The Verse’s Kate Mager reviews the opening gig of Beans on Toast’s Sitting on a Chair tour.
In celebration of his recently released first book, Drunk Folk Stories, and 9 years since his first album Standing on a Chair, Beans on Toast (Jay McAllister) is touring a series of seated venues to bring fans what they love best: his funny and politically charged songs and stories.
Initially, the atmosphere felt like that of a fancy jazz club. Tables set out with tea lights and wine lists. The chattering crowd sat around sipping drinks and waiting for the show to begin. Firstly, the support act Boss Caine’s Daniel Lucas quickly broke the illusion. His gruff voice and bluesy guitar filled the room with songs about whiskey, cigarettes, love affairs and cocaine.
The set up was good for socialising, meaning that a hum of voices could be heard throughout the latter half of Lucas’ set. Apparently, people hadn’t taken notice of the slightly condescending signs on the way in asking for idle chatter to be saved for the interval. This transformed the room from an atmosphere of sophistication to one more similar to a pub, which was actually quite fitting.
Beans on Toast dispelled any worries of formality as they jumped on to stage beer in hand bouncing off the audience. Humouring hecklers and creating a back and forth banter allowing for a casual relaxed atmosphere. Encouraging involvement and song requests from the crowd. He assured the room that he was not going to sit there reading excerpts. This show was all about “the bits in between the stories which are the songs”. Although there were a few hints at what could the audience expect if you were to buy the book.
The audience received well old classics such as MDMAzing and Don’t Believe the Bullshit, alongside songs from his new album. Especially those about the recent birth of his daughter which pulled at the heartstrings. All of this was accompanied by his classic fumbling on the acoustic guitar. Playing around simple chords with a few laughed-off mistakes. Claiming that he only began practising at 2 am that morning.
The casual vibe continued through the night even including an impromptu wee break mid-set. Involving some barefoot clambering between tables to reach the bathroom allowing for a quick dash to the bar before the show continued.
Especially relevant was the song ‘Jamie and Lily’ from his new album ‘Cushty’. A love song about a Brighton couple that is accompanied by a sweet story that starts with an email asking for a shout out at a gig. A member of the audience requested the song. Meanwhile, the two girls, who were amongst the crowd, climbed on stage and danced in each other’s arms. As a result, it was a moment that brought a tear to a few eyes and received a massive cheer at the end.
A mix of old classics, protest songs, love songs and songs about drugs. Beans on Toast’s gigs never fail to bring joy. Even when calling out corrupt politicians or singing about fracking or the end of the festival comedown. He gives all of his songs a happy ending. Accompanied by the cheerful folky twangs of his little guitar it’s hard not to crack a smile.
Drunk Folk Stories can be ordered from the official Beans on Toast website or from Rough Trade. Be sure to look out for Beans on Toast on festival line-ups this summer for a perfect mix of much-needed protest messages and light-hearted fun.