The Goon Sax - Headrow House, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:
The Goon Sax - Headrow House, Leeds
The Goon Sax - Headrow House, Leeds

Indie can be a difficult genre to pin down sometimes. I mean, is it even really a genre? For me, It’s about a sound but it’s also about an attitude, the indie spirit if you will. What a great feeling it is to find a band that effortlessly embodies both. Yes, it would be fair to say, that I have a pretty serious band crush on Brisbane’s The Goon Sax.

First on tonight it’s William Jones aka Saint Charles. One- time Spectrals drummer and current one-man-band, Jones knows a thing or two about the indie spirit. Backed by a drum machine and a little extra pre-recorded guitar, Jones delivers an understated set of dream-like indie-pop.

The songs feel personal, laidback and intimate. Jones asking, “Can you tell that song was about my dog?” after playing the gorgeous summer strum of ‘Lay on My Feet’. The breezy guitar lines remind me a little of Lambchop while one song could almost be a melancholic reimagining of rock ‘n’ roll standard ‘Not Fade Away’. The last song reminding us, in the spirit of many a great sad-eyed indie jangle, that “everybody’s always alone”.

A great set from an artist we’ll hopefully hear a lot more about very soon. With cassettes for sale and songs that were written “at home in bed”, Saint Charles is as indie as it gets. “Please buy a tape so I can eat” Jones jokes. It would seem rude not to.

There’s a surprising shift in style with the arrival of tonight’s second support act, Leeds-via-Nottingham geek soul outfit Roe Green. The three-piece specialise in smooth bedsit soul with songs about smiles and “good old-fashioned romance”. The rhythm section and Green’s intuitively funky keyboard making something unexpectedly and unashamedly happy.

Like the chirpiest moments in the Steve Wonder discography, it’s perhaps something you have to be in the right mood for. The best moments come when melancholy seeps between the cracks, the highlight being the rather lovely ‘We Don’t Talk Anymore’. They might not seem like an obvious choice to support a band like The Goon Sax but these are breezy, accomplished and brilliantly smooth songs. Man, Roe Green is ridiculously smooth.

In an act that seems to nod towards the classic indie bands of old bassist, James Harrison places bright yellow flowers, planted in a used cardboard coffee cup at the front of the stage. The Goon Sax reminds me of everything I love about indie. Shy, sensitive types singing about unrequited love and feeling like an outsider. Indie before the stadium acts put lighters and mass-singalongs into the equation.

“Yes I’m cruel but I’m not cold/you think I sleep easy/ well I don’t” sings surprisingly tall vocalist/ guitarist, Louis Forster, as the trio burst into life with the ace ‘Sleep EZ’. Heartfelt, relatable lyrics and indie-pop hooks delivered with all the necessary urgency, the songs from We’re Not Talking shine brightly. If you haven’t already, these are songs you really have to hear.

There’s a sweetness, honesty and pleasingly stripped-down feel to the band's songs and performance, punky simplicity combined with a natural knack for pop. Earworms like ‘Love Lost’ and ‘She Knows’ bristling with passion, pain and genuine enthusiasm for the art of a well-crafted indie-pop belter.

Forster, Harrison, and drummer Riley Jones all write songs for the band, taking it in turns to step up to the microphone. Amongst others, Harrison gives us the simple and disarming pop of ‘Til the End’ while Jones steps out from behind her drumkit for a quietly stunning rendition of the sparse, gentle and impossibly beautiful ‘Strange Light’. It’s one of those performances where you can feel time come to a temporary standstill.

Harrison starts the gig wearing two coats (they are from Brisbane, remember) but is down to his t-shirt by the end. It’s a sweaty business this indie-pop lark and the trio is committed to putting every ounce of energy they have into each song. Stripped of its subtle string arrangements, the superb ‘Make Time 4 Love’ still feels like the finest song I’ve heard all year. A real ragged glory to the bands unquestionably passionate delivery.

The crowd clearly loves it (as they should do) but there are some particularly strange shout-outs throughout the show. At one point Forster asks for any local prog-rock recommendations for the band's lengthy drive after the gig and some clever clogs shout “The Pigeon Detectives!” Oh dear.

The audience pleads for an encore and we’re treated to the charming ‘Home Haircuts’ and the gorgeous swoon of ‘Sweaty Hands’. Forster’s lyrics reaching a nervously romantic peak as he sings “eat banana bread/ drink water/ think about your eyes”. Like all the great indie the performance feels energised yet effortless; a really fantastic gig by a band I just can’t seem to get enough of.

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