Date: May 11th 2016
Venue: MK11, Milton Keynes
Support: Bobby Nomad / Hope In High Water
Ever since he flew into the UK folk scene in 2005, Jay McAllister (or, Beans On Toast to you and me) has won the hearts of thousands with his eccentric and quirky portrayal of his poetic and witty tales. After recent tours with good friend Frank Turner and Flogging Molly, Beans is embarking on the ‘Small Town Celebrations’ tour where he’s boycotting large cities and enjoying the individuality of less well known towns in the country, collecting historic stories along the way to inspire his annual December record.
Sports bar and live music venue MK11 within the heart of Milton Keynes is the stop tonight, and just like every other show on the tour, Beans is joined on the bill by local musicians to shine in the glory of their own neighbours.
Billy Nomad  struts up to the microphone with a long draping red jacket and top hat, but even more absurdly, a red and white painted face with black eyes. The Bletchley singer is as wacky as his aesthetic would imply, but his on stage antics of eating a McDonalds apple pie and dishing out binoculars to the front row are warmly accepted by the onlookers. ‘Feed Me To The Mould’ and ‘Should I?’ pleasantly fit in around Nomad‘s nattering and successfully manage to draw people away from the bar to see what the confident young performer has to say.
Josh Chandler-Morris is no stranger to Milton Keynes from his days as frontman of local ska punk favourites Anti-Vigilante, but some may be surprised to see him with his new folk/country project, Hope In High Water . Teaming up with Carly Slade, the two singer/songwriters quieten down the mood but have to fight against the pub atmosphere and sing louder and louder during the set, losing their intended appeal. The tempo picks up during ‘Forgiven’ and brightens the mood, but as Josh says correctly, they have a “tendency to over-ballad”, and the rest of the guitar/banjo tracks are similarly unsuitable for the MK11 crowd.
Taking to the stage in his oversized camo shorts, Beans On Toast  is joined by guitarist and harmonica player Bob Groves, and the two of them kick off straight into 2015’s ‘Rolling Up The Hill’ openers, ‘The Mudhills Crew’ and bank robbing tale ‘Robin Hood Costume’. The interesting nature of the lyrics and how clearly they’re enunciated means that someone who has never heard of Beans On Toast can enjoy the show as much as the well versed fans, and that’s clear in the room from the beginning; the grins at the back are just as wide as those singing along to every word standing right at the front.
McAllister honestly claims that he felt like a “dickweed” after he approved the press release for the tour, saying that he was adventuring into the historic culture of every town on the tour, but spent the day attempting to stick to his word in the pouring rain in Milton Keynes. After spending time judging the town of Wolverhampton as documented in ‘Beer And A Burger’, Beans promised himself that he would celebrate British locations for their individuality rather than how the general public perceives them, which raises a wry smile and a few sarcastic heckles of nearby landmarks.
Not many people could get away with playing a new, unfinished track, but of course this folk artist can, and ‘Fearmonger Clap Trap’ comes to an abrupt ending as expected, but before he can even wait for a reaction, we’re already straight into fan favourite, ‘M.D.M.Amazing’. Beans takes to the floor to be amongst his own for ‘Things’, and tests the structural integrity of the venue tables for ‘Angry Birds’ as he continues to conform to his reputation as an extraordinary showman. The anything but reluctant encore ticks off the thought provoking favourites of ‘The Chicken Song’ and ‘The Price Of Rice’, and although this small town celebration closes ideally, the MK11 venue could happily carry on until the concrete cows come home.
Written by Mike Heath (@MikeBeef)