It feels like one of those sad, shrug-some signs of the time when a burgeoning, much-praised band has to utter the humble words, “Thanks for turning up tonight instead of watching X Factor.” Cashier No. 9’s Sunday night gig in a small Leicester venue, when viewed amidst the rumbling row over whether voucher websites should be selling discounted tickets, makes things look a little bleak at this end of the market. But based on the Belfast group’s versatility and ability to translate their full sound into a live format, they don’t deserve to be a part of that struggle to keep their heads above water for survival.
It transpires that fellow Northern Irelanders and tonight’s support, Kowalski, are also having a shot at doing just that, as they’re on the BBC Introducing playlist this week with debut single, Outdoors. And justifiably so, as their airy riffs and beefed-up Thrills sound merits a top slot of its own.
There has been much talked about Cashier No. 9’s ‘friends in high places’. The debut LP To The Death Of Fun lays claim to mixing by Hugo Nicolson – co-producer of Primal Scream‘s eponymous Screamadelica album, plus alliances with former Jellyfish guitarist Jason Falkner as well as Tommy Morgan, whose harmonica graced The Beach Boys‘ Good Vibrations. But while the band exhibit a range of influences from baggy ’90s, to psychadelica and country-pop, at no point do they encroach upon pastiche.
There is genuine joyfulness in the wall of sound that bursts the stage into life. Live, the quintet become six, and have to be shoehorned onto the Musician stage with kettle drum, an Apple MacBook, four guitars and more to boot. But what really elevates tonight’s relatively short, eight-tracked set into something of a gem is the use of percussion for both rhythm and melody, and the jangling synthesizer and keyboard notes.
From the outset their sound is effortlessly tight, but big and roomy – much bigger than the rafters they must fill tonight. Goldstar’s festive chimes open proceedings, while Philip Wallace introduces swathes of harmonica to the flourishes and rumbles of the kettle drum, giving an infectious exuberance to the performance that filters its way through the crowd.
With a mix of psychedelica and country, Make You Feel Better is given an outing, amid Pink Floyd-ian guitars that bounce off walls. But it’s the nursery rhyme chimes and four-part harmonies that elevate the track, achieving the same on Lost At Sea, whose drum-edged stick rhythms and castanet and harmonica flurries add galloping western layers. Those same enchanting keyboard notes lend a hint of Guillemots to Oh Pity – only the track is grounded in guitars and leans towards note perfect, cooing Beach Boys harmonies.
It’s during the baggy-rhythmed The Lighthouse Will Lead You Out that Danny Todd’s vocals evoke Charlatans‘ Tim Burgess. But for the most part, his storytelling more resembles Dylan, even among The Beatles drums and guitar melodies of Goodbye Friend, which glides effortlessly into steam engine-sighed harmonies that increase in volume to a showstopping end.
If Britney Spears‘ recent shifting of 5,000 extra tickets using discounts does indeed prove to be a watershed, it won’t help bands like Cashier No. 9. Cheapening the big guns could pinch an already hard-fought-for source of income for those who rely on tours to sustain a career in the music industry. But if label mates Fleet Foxes, or others in Bon Iver‘s ballpark can make waves on the basis of quality, rather than bandwagoning, tonight shows that with a compelling debut whose percussive and vocal intricacies become magical live, Cashier No. 9 should manage the same.