Beans On Toast - Gorilla 14/02/2020
Pic: Andi Callen Photography
Wow, it's packed in here tonight. I'm a relative latecomer to the Beans On Toast party, only joining the fold around the release of 2017's Cushty. Thanks to a 3 month trial of Amazon Music, I basically immersed myself in music I'd never been exposed to before and Jay McAllister's alter ego just chimed with me. He filled the void Billy Bragg had left when he went off on his Americana sojourn, possibly never to return. I will confess though that the first time I heard a BOT track I thought it might be Nick Helm the comic actor behind it.
The t-shirts and demographic of tonight's audience scream counterculture and you know you're in the right place. This is a family and there is a surprisingly young element to a faction attending this sold out show. Perhaps these are the festival children taken by their parents and even in some cases, grand parents, taken to Boomtown or Glastonbury and now old enough to attend on their own out of choice?
Here to promote his latest release The Inevitable Train Wreck released on 1st Dec 2019 [Note: All of his albums are released on the 1st Dec as that's Jay's birthday] there is certainly no shortage of material, weighing in at nearly 2 hours and close to thirty songs.
Asking if anyone was in attendance the last time he played Gorilla, there's a good show of hands, not quite Nuremberg style but plenty of arms aloft. "Do you remember that guy who proposed to his girlfriend" he asks. Loud cheers go up and there is a pointing of fingers to the the side of the stage. "Are they here tonight he asks?" and sure enough two very embarrassed newly wed people shuffle on to the stage to be hugged and congratulated. He makes them stay there holding hands whilst he serenades them. As they leave he suggests we all have a big orgy back at his hotel. For a moment I take him seriously before letting the thought go. There's loving your fans and LOVING your fans!!
The set is a folk-punk mixture of solo acoustic and full band songs. Some are incredibly personal, touching on his wife and family, others a blatant call to arms for green issues; Extinction No.6 or Take Your Shit Home With You - [a song about the increasingly 21st century trend of disposable camping at festivals] Boris, Brexit and xenophobia; England, I Love You or The Ignorant Englishmen - [about touring Germany and being embarrassed at his lack of language skills] Putting the world to rights after a few pints; Down The Pub, when Jay joins us in the crowd for a honky tonk singalong thanks to the incredibly talented Tensheds, and a thought provoking little ditty about the dangers of relying on technology in a digital age: Logic Bomb.
There's songs about taking drugs, not taking drugs, eating chicken, war economies, NHS funding, sexual politics and many other social issues, all delivered with humorous insight without trivialising the subject matter.
As the last chord recedes into the night and I turn to leave, the couple next to me mention the orgy invite again. I'm left to wonder and head home with a craving of my own, only this time beans on toast without the capital letters. Maybe next time.
If he's at a festival your at this summer, go and take the time to seek him out. You won't regret it!
Words & Pictures: Andi Callen. All rights reserved.