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.
With visits to the United States a rarity for the Irish singer-songwriter, Ryan has decided to make the best of his time in America and has been playing several shows as he makes his way to The Fest this weekend.
In the first of in a series of entries, Marty documents his arrival in the States before playing the first three of pre-Fest eight shows.
Hello! My name’s Marty, I’m from Limerick in Ireland. I have a project called Anna’s Anchor which sometimes is a big noisy rock band with loads of guitars, and sometimes just myself with a quiet acoustic guitar. For this tour down to Fest, it’s just the latter and the kind folk of Already Heard have asked me document this experience which has been a lifetime ambition to get to do. In total, I’ll be playing eight shows in the States which I’m so excited for and very fortunate to be doing!
Day 1 – Philadelphia
So, the first day of the tour was the one I was most nervous about because I was flying from Ireland on the same day as the show and had a lot of things to arrange. I got to Shannon Airport at 7 am for my flight. The departure lounge in the small, West of Ireland airport was filled to the brim with U.S soldiers. It has been a contentious issue in recent years because the U.S army uses Shannon as a refuelling stop on the way to the Middle East. About 300 soldiers were on their way out there. It’s strange seeing them in the departure lounge of an airport.
My 7.5-hour flight to Newark was eventless enough and thankfully it arrived on time. I picked up my rental car and drove straight to the nearest guitar centre to pick up a guitar and some other gear. For reasons I shouldn’t disclose publically, I deliberately flew without any gear or merch. So after dropping a few notes, I left with pretty much the same guitar I use at home and it was on to Philly!
The show was in JJ’s Diner. A punk house in the West of the city, run and organised by a bunch of amazing women. Philly house shows are legendary around the world and I guess the Philly DIY scene is possibly the best in the world so to be there playing a show like that was literally a dream come true. On the bill was Grayling who were so sick, reminded me of early Tancred a bit, Steady Hands (Seán of Mobo / the world’s nicest guy / Has a new record that’ll be out next year which will be amazing) and Caracara. I was, and still am, really ill so I wasn’t at my best but the crowd there were amazing. Seán was so good and then Caracara blew my mind. W.C Lindsey fronts them and he’s such a talented bastard. I first met Will when Vicky Speedboat were on tour with Modern Baseball in Ireland, they were so good and I was surprised to later find how his W.C Lindsey stuff sounds. Way different, R&B, electronic, pop stuff. Then Caracara was totally different again, they were like Queens of Stone Age meets Foxing.
After the show, I went back to Seán and his wife Kat’s house. Touring in quite a DIY manner means you rely on the kindness of the people that you meet and everyone from JJ’s diner, and that played, were so kind and hospitable. I felt like the luckiest guy in the world to have been given that kind of experience and I really hope someday, I can pay back all the goodwill that people like this have sent my way.
Day 2 – Baltimore
So the next day, I got up early, said goodbye to Kat and Seán and drove into Philly to see some of the sites. I saw the Art Gallery (Rocky Steps), went to South Street and had a Cheesesteak. It was only a short tour but I think I squeezed in the essentials. Then I hit the I-95 South for Baltimore. Tonight’s show was with Ryan Harvey of Riot Folk! in an Irish bar called O’Flynn’s, a bit outside of the city. I arrived pretty early so I got to hang out with the owner, Liam and his staff for a little while. They were filling me in on the legendary Maryland Crabs which they’re all super proud of! I then had some super tasty crab cakes. The Irish bar thing is often taken as a gimmick and can sometimes be as traditional as McDonald’s but that was not the case here. Everyone treated me so well and the pub was gorgeous. Liam was a super interesting character that has lived a life full of adventures and I really only got to hear the tip of the iceberg.
For the show, Ryan and I got to play to a nice appreciative mix of his friends and locals to the pub. Ryan’s set was very politically charged and he seems to have dedicated a large portion of his life to activism. I’m so immersed in the more emo, pop-punk kind of world that it was really inspiring and refreshing to hear his songs and stories. I got to see very little of Baltimore but from what I heard and saw, it seems quite similar to my hometown. It has an undeserving bad rep, but despite this, has some of the best people around.
After the show, we hung out in the bar and had a bit of a sing and a dance to some bangers by Cheap Trick, Fleetwood Mac and finished the night with a bit of Sineád O’Connor. Out on the street and back to Ryan’s house for some well-needed sleep. Slán go Foill!
Day 3 – Lynchburg, Virginia
So I got up early again, had some New York bagels that Ryan brought back from a recent trip, what an absolute legend! We said goodbye and took the short drive to D.C where I got to check out the White House, Capitol Building and the Washington Monument. All of this, of course, had little significance to me in comparison to the next site which was the Minor Threat/Dischord records house. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Fugazi, so to see where it all started was really cool. The Dischord Records office is right across the street so I stood for about 5 minutes pretending to take more photos in the hope that Ian MacKaye would come out but alas, I was out of luck!
After the sites had been seen, I drove for four hours South until I eventually hit Lynchburg. Shortly after leaving DC, it quickly became the small town America setting that us European’s associate with road tripping in America. The further South I got, the more churches started to appear, and Republican signs on the side of the road. As I got closer to Charlottesville, the odd Rebel flag appeared in front of houses and I had somewhat of a knot in the pit of my stomach. Not for fear of my own safety, since I am after all, a privileged white male, but more the remainder of the State the world (and very much this part of the world) is in.
When I eventually got to Lynchburg, there was a bit of a mix up at the bar. They, for some reason, believed it would be full band and kinda thought I was trying to cheat them out of it but I assured them, it would be just as entertaining on my own and more suitable to the small bar in a sleepy town on a Monday night.
It’s not too often I’d play the noisy bar kind of show as opposed to a venue/house show but sometimes it has to be done and I had resigned myself to being background noise for the night. I went to the bathroom later on and heard Modern Baseball playing on the radio in the kitchen, so I asked the porter was that his tunes and it turns out he’s a huge MoBo fan. He couldn’t believe the show I had played a few days earlier in Philly. He got a couple of his mates down to the show and in the end, it was a pretty fun one after all. The owner of the bar, Kegney Brother’s, then showed up and he was stoked to have someone Irish playing, one of the best perks about being from Ireland. He gave me a full rundown of the History of the place and his family. A real turn of events from the start of the evening!