David Ford may have begun his path to recognition with the band Easyworld, but his real notoriety came after he cut the cord to that conventional machine and stepped out into the great big world of solo. Ford’s decision to go it alone was the best thing he could have done. His presence would stand out well within the structure of any band, but as a solo artist, he becomes larger than life. A dynamic and stormy performer, Ford takes his audience along for the ride on each journey expelled from his soul.
When I first saw Ford, my initial impression was, “Oh great, here’s another singer-songwriter with a fedora, a harmonica, and a vest—awesome.” But I have to admit that impression was off base and I was glad that friends insisted that I focus attention on the raw and reputable talents of this East Sussex songwriter.
David Ford opens and unpacks his stories of reality one piece at a time. Stark compositional arrangements hum with drums pulled from a battered suitcase as he bends to a pedal board, tapping at loop boxes, and laying down layers of digital accompaniment.
His onstage persona is a powerful mix of passionate emotion, down-home amiability, and a visual sensibility that shows the intricate workings of a writer on a musical mission. The mini drum kit behind him is deceptively tiny as it booms underneath the frame of the player and Ford bangs away at his 1950s thrift store six-string.
Ford stepped up and launched into the show opener, “Pour A Little Poison,” a bouncy, Smoky Mountain jag about Ford’s early adventures playing American bars and the shitty introduction to getting shafted by promoters. The song brings forth grainy, 8mm images of abandonment, Motel 6, Waffle House, and the dirty under belly of the failed American dream. The song is an exorcism of the soul and while some of this may have been uncomfortable, any listener can tell he wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Another stand out was the brand new song, “The Ballad Of Miss Lilly.” This is where Ford started bringing his looped samples into play, strumming the chord structure on his acoustic guitar before putting that down to move over to the piano, banging out a looped riff before returning to pick up an electric guitar and playing along with this digital rhythm section. The audience ate it up, moving up close to see this unconventional stage action.
I think Ford is good without the added auto accompaniment, but it didn’t bother me enough to think it was wasted effort. A writer has his or her own vision of performance style, and that’s what comes through with him.
Ford played a well-rounded set of songs from his four releases. Songs such as the dusty Nebraska feel of “Waiting For The Storm” blew across the minds of the quiet room as Ford’s melody waltzed gracefully on this tale of martyred patience and survival. His voice is dynamic, rising like the tide as he rages into his choruses.
Other well-known compositions were the feisty, Peter Gabriel feel of “Go To Hell,” an intricately looped tune that builds layers of vocal harmony underneath Ford’s plaintive rasp. Pianos spill riffs of arpeggio brilliance as Ford approaches the abandoned and battered lyrical theme of love and the resulting emotional damage that betrayal brings.
“To Hell With The World” is a passionate, bold stance against a world of gargantuan opposition. The juxtaposition between tender love and the cruel and unyielding world at large is massive here. Ford is a lyrical champion of life. He is a fighter for all things vital. So it is the lynchpin of his David versus Goliath story.
The pop sunshine of “Decimate” was also an infectious romp through the absorption of anguish, doubt, love and eternal questions of who we are. Ford’s imagery is wide open here. His middle eight foray into Jackie Wilson’s 1967 hit, “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher,” is quirky and audience-approved before he heads back into the crossfire choir chorus and the end. It was also great to see Emily Grove come up with Ford for a rousing rendition of Dylan’s “Oh, Sister.” Grove is a talented performer, a Shoreworld friend, and a great writer in her own right.
I don’t have space to talk about the entire set, but I do know that David Ford is an exceptional writer that has whittled and honed his sound into a perfect vehicle for his fans and future. His performance at The Saint was nothing short of outstanding, and I cannot wait to see him in the States again.
David Ford is a steadfast believer in his craft and has the backing of his dedicated fans. Who cares what the industry thinks? I think we’re all in agreement with the phrase, “To hell with the world.” For more on David Ford, his latest shows and new music coming soon, head over to davidford.mu.
Seaside Music Festival May 17-20
It’s music festival season once again, and with the Goliath-like presence of Bamboozle in Asbury Park this weekend, you might be wondering what else could be going on in the wild state of celebratory happenings. Well, for the fifth year in a row, Ocean County lowers its bridges for the Seaside Music Festival.
This festival concentrates on emerging national and local artists, giving bands the opportunity to shine in a town known for The Situation and Snooki. Yes, it may not be as lucrative as Hollywood, but SMF brings much better things to the southern “City by the Sea” in this writer’s opinion.
The festival features a diverse group of musical offerings. Genres such as rock, alternative, folk, reggae, and much more take over the boardwalk for three days of music. Fun-filled activities and social awareness also come aboard, making this much more than just the typical offering. The event kicks off on Thursday May 17, and runs through Sunday evening. It will feature a free admission policy, and will encompass clubs and restaurants throughout the beach town. The free admission policy is smart, fostering a welcome atmosphere to music lovers and the curious as well.
In addition to live music, Seaside Music Festival also has a vendor village, which is on the North End of the boardwalk. There you can browse through selections of everything and anything pertaining to music, local businesses, and the arts. This year also offers activities such as paddle board rentals and surfing clinics hosted by NJ Coastline Adventures.
Out on the street, you’ll experience the roar of the engine. The “Muscle on the Beach Auto Show” features classic and modern muscle cars that guarantee to raise the heart rate. It was held last year to wide acclaim, and, much to my delight, this year promises to be even bigger.
This year also marks the addition of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions). They will sponsor Zumba on the beach. Live music for that event will be provided by Howell, NJ-based performer Frankie Zing.
Festival attendees can catch SMF performers at venues throughout town and on the boardwalk. This year’s participants include well-known bars such as The Aztec, Jack N’ Bill’s, Hemingway’s, Klee’s, and the Green Room upstairs at The Sawmill in Seaside Park. The festival kicks off at 9 p.m. on Thursday, with music and merriment lasting the entire weekend.
High profile players enlisted for this year’s festivities include, Matt Wade, Colie Brice, Cascadence, EOS, Nancy Ryan, Elevator Art, and End Of An Era. New York City’s top spin master, DJ LYVE of BET’s 106 And Park, will be appearing on the beach in front of The Aztec Lounge on Saturday. For more information on the Seaside Music Festival, go to seasidemusicfest.com.