I checked and I realised I had first saw the Goa Express live at the Trades Club back in 2017. There was something about the trippy optimistic boyish energy of the band then, and while the guys are now all grown up with a developed matured sound, the fun and exuberance in their tunes remain as strong as it did then. I happened to be in Leeds for a work friend’s retirement bash on the day the Goa’s were playing, and a pleasant afternoon’s drinking in the sun at Headrow House did nothing to diminish my determination to trek up to the rather illicit looking cellar of the Hyde Park Book Club to fill my ears with delicious fun sounds.
Unfortunately I was too late for the opening act (I hate missing supports too), but I quickly found a nice slot amongst the crowd. So there I was learning against a wall near the front, to get my first fill of those fuzzy scuzzy music makers, New York based 5 piece Been Stellar.
I was so very happy to have caught a slice of what these good folk serve up. There’s a strong front line of a male lead, 2 guitar and bass holding dudes and then a female expertly thumping the tubs. To get the burning question on everyone’s lips out of the way, yes indeed Been Stellar have met actor Ben Stiller, the inspiration behind the name. You won’t believe the detailed research I do for you, dear reader.
This night I did get a perplexing contrast in Been Stellar’s performance. They kind of looked and acted as though they were tired. However, if it felt that perhaps they weren’t visually particularly alert or engaged, the music at the same time was as tight as a homophobe’s bottom in a gay bar. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this band are casual about their music, despite its deliberately slightly laid back delivery.
In terms of the sound, the songs are tight, spiky New York stories, there’s some nice melodies and the guitars are pushed and bullied into producing a scorching soaring sound. This is top notch, lit, melodic New York indie. I quickly halted my wall slouching, and shook off the afternoon’s doze inducing alcohol to really enjoy Been Stellar’s strong, upfront, guitar jangling performance.
The good thing about that cellar was its dark sweaty vibe. I was soon conscious of the humid, sweaty tension in the room and those pulsing beats. Yes, it was the most excellent Goa Express forging through their 40 minute set, and I think my 5th gig standing agape (stop it, dirty minds) in front of these talented lads.
It’s a rare thing, but I can’t actually think of anyone around at the moment who quite does what those Goa boys do. Lots of other bands have some sound alikes, but I think the Goa Express have found their own niche. Organs (mouth and electronic) loom large, and then there’s a nice lush and loose trippy pulsing beat surging behind, and some crisply rebellious vocals to meld it all together. The outcome is a delicious pick and mix of everything that’s been good in indie music from the mid 60’s onwards to the current.
I was hoping Goa Express would drop in a few new tunes and they didn’t disappoint. It’s quite clear that the recent purple patch of banging tunes (Second Time, Overpass and Everybody in the UK) is no flash in the pan. The Goa Express have plenty of fuel in their engines and they are rattling and rolling over the tracks. As for the by now established tracks, I adored a perfect Overpass, and who can ever resist a smile and a bop to Second Time.
If you get chance to see either Been Stellar or our local guys The Goa Express then make sure you take it. A lush evening awaits.