Creatively shambolic is really the only suitable description of a Beans On Toast gig. The self-described ‘drunk folk singer’, for those who haven’t heard of him before, makes refreshingly simple music, on topics such as drugs, love and not getting gigs at Glastonbury.
His honest and political lyrics made the gig feel a lot more intimate – Beans doesn’t rely on fancy chords and backing tracks (he actually has a song on backing tracks) to hold the audience’s attention. He deemed the world to be too full of hate, singing ‘A Whole Lot Of Loving’.
The gig wasn’t part of a tour; he told us that he thinks he’s played at The Joiners more than anywhere else, despite being from Essex, which meant the audience were free to call out suggestions. While the start of the gig seemed to have focus, he soon started taking suggestions of favourites, such as ‘The War On War’ and ‘Can’t Get A Gig At Glastonbury’.
His songs often came with stories in the middle of the song while he continued to play, often ones which the audience had heard before but still love to hear. He was in constant communication with the audience, as if everyone was a close and personal friend. His songs seem left-leaning, which suit his audience fine, asking people not to blame “the immigrants, the poor, or the unemployed,” and that “the UK Independence Party are just the BNP in a different dress, they’re still the same old homophobic racists as before”.
The evening was beautifully laid back, with some songs ending halfway through because we “get the point of that one”, Beans forgetting the words to new ones, or songs being abandoned because of a particularly interesting story that led on to another song. ‘The Chicken Song’ and ‘The Price of Rice’ were other crowd favourites that were suggested, and he was all too happy to play them.
The confusion of the set was all part of the Beans On Toast charm – nobody was quite sure of which song would come next, or when the gig was ending, even Beans himself. The amount of engagement he has with his fans in unusual to see, but as he said here, his music is an extension of what he’s always done, from being the friendly bartender to now.
There’s no surprises with Jay’s gigs – an apt name, after a home-comfort meal where you know exactly what you’ll get. As he says in ‘Things’, he’s just a guy “with a pocketful of stories, a handful of songs, and a 3-chord master plan”. The night ended with a full stage, a member of the audience playing his guitar and everyone singing ‘American Pie’. As he says, we need to “chill the fuck out, and get busy, being happy” – which I’m sure everyone in The Joiners that night was able to do.