The Brude has been invaded by a small Glastonbury contingent this evening; the stoner crowd are in, ready and waiting for one of their own to take the stage.
Before they get what they’ve come here for though, the two support acts are given healthy-sized sets to fill. In a show that pays little attention to timings and structure there is a feeling of just letting people play for as long as the crowd want them there – or until they run out of things to play.
Mickey P. Kerr takes to the stage looking like he’s only five minutes off the sofa. He begins by reeling off some poems, the first is entitled “It’s Not My Fault” and sets the tone for the set. Every line avoids more responsibility for everything and brings with it surprisingly hearty laughs from the whole crowd. The guy is funny. His anti-establishment sentiments and down-the-pub expletive-laden rhymes striking a tone that seems to relax everyone into the evening.
As the set rolls raggedly on he picks up his guitar and ups the stakes a bit. The first song is a new one about the recent unrest in the US town of Ferguson; following the fatal shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer. The opening line of “Black man dying in the dead of night” (to the tune of the Beatles’ “Blackbird”) raises unsure eyebrows and raises cautious laughs across the board. Kerr then announces he was asked not to play his Jimmy Saville song — the crowd howls until he changes his mind. It’s a tale of a paedophile awards ceremony and how Saville would surely win the big prize. It’s not so much close to the bone as just hacks straight into it. The pinnacle of the set is a song about being sucked off in an empty cinema whilst watching a Tom Cruise movie entitled “Blown to Oblivion”. I imagine it will be the only time somebody gets one side of the Brude to sing “SUCKED OFF!” and the other side to sing “at the cinema” before changing it in the name of equality to “LICKED OUT… at the cinema”. It is ludicrous and hysterical. A tone has been set…
That tone is significantly changed when Will Varley comes on. He is the voice of Marcus Mumford to the soundtrack of Damien Rice; it’s a wistful, rich sound — entirely different to the opening act. And then, in keeping with the low-budget feel of the whole show, he gets distracted by something in the crowd, fluffs his lines and declares “it’s not my fault” — a nod to Kerr’s opening gambit that brings an ice-breaking laugh from the audiences. It turns out the golden tones and emotional vocal melodies are just a cunning veil for more comedy-gold lyrics. The ruse works so well that when it is lifted with Varley’s lyric about swimming through his dad’s cock during conception the resultant laughs carry a touch of surprise. The songs roam through different styles, from folky ditties of winning the egg and sperm race to Billy Bragg-style tunes condemning Cameron, Cowell and the intrusion of the internet into the peoples’ lives. At times they step towards being Vietnam protest-style songs for the age of the internet.
It is Will Varley’s first tour and there are mistakes but his approach is such that this doesn’t affect the end result — there is a general feeling of everything being “good”. The entertainment and the feeling in the room are both “good”. The songs are filled with a thousand tiny acts of defiance against the machine — switching the labels on bottles of water and wine at self-service check outs, and stealing food from supermarkets.
For a first run out, he makes a solid impression and gets his message across — and yes, to some (probably most) it’s a message that just doesn’t work in today’s society but that is a point that is alluded to in the songs as well. They are not so much genuine protests but more like public acknowledgements that this is how we are being made to live whether we like it or not.
It’s a bit of a laugh and it’s high quality — it’s what Marcus Mumford perhaps would’ve been if he had not been born of a tweed vagina.
Beans on Toast take to the stage. He is the master of the informal style of performing that has been the flavour of the evening. The baggy-clothed, cap-wearing Essex lad stands at the microphone with his trademark tiny guitar, accompanied by an associate with a banjo. While he’s faffing with his set up he chats with the room — apparently he has given up taking chemical drugs but encourages the rest of us to continue indulging, should we feel like it. This is a recurring theme throughout Beans’ songs and stage banter — he is a product of music, drugs, cider and being friendly to people.
Moments later he has dropped off the stage into the crowd and gets among his people — there is no fourth wall at his shows. He is one of us and doesn’t seem to have any desire to even try to change that just because he is afforded a stage every night.
“Fuck You Nashville” is a prime example of his frank song writing; a tale of his one bad gig in the states. All his songs are direct reflections of things that have happened to him. They lift any number of lids on any number of aspects of his life. There aren’t really any filters, which goes miles towards creating an inclusive, friendly atmosphere.
The left-wing confusion with what’s going on in the world is obviously the underlying theme but again, it isn’t “shove-it-in-your-face-protest”. More than that, Beans is a promoter of being nice to each other. Put simply like that it seems like a perfectly reasonable idea but put against the backdrop of the modern age it is depressingly easy to see being nice as a laughable concept.
Everybody gets a bit of a slap; the Tories, George W., religious extremists and big corporations — the North is a pretty partisan crowd for material like this, the students naturally disagree with the ruling classes and the echoes of Scargill can be heard amongst the older contingent.
We get to the point where the crowd choose a song and then Beans chooses one — there are a lot to choose from. His first album alone contained fifty — some are old and half-forgotten so the audience fill in the gaps, others are much-loved standards which are rolled out casually.
During the course of his set we are given a mountain of material about his good lady, Glastonbury, the fact that there is too much hating going on, too much BNP and UKIP going on and wanting everyone to just get along and be happy. He is constantly repaid with big waves of love for his songs – The Chicken Song, Lizzie B, MDM-Amazing – all saying something and all very comforting.
It’s not been slick but it has been a valuable live-experience, more so than when acts like Prince tell you to enjoy a “live experience”. It gets rid of work, gets rid of 24 hour news, gets rid of the daily grind. If you go with it, you love it. The scruffy, welcoming, old clothes grandeur of it all shakes your hand, gives you a hug and offers you a beer before waving you off with a much needed and much appreciated smile.
The end of the night means the end of a few hours of unlikely togetherness — the likes of which is rarely seen outside the boundaries of a festival.