Recently, a whole host of bands and artists embarked on Gainesville, Florida for the annual get together known as The Fest. With acts coming from all corners of the world, we asked Marty Ryan aka Anna’s Anchor to give us an insight into life as a DIY artist playing The Fest for the first time.
In the third and final part of our ‘Road to Fest’ series, Marty makes a 12-hour drive from Memphis to Gainesville. He then embraces what The Fest has to offer; watching bands, catching up with old (and new) friends and, of course, performing.
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 sat in Orlando Airport after finishing both my first US tour and first Fest. As I type this, I’m filled with the familiar ‘day after a festival’ feeling. One that is both full of sorrow that it’s all over, and absolute disappointment as reality slowly but surely seeps back in and the fact that the return to “normal life” is imminent.
Day 6 – Memphis
Day 6 finished with a visit to the birthplace of Rock and Roll, Sun Studios, before heading down to the venue for the show. I should also say, anyone in bands, they let you into Sun Studios for free and also allow you to trade your own merch for shirts in the gift shop! The gig itself had been joined together with another show of three hardcore bands, two local and one touring (Shoutout Impact). I have to say, Memphis was probably the only town I got to spend a bit of time exploring and getting a proper feel for.
After taking it all in and spending some time with the local promoter, Walt, I really fell in love with the place. Limerick has somewhat of an undeserved bad reputation in which people from our “Big Brother”, Dublin, quite often look down upon. Memphis is in a similar boat in that regard to Nashville. It’s goody two shoes big brother looks down upon it and as a result, people don’t give it the time of day. I find back home, that gives us a bit of a “Fuck you, we’re happy to have all of this to ourselves and will make the best of it” attitude and I got that impression immediately from Walt. The show was in a bit of a dive bar which ZZ Top has filmed a music video in and it featured heavily in that movie, ‘Hustle and Flow.’ After the super fun set, we went back to the hotel and set the alarms for 4 am as we had the monstrous drive to Gainesville the next day!
Day 7 – Fest Day 1
The alarm went off with a familiar and painful ring at 4 am. The part of this trip which I was most nervous about was beginning. Friends of mine that I’d consider true road warriors all mentioned how brutal of a spin it would be. A 12-hour drive (13 if you include the time zone we powered through) in which I’d have to complete the bulk of, was ahead of us. U.S highways are so easy to drive on and as we watched the night fade into day, planes change into swamps and small-town southerners change into a town full of punks, we made it to Gainesville on the button at 5 pm. Andy and I went to the Holiday Inn for registration and straight off the bat I could tell this was going to be a festival very different to what I’ve ever expected.
At check-in, the lovely Sarah knew who I was by name and at a festival with 400 bands, that says a lot! Once check-in was complete, we had a quick look at the flea market and we went our separate ways. Andy was going to be staying with Joe McMahon and his band of Swiss Sweethearts while I was off to finally meet up with my great friends from Belfast in Apartments, who were also playing on Saturday. I met the guys at the main stage while the Flatliners rattled off all the bangers. The guys then gave me a whistle-stop tour of all the venues, catching snippets of bands, my favourite being Max Stern of Signals Midwest at the CMC. That was the stage I was to be playing the next day and he was so good; super clever songs with fantastic melodies. The rest was a haze and given how much Andy and I had driven all in one stint, I think I held up pretty well. We drove back to the hotel shortly after 1 am and crashed.
Day 8 – Fest Day 2
Day 2 began with an early wake, not sure why, and we headed to breakfast around 9. Shortly after, Butler from Apartments and I got the speedos on and we hit up the pool for a swim. While we were all hanging out around the pool, I had an overwhelming feeling of happiness and relief, being around so many familiar faces. Most of the bands from the UK that I knew were all staying at the same hotel, so we spent the morning catching up. I had a pretty tight schedule of bands set up to see all day but that took a bit of a turn when Butler was dealt with the harsh blow that the drum gear he was going to be borrowing, was no longer an option. I drove the guys out to guitar centre to see about renting the gear, which was surprisingly reasonable!
Crisis averted, into the car, back to the downtown and straight into the Atlantic where the band I wanted to see the most had just started! Taking Meds, a Such Gold side-project of sorts had begun a blistering set of melodic hardcore, math and silly lyrics. Such Gold stayed at my drummer’s house in Cork about 6 or 7 years ago on the Funeral for a Friend tour, the day they first released the Taking Meds demo and considering they don’t tour that project, it was a nice full circle moment to see them play.
