Beans on Toast @ Re-Con, Malvern 06.06.14

Jay MacCallister, aka Beans on Toast's jokes wear thin live in Worcestershire

Jun 6th, 2014 at Re-Con, Malvern / By Jack Sibley
Beans on Toast @ Re-Con, Malvern 06.06.14 When going to see a musical act that is primarily comedic, it's not unreasonable to expect a bit of a show; something more than just playing the songs as you heard them on the album. Whilst people like the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band pull out props and DIY instruments, C.W. Stoneking adopts his character completely and tells absurdist tales. Beans on Toast also went for a character approach. Unfortunately, that character is a stereotyped wreck-head so deep in a pigeon-hole that it's hard to tell whether he knows the joke is ultimately on him.

Starting his set with a song in which he describes Russell Brand as a 'spiritual saviour' (just days after a majority of non-voters ensured UKIP's success in the European elections), Toast is an embarrassment of empty thoughts from the start. Continuing on, we hear songs about the atrocities of the chicken industry (Beans on Toast likes chicken though and probably won't stop eating it), the multiple murders committed by Prince Harry (sorry Beans but there is nothing 'controversial' about the phrase 'war is bad and killing is wrong'), the war on drugs (let's get wrecked!) and other political issues close to the hearts of many an alternative thinker.

Each of the songs also carries some sort of disclaimer. As you can see, Beans on Toast isn't actually interested in doing anything about any of the issues he talks about. He even has a follow-up to his famous 'MDMAmazing' in which he (sort of) warns people about the problems with drugs and taking folk singers as role models. But there was a time when the folk singer was an artist to be taken seriously no? The folk singer was someone who had real political views and wanted to do something about the problems they perceived in the world. There was Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger then Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk then Joe Strummer and Billy Bragg. As we speak, that final entry is committing his time to Jail Guitar Doors, a project that provides prisoners with instruments in an effort to rehabilitate and stop re-offending. These are the things we have no reason not to expect from our folk singers. This is the legacy the folk-inspired singer-songwriter has created and deserves to retain. So where does that leave Beans on Toast? Perhaps he's more in the vein of novelty musician but let's continue to explore.

I'll skip over the musical ability on display tonight because it's just not worth talking about. You can say that technical ability isn't important and you'd be right but there's just no imagination been put into his songs. Folk might be all about the three primary chords at its heart but it's also about innovating and exploring within that restriction. The strict boundaries can allow radical ideas to blossom but Beans on Toast seems to think it allows him to repeat himself.

So that leaves us with performance - how Beans on Toast carries himself onstage, how he links songs and involves the audience in the show. The latter of these is Toast's only real skill. He seems to have a reasonably good understanding of what his audience wants. Given, however, that they're comprised mostly of those you see clinging on at festivals (when he asked if anyone liked Pete Seeger, Bearded's response was the only one), it's probably not too hard a sell though. Starting with the wise move of jumping off the stage and planting himself in the crowd, Toast is chatty throughout and is genuinely quick-witted when talking to the audience. He does have a tendency to get distracted by this chat though and many a song was finished early for this reason. Many songs were also finished early because he had forgotten the lyrics. Many verses were mumbled through and you only have to check his Youtube channel to see that he's generally lazy with actually learning his songs.

It did look like it would get more interesting when he asked three ladies up onstage to perform with him. Two of them sang whilst another beat-boxed. He gave them no instruction other than to 'just do it' and, whilst that might be fun at the Stone Circle or in your living room, it doesn't actually work particularly well in a proper performance environment and we ended up spending a good chunk of time watching a lot of cacophonous confusion.

He finished the set strumming a G chord and describing a few songs that he was 'going to play'. I can't remember whether he actually played anything or just decided to leave.

It's a really rude and cruel joke to be asking people for six quid to watch an egotistical wreck as he stumbles through a set comprised of a single half-finished song about the politics he has picked out of barely-remembered nights. Thank God for the disclaimers but, with the way they're presented, young people will probably still look up to this fuck-up of a man who claims apathy as a righteous way of life. Go and see Frank Turner.