With a debut album due out next month on Bella Union, it’s a perfect time to ask, ‘Would the real Cashier No.9 please stand up?’ This is their time to shine and they’ve chosen an eclectic mix of acts to share the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival stage with tonight.
First act up to play under the twinkling lights of the marquee is that other indie-electro outfit from Bangor, Kowalski. The band take the opportunity to showcase new material in front of an early sit-down audience, which give that same freshly squeezed summer vibe that has drawn the outfit so much interest. The new songs show promise, but ultimately it’s the much-loved ‘Navigate November’ and the softly-sung anthem ‘Get Back’ that win out.
Belfast ‘party band’ Not Squares set the bar pretty high for the evening with a breakneck set of tracks from their debut album Yeah OK. Starting off slow with ‘Smith & Carlos’, the trio kick things up a gear with ‘Release The Bees’, a seven-minute odyssey of building beats and enticing trance synth.
In the breakdown though, things go awry with bleeps knocking into the bloops. But with rock-solid drummer and lead vocalist Keith Winter at the helm (in blistering form), order is soon restored. Spontaneous dancing erupts in front of the stage during ‘Bi Kan Na’ and, of course, cowbell party anthem, ‘Asylum’. Most of Not Squares' sound seems to be generated by a tireless Winter, however, who makes his bandmates seem almost superfluous in comparison.
A fitting crossover then to the next act, another multi-instrumentalist drummer who hasn’t yet found a band that can keep up with him. Kilkenny’s Jeremy Hickey, performing under the guise of R.S.A.G. (Rarely Seen Above Ground) sits behind a kit with images of his animated virtual bandmates (often appearing as himself, sometimes silhouetted) projected on the screen behind him as he plays drums and sings.
It’s a neat trick, which could go over as a novelty. But Hickey’s playing is to such a high quality that the regular gig-goer could forgive the Gorillaz style antics. The vocals are coarse in places, but the bassline and percussion are delectably funky and lively. Hickey proves a real joker in tonight’s deck.
On to the main act, Danny Todd’s fully realized Cashier No. 9. They start off with one of their most popular tracks, ‘42 West Avenue’, followed closely with ‘Lost At Sea’, where the audience gets an idea of the bands evolved sound, complete with wailing harmonica, raindrop guitar picking and rolling timpani.
The atmospheric and catchy ‘Oh Pity’ shows the band at their most Spector-esk, with the wall of sound topped off with a xylophone. Then, things slow down for ‘Good Human’, when guitarist James Smith gets the chance to serenade the marquee.
The star of the band’s latest music video (watch below), Jack Pakenham pulls some shapes on the dancefloor to almost steal the show with some cartwheels during ‘Make You Feel Better’ and new single ‘Goldstar’, a brave shot of alternative-pop that shimmers with real country heart.
Starting out like any simple alt-country number, ‘Goodbye Friend’ goes dark midway through, twisting to unveil a jagged riff that morphs into an absolute stadium-stomper: cue the strobes. With the addition of a fifth band member, the layered sounds are more lush than ever, and fan favourites such as the closer ‘When Jackie Shone’ give off more of a country sheen than ever before.
When Cashier No.9 played CQAF in 2009, there was talk of an album ‘in the pipeline’. Two years on, Danny Todd’s most enduring project seems to have finally found its sound. All that glitters isn't gold, but on the back of this performance, Belfast is already convinced of their value.
Main image of Daniel Todd at CQAF courtesy of music photographer Alan Maguire. See more over at LiveMusicPics.com