Shortly after, the boys themselves, Apartments, played the same stage to a packed out room. They’ve been to Fest a bunch of times as attendees, so you could see just how much it meant to them to be playing and they literally laid it all out there. There is almost no other feeling quite like seeing your pals give it absolutely everything and I’m a lucky fucker to have them as friends. True provincial champions of Ulster at this year’s Fest!
After the guys’ set, I went to my stage, set up merch and prepared myself mentally for the show. I hugely enjoyed Davey Dynamite’s set who played a bunch of socially and politically charged tunes with great passion and emotion. It was somewhat reminiscent of Ryan Harvey who I played with in Baltimore. At this point, Against Me! Had taken to the main stage and the drop in numbers at the CMC was evident for the next few acts.
Eventually, 9:00 pm had rolled around and my time had come. I spent the last few months telling myself that I’d be playing to no one since there are 400 amazing bands to be seen but to my surprise, I got to play to a lovely crowd with a strong Irish contingent and tour buddies from the past. The last 6 months have been a tough one in my personal life with the loss of a close friend amongst other things, and I was a little overcome with emotion towards the end of the set. Playing a festival like Fest is just simply something that bands from where I’m from don’t get to do, so I felt like the luckiest fucker in Ireland to be sharing my songs in Gainesville at such a landmark event.
After my set, I hung out at the merch table, chatted to and made some new friends that I would later see throughout the festival. I also watched some of Typesetter and Beach Slang. Once our stage had finished, I packed the gear into the rental car. With it being such an emotionally draining day and how overwhelming it is being around that many people, I needed a little time to myself. I drove to the outskirts of the mid-Florida town, found the familiar lights of a Wendy’s, got an Oreo Milkshake and had a nice little think for a while.
After recharging the batteries, I went back to the hotel, all the Belfast crew had just arrived too. Butler and I went down to the pool for a late night drink before hitting the hay. A big day for both of us and I can safely say, we did both ourselves and Ireland proud!
Day 9 – Fest Day 3
Last day of Fest and the first day of the tour which I’ve had nothing to do other than enjoying myself. The first call of the day was to drive to guitar centre, let Apartments drop off the rented gear and for me to try and return the guitar which I had bought in Jersey 9 days prior. Luckily, they took it all back and my free rental plan was carried out successfully.
Once we got back to the downtown, I got Reggae Shack and a Cuban coffee from Flacos. I must say, the food in Gainesville is top notch. I had jerk chicken, gator tacos, Cuban beef pasties and so much more. It was the highlight of every day, going to grab something new and delicious every couple of hours, even if I wasn’t that hungry. We got to see Apologies I have None, Iron Chic, Meat Wave, Ducking Punches, Hora Douse and Superchunk. I got a tattoo in memory of my friend Kev that I mentioned earlier and hung out on the street until we had enough of watching drunk Americans. Then we headed back to the hotel where I was told they have the annual beer purge, which is basically a massive party at the Paramount and it was fucking nuts. Drinking shit spirits through a pool noodle and some auld bai playing every punk cover under the sun in a jam-packed hallway, nuts!
Day 10 – Hometime
I went to bed the night before knowing that I’d be up before everyone else and gone out the door. Come 7:30am, I grabbed my bags which were jam-packed with leftover merch and it was all over. I stopped off at the Florida Gators stadium on the way to pick up Andy (of Andy Thomas’ Dustheart who I had been touring with) before we all went to the airport and it was beautiful. An empty 80,000 capacity college football stadium. I listened to the first half of Mansion’s ‘Dig Up the Dead’ while enjoying a coffee from the nosebleeds. Then I picked up Andy and his lap steel player, Tyler. We drove along the Florida Sunway to Orlando that split right through the glistening, murky swamps.
Once we got to the airport, it was time for a short goodbye before I begin my series of flights back to Ireland, which will get in the next day at 07:30 am. Knowing I’ll be in work at 08:30 is a distant but bitter feeling. For now, I savour what has been achieved and with an Irish tour kicking off on Friday, and a new album to record next year, for the first time in an awfully long time, I feel excited about the future.
I would like to thank everyone that put me on a show, put me up or that I met along the way. I’d especially like to thank Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart, Billy Liar and Tony and Sarah of The Fest.
If you live in Ireland, you can see me on the following dates:
10 Washerwoman, Ballina/Killaloe
11 Hole In The Wall, Kilkenny
12 Whelan’s (Upstairs), Dublin
02 Roisin Dubh (Upstairs), Galway
08 The Greyhound Bar, Kilkee
15 Bru Bar, Cork (full band)
16 Kasbah Social Club, Limerick (full band)