Beans on Toast and Gaz Brookfield – Live at The Vic

Gaz VicWhoops. Been ages once again since I posted here. So, lets start the catch up with this review from the March issue of The Ocelot. This was a charity event organised from what I could only surmise was a first time promoter. Credit to her for doing it, but many mistakes were made (such as putting herself on the bill). I hope she learns from them and keeps going.

It is always nice to see one of our music venues sold out for a night of original music, especially when that involves mainly local performers, so I was a happy Gig Monkey seeing a sweating, heaving throng having one hell of a Saturday night out at this one, singing along, heckling and generally getting involved. But when you have artists of the calibre of Beans on Toast and Gaz Brookfield on a bill, what else can you expect?

The couple of openers kind of passed me by I am afraid, a combination of stimulating conversation in the bar, some uninspiring songs and frankly a bit of out of tune singing meaning nothing positive remained afterwards, shamed as I am to admit this. However, all my gig-recollection capabilities were overloaded by the rest of the line-up, and it was frankly too busy to take notes.

Gaz is something of a local hero round these parts, having spent most of his formative years in the town and cutting his gigging teeth in this very venue in a succession of bands. The decision not to have him headline was therefore a puzzling one, as illustrated by the noise that greeted his arrival onto stage as the crowd warmed up their vocal chords for singing along to their heroes songs. For that is what followed, a mass participation sing-along for the entirety of his set of punky folk tunes. I don’t think it would have mattered what songs he played, or even if he had been off colour at all (which he certainly wasn’t), this crowd had come for a good sing-along and a great time, and nothing would have prevented it.

There are several simple reasons Gaz can draw this kind of crowd, and it should be a blueprint for other artists looking to make an impact. He works hard, harder than most musicians do, he is an immensely likeable character to be around, and he writes damn good songs. Everyman tales of life these songs give an insight into Gaz’s world; stories of touring, growing up and his health issues are all repeat subjects, proving he is a songwriter with the courage to write from a personal and heartfelt perspective. The personal nature of the songs and adulation of the audience means each gig is a cathartic experience, a shared moment of love, friendship and understanding as artist and audience connect emotionally, elevating the gig-going experience to something more spiritual. But the accessibility of song and performance also means that for some it is simply a good old fashioned boozy knees-up.

In contrast, it initially seems headliner Beans On Toast has a more flippant approach to his craft. But, no less hardworking, humour is his main weapon of choice which, when coupled with his laconic between song banter  meant there was something of the atmosphere of a stand up show in the room, which enables him to make quite complex social and political observations in a way that joe public will understand and accept. He is not an artist afraid to express an opinion, a valuable commodity in today’s society of blind acceptance and apathy. Musically less powerful than Gaz, he is no less passionate in his delivery and displays a similar admirable conviction to his songs that makes them accessible and identifiable.

As this was my first Beans experience, I am not sure how typical a performance this was, but it was more relaxed than a stoned hippy in a bubble bath. I don’t think he actually played an entire song beginning to end, endlessly getting distracted by banter from the crowd that threw him off into anecdotal tangents. But for me this was part of the charm, I felt like this was a unique experience, a one-off moment. In fact was a pleasure to spend an hour in the company of this genial Essex lad. Oh, and his and his west-country friend.

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