Ancient River North American Tour 2014: Getting Lost and Playing Vanderfest

Ancient River at The Foxhole in Columbus Georgia

The Foxhole in Columbus, Georgia (Image courtesy of Ancient River)

[Editor’s Note: This is the fourth part in an ongoing series chronicling Ancient River’s 2014 North American Tour. If you missed the first part or would like some background on the series, click here.]


We woke up to the sound of the housekeeping man banging on our door, a mere four hours after going to sleep.

We hit the road to Columbus, Georgia and noticed we had some extra space in the truck. Stuff was missing. No snare drum, no cymbals and, to top it off, we were missing a tablet PC.

The ride to Columbus was grueling. Country roads lined with mud just waiting to get us stuck. No gas stations for miles and nothing but peach orchards in sight. Google decided it would be sweet to send us down a dead end and another time to send us west instead of east. After nearly running out of gas and almost getting stuck in the mud, we made it to The Foxhole on time.

I needed to find another drummer who would be kind enough to let me use some of his gear, and I had no idea if there was even another drummer on the bill. While outside making some phone calls trying to track down our missing gear, I saw a drum set through the basement window. Our show was saved! It belonged to a guy named Kevin, and he was more than happy to help. We set up our gear and played; it was the first time we felt relaxed all day. The show went well. We mingled a bit and then hit the road having made new friends and fans. Surrounded by vast emptiness, Columbus is pretty developed and I would enjoy a return trip sans the muddy dead ends. We could’ve slept for days but about five hours later we were at it again, blasting slow R&B jams while we headed to Thomasville, Georgia for Vanderfest.


The sun was shining on the way to Thomasville, Georgia. I wasn’t worried about mapping out the trip as it was just two hours up the road with no turns, which felt great after yesterday’s debacle.

We were playing Vanderfest, a first time festival held in a large field with mostly metal bands and some reggae bands. We seemed to stick out from the moment we arrived. The organizers were incredibly friendly and made sure the bands were well taken care of. After some of the rougher shows I’ve experienced in my life, I can really appreciate good people like them and I feel very grateful to them having us there. I respect and admire what they’re trying to do. Putting on a big festival like that is no easy task, and I’ve seen plenty of failed attempts.

We had some time to kill, so we hung out and enjoyed the festival for a bit. I met another drummer who let me use some of his gear, as I hadn’t tracked down my missing stuff yet or replaced it. The sun was brutal so I drank a lot of water and eventually hung out in the comfort of the truck. Beer, sunshine, and physical exertion don’t always mix well. My girlfriend, Natalie, and our roommate, Jeff, (our unofficial “fanager,” honorary member of the band, and visual projectionist) drove up to chill with us. They brought us a few essentials and, most importantly, a basketball. It was nice to see them as well as a few guys we recognized from a band we had played with last year.

After some mingling, the time had come to take the stage. Although we are a two-piece now, we actually use more equipment than we ever have before. As we began moving gear, James and I began to feel a bit of heat exhaustion. Thankfully, the festival organizers were prepared with a small army of giant intimidating southern dudes with disarmingly amiable personalities. Southern hospitality is real. As we were setting up I could hear a man yell in a southern accent, “Y’all boys got fifteen minutes until you go on.” I surveyed the stage and thought to myself, “How the fuck are we going to be ready in time?” I shifted into high gear and before I knew it James and I were relaxing while a team of sound men mic’d up our amps and drums.

What happened next was something I’ll never forget. Hilariously, after rushing us to get set up, the sound guys spent about 20 minutes scratching their heads and trying to understand our set up. They seemed captivated by our equipment. We don’t really use anything too crazy, but I suppose it is a bit out of the ordinary — especially for two people and especially in Thomasville. It was reminiscent of a Hannibal Buress bit.

“You’re going to play through all these amps?”
“But that’s a bass amp, right?”
“Have you done this before?”
“Yes, every day.”
“I haven’t seen [insert amp name here] in years man! Hey Jerry, come check this out man!”

They were like kids in a candy store. After assuring them it was normal for us and that it would work out fine, the head sound guy accepted the challenge, and we played our set. The organizers and the other musicians seemed to really enjoy our music. There were plenty of kind words floating around backstage. We didn’t have much time to spare as we needed to head to New Orleans by the following night, so we packed up and said goodbye to Natalie and Jeff. Just before leaving, we said our thank-yous and did a quick radio interview. We drove until we felt we needed rest and got a hotel room somewhere outside of Mobile, Alabama. We recently acquired a field recorder to record our sets, so in the hotel rooms we set up a sort of mini studio and review our performances like an athlete analyzing game footage. Tomorrow night we will be in New Orleans.

Off to chocolate-buddha land.


AlexCordovaAlex Cordova (@theAncientRiver) is a guest contributor for Little Utopia.

Previously from Alex Cordova:
Ancient River North American Tour 2014: Trying to Take It All In
Ancient River North American Tour 2014: Tagging in Knoxville
Ancient River North American Tour 2014: Beginnings
On the Record 04.11.13
On the Record 04.03.13

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