Beans on Toast at Omeara
Beneath the railway arches of London Bridge, Omeara’s antique panelling has been stripped back in “shabby chic” style, revealing multiple veneers of paint from historical refurbishments like layers of soil in an archaeological dig. It’s a perfect setting for the music of Jay McAllister (aka Beans on Toast). He is a veteran of London’s underground folk scene of more than ten years; the gravel-voiced troubadour exudes layers comprising charismatic charm, a keen sense of social consciousness, and a punkish (shabby even) lo-fi authenticity, to compelling effect.
He’s also highly prolific, having released an album on 1st December (his birthday) every year for the past eight. Tonight’s show celebrates the end of a national tour made in support of the most recent of these, A Spanner in the Works, and opens with its lead track, 2016. Classic Beans on Toast, it sees a perky acoustic rhythm accompany a lyrical review of the past 12 months, memorialising the legends that have been lost, and the fearfully regressive ideologies that have reared their ugly heads in this annus horribilis.
In terms of McAllister’s solo work, the sonic agenda is very much set. Three-chord strum-alongs ruminating with tuneful humour on lofty issues ranging from drug prohibition (It’s Only Natural), prejudice (A Whole Lot of Loving) and intensive farming methods (The Chicken Song) the order of the day, inciting the thoroughly partisan crowd to dance, sing and cheer in agreement. Like Billy Bragg before him, McAllister can also turn the laser-sharp wit employed in cutting to the core of political issues to matters of the heart, making love songs like We Made It to the Waterfall and I’m Home When You Hold Me no less stirring.
The celebratory atmosphere is aided by a number of guests joining our hero on stage – from a trio of friends offering doo-wop harmonies on a first-ever live outing for Money for War, to cameos from Matt Millership (aka Tensheds) on honky-tonk piano, Son of Dave on harmonica and Texan singer-songwriter Sky Smeed. The set closes out triumphantly as Skinny Lister arrive to pre-empt their subsequent support slot in festive fashion with a version of their collaboration This Christmas. Raging long into the night, the party proves Beans on Toast to be one of the hottest tickets on the independent music scene. Those who missed out should rejoice in the fact that they’ll probably only need to wait until this time next year to set the record straight.
Photo: Stuart Boyland
For further information about Beans on Toast and future events visit here.
Watch the video for 2016 here: