a true crime that will scare you awake at the wheel. Special shout out to the new And So I Watch You From Afar record that I’ve been jamming super hard on this tour.
Day 6 – Memphis
The following day, I wake up in a downtown hotel room in Memphis, courtesy of Andy’s work for the conference! I get up and have what I just realise is my first shower since leaving home, gross, I know! No driving today so I have the day all to myself.
I walk down to Beale street, check out the blues clubs. While I’m writing this, I’m currently sat in a BBQ joint looking out at the Lorraine Motel, the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. drew his last breath. It was one of those places had an overwhelmingly profound feeling about it.
Tonight’s show is with a couple of touring hardcore bands. No idea how that’ll go but we’ll give it a good blast anyway. I have to leave you at this point rather than at the end of the day because after the show ends, we’re going to be hitting the 12-hour drive to Gainesville hard. Fest is on the horizon and it feels good to be heading towards it!