David Ford: Le Poisson Rouge 13 May 2011

Day two of David’s three-day stint in NY and again he was playing one of my favorite clubs. Le Poisson Rouge is the former Village Gate in the heart of Greenwich Village. There was a short line when I got there so I was able to get a great seat near the stage but not too close. In honor of David’s Milk and Cookies charity shows I ordered cookies and milk and listened to the most fucking annoying music waiting for the opening act. The house grand piano was on stage and I was looking forward to seeing how David used it. The room has maybe 150 seats with plenty of room for standees but only about 2/3 to ¾ of the seats were taken.

Opening was John Lefler (Dashboard Confessional), who is perky with a mass of brown curls and close-cropped beard. I could easily see him as the lead in his HS production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Lefler’s songs are pop-y and upbeat (no matter the subject) and he’s funny and very comfortable on stage. There was plenty of banter and back and forth with the audience. He told us he had burned through all his old friends and now he was looking to make new friends. Watching someone like him always makes me wish I would make more of an effort to perform.

David Ford was up on stage tuning and checking instruments and then made a formal entrance. For the first song he hit the looping pedal and it didn’t work. “Well that didn’t go well, did it?” There was a look of frustration and some stomping on and off the pedal until he got it to work. Later in the show he explained that the first few US shows were always an experiment to see what the baggage handlers at Heathrow and JFK had done to his equipment. Once he got it working there weren’t any more problems with the equipment. This night there were more instruments on stage including the keys/effects from the fold-up piano.

After singing “Liverpool” David told us that Liverpool is like Detroit. Only shittier. And after a wonderful version of “Go to Hell” he sat at the piano and talked about hip-hop and pop songs and how they always sing about the same things. His is a more varied palate. And then he did “To Hell with the World.” There were a lot of ‘hecklers’ during the show. These weren’t the mean type – just people who thought yelling out songs or saying things to the performer were their right. Finally David told them to shut the fuck up and that the one with the microphone is the only one who gets to speak. They did start up again and he decided to do a Q&A. The first question asked if he was married and he said yes but he didn’t wear a ring because of his fat fingers. And the fat fingers are why he stays married. “Song for the Road” was dedicated to a couple who are getting married soon – it’s going to be their wedding song.

For the encore David read the chapter “Toast” from his book I Choose This. The chapter begins with everyone saying that David was supposed to be the next big thing. And it turns out he wasn’t and he’s okay with that. I’m not going to paraphrase the entire chapter because I could never do it justice. I will quote from part of it:

Like with any industry, commercial success derives from the efficient delivery of a competitive product. And this has been my problem. I don’t like to think of music as a competition. The whole concept bothers me in the same way my toaster bothers me. My toaster was cheap. I bought it because I wanted to toast bread. When presented in a shop with a variety of toasters, I thought it foolish to buy the Rolls Royce of toasters when the toasting of bread is surely a function to be expected of even the most basic of models. So I got the cheap one. It sat in the kitchen for nine months looking like a cheap plastic and faux-chrome piece of crap, making perfunctory toast until the morning it caught fire and I threw it out. It was probably under some kind of warranty but really, who keeps the receipt for a £9 toaster? So like a dutiful consumer fuckwit, I return to the same store no less and buy another cheap, ugly toaster and throw away the warranty. A year passed since then and as I write this, I have a toaster in my kitchen that toasts bread and then refuses to let it go. This stupid hunk of junk jealously keeps the toast clasped between its flimsy wire tendrils until liberated with a butter knife. I want to throw the bastard machine out the window but I’m terrified that I might, again, find some way to justify the purchase of another toasting albatross. And I’m surely not the only one to fall for the allure of the cheap toaster. There must be millions of us buying our annual clunker, hoping that this could be one to go the distance, only to find ourselves tossing out a charred blob of wires and melted plastic before so much as filling the crumb tray.

So what do we learn from this?

Market forces in the cutthroat competitive toaster manufacturing industry have led, not to a baseline improvement in toasting technology, but to a lowering in retail price, facilitated by a flagrant disregard for build quality. The result is that more toasters get sold which is good for the toaster manufacturer and they cost less, which appears, on the surface, to benefit the consumer. The saddest result of this triumph of capitalism is that in the brave new world, our bread has never been so poorly toasted.

And so it is, I fear, with the music that we hear as it is with the toast that we eat.

Set List

  • Panic
  • Liverpool
  • I Don’t Care What You Call Me
  • Go to Hell
  • To Hell with the World
  • Train
  • She’s Not the One
  • Stephen
  • Waiting for the Storm
  • State of the Union
  • Song for the Road
  • Encore

  • “Toaster” from I Choose This
  • Decimate/(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher medley
  • By Carene Lydia Lopez