‘Drunk-folk’ artist Beans on Toast (the moniker of musician Jay McAllister) played an intense and intimate gig at the Wedgewood Rooms last night. The set was full of old songs and new as McAllister engaged with the crowd on his first gig since the release of his 7th album Rolling Up The Hill on 1st December (which was also the singer’s 35th birthday).
For anyone not aware of Beans on Toast, his lyrics are intensely honest and politicized and this is also heavily expressed in his shows with the tone of the gig being set straight away. As McAllister stepped onto the stage to a relatively small but dedicated crowd, he proclaimed: ‘Let’s talk about all the shit that’s happening’. This was in reference to the news stories that have been dominating the headlines in recent weeks: the Paris attacks, the refugee crisis as well as the vote that was taking place simultaneously with the gig, whether or not MPs should authorise air strikes against Islamic State in Syria. The monologue swiftly led into the ever relevant first song ‘A Whole Lot of Loving’ which has the opening lines of ‘Don’t blame the immigrants, the poor, or the unemployed, these are not the ones who are to blame.’
As he delved into his array of songs that touched upon a number of social and trivial issues, he would interact heavily with the crowd, telling stories of how the songs came to be.
In Pugwash’s interview with the McAllister last month, the musician talked about his love for touring, primarily due to the fact that every stop would be different to the last. This was showcased at the Wedgewood as we got an unpredictable show from McAllister. As he delved into his array of songs that touched upon a number of social and trivial issues, he would interact heavily with the crowd, telling stories of how the songs came to be as well asking the audience on what songs he should play next. Things got even more exciting as he was joined by his opening act on a couple of songs, the husband and wife duo from Kansas known as Truckstop Honeymoon. The songs with the couple included the infectious ‘Robin Hood Costume’ which added a double bass and banjo to get the crowd moving. One of the loudest cheers of the night came as Beans started preforming perhaps his most popular song: ‘M.D.M. Amazing ‘ before broadcasting to the audience his desire to play some love songs to cheer everyone up.
In the midst of the set, McAllister walked barefoot into the crowd, dancing and grooving with anyone who would join him. There was a certain lack of awkwardness all around as the audience slowly joined in, embracing the musician and equally admiring his lack of care out there on the dance floor. During his song ‘Traffic Jam’, he persuaded the crowd, to join him in sitting on the floor in recreating yes: a traffic jam. What may seem like a ridiculous idea worked incredibly well in creating a wonderful, friendly and somewhat peaceful atmosphere and hyped everyone up for another fan favourite ‘The Chicken Song’ with McAllister stopping midway through the song to point out the political incorrectness of the whole song.
McAllister’s disgust with act by our MPS was evident as he asked the audience ‘What can we do? What can we do about this.’
The most poignant moment of the show occurred as a fan handed a phone to Beans on stage. The crowd cheered in delight as he read out a headline on the phone: ‘The government have decided not to bomb Syria’ he proclaimed before realising his mistake, he had read it wrong. Boos, sighs and expletives rang across the Wedgewood as he corrected himself, describing how the motion to extend air strikes against Isis in Syria had been passed. As he gave the phone back to the audience member, McAllister’s disgust with act by our MPS was evident as he asked the audience ‘What can we do? What can we do about this.’. It seemed no one really knew what to say as Jay let the music do the talking,breaking into a song he had written just after the General Election. He explained he did not condone violence and why he rarely performed the song full of anger and hatred towards our Prime Minister. Despite this, the crowd cheered and were delighted as he started playing ‘Im Gonna Kill David Cameron’.
As the night drew to a close, the setlist became fragmented with Beans playing songs that suited the audience’s mood. Jay McAllister is certainly a man of the people, his ability to relate to his fans is incredible. The majority of his discography is filled with protest music and a night like that at the Wedgewood showcased how important music can be in letting people voice their opinions, especially in parallel to the current social landscape of the country.