Jay // ‘Beans’
Long before we arrived to see him play in a small working men’s club in Tooting Broadway, Ben and I thought of Jay (the singer/ guitarist behind the stage name Beans on Toast), as an old friend. ‘Beans will love that’, we would say to each other, ‘after the show we’ll ask Beans what he thinks of that’.
When we arrived at the Tooting Tram and Social, a lovely intimate venue which feels somehow spacious and homely at the same time (with some of the friendliest bar staff around), we immediately decided that it was exactly the kind of place that Beans would choose. Casual, friendly, doesn’t take itself too seriously, a bit silly and a bit fun, a little bit hipster and a lot East London (even though it was very, very South, it just had that vibe, y’know?). We settled in with our pints, found a spot a few rows from the front and enjoyed Benjamin Folke Thomas, Jay’s support act. I absolutely loved Benjamin’s music, his easy going stage presence, and the tone and sound of his voice which made me turn to Ben and whisper ‘he sounds exactly like Bob Dylan!’. Jay and his wife Lizzy stood in the crowd to watch Benjamin’s set, and they ended up standing right next to the two of us. Ben gave me a worried look as if I was about to do something way too fan-girlish, but I held it together and enjoyed Benjamin’s set. When he explained that he had learnt English (he is Swedish) by listening to Bob Dylan, I turned to Ben triumphantly, ‘I told you so!’. Ben told me later that both Jay and Lizzy had glanced up and given him a knowing smile. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that Jay, Ben and I were basically best buddies before the gig had even started. (Okay, I’m kidding, but I do think it’s cool that Jay will watch and support his support acts!)
Beans’ set was amazing. He opened his set with a song about killing David Cameron (incredible), then played some old favourites, including a new song with some pretty controversial lyrics, which he played with a cheeky grin, fully aware of how close to line he was, and happy to be there. At one point he jumped off the low stage and into the crowd to chat and sing some more. I’ve explained before (in great detail) how listening to live music makes me feel incredibly happy, and this was no exception. I love Jay’s songs, I love how laid back he is, I love how he believes in his music, and I especially love how much he seems to enjoy interacting with the crowd, so that his shows somehow feel like a team effort. He asked for, and was freely given, a sip of a crowdmember’s pint (having misplaced his own), and allowed another to help him climb back onto the stage for his next song. In return he took requests, played our favourites, told stories and anecdotes, played fifteen minutes over his time despite the nagging from the venue staff, and came straight into the crowd after he was finished to sell merchandise, sign CDs, shake hands with old friends, and take pictures.
He took a photo with us and signed my CD (which I bought in 2009 when he was supporting Frank Turner!), and even drew an incredibly flattering portrait of me.