A Driving Instructor's Blog

I was at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms last night to see Crown Jewel Defense (or CJD). I caught wind of them last November when they were one of the excellent support acts for The Darkness. Rock City was sold out that night.

CJD - Crown Jewel DefenseJust like last time I couldn’t fault their set – they were excellent. They put their heart and soul into their performance, and both their music and musicianship were brilliant. Their showmanship goes even further. And I was glad to see that they are now apparently signed to a record label and have a CD/EP out (though it is marked as “self released”) – I bought one, of course.

But they really deserve better than this. Let me explain.

The crowd was sparse – I’d say that there were no more than 50 people present at any time, and most of those were related to the two support acts – The Final Chapter and Summerlin. When CJD came on, I’d say there were maybe 20-30 people in the room, and most of those were clustered away from the stage (very young girls in denim shorts and carefully torn fishnet tights and sneakers (the latest fashion fad) posing at the bar).

You have to again remember that CJD played to a sold out main hall in November to appreciate this difference. They were easily good enough – easily – to justify that crowd then, even if the crowd was there for The Darkness. When CJD played that night, that crowd was turned on.

This time right from the outset there were a handful of people in the small audience who were acting like 5-year olds, running around and playing “tag” with each other (all girls, I should add). The two worst examples, who eventually turned out to be “girlfriends” of support band members, comprised an impish 4-footer and a hulking taller one. For the entire night – before the first band came on until CJD left the stage – they were walking quickly in and out of the audience, around the pillars, and in and out of the room, with the big one chasing the little one. In the brief moments they weren’t playing this game, they were talking to each other in that exaggerated bending-down-and-pointing-in-your-face way, or messing around with the big one’s hat (why the hell you would wear a thick red woolly pom-pom hat indoors when it’s 24°C outside and humid is beyond me). It wasn’t until near the end that I realised they were “attached” to the support bands – such is the nature of teenage love affairs!

The Final Chapter were certainly competent, but not my cup of tea (Bullet For My Valentine clones). The drummer and bass player only looked in their mid-teens so the band was obviously in its early days and enjoying itself. Summerlin was rockier, but I have no time for pointless F-word bad language which comes out in the first three words you say when you take to the stage. Still, they were musically interesting. Good luck to both of them. The audience was at its peak for these two – but as I said it mainly comprised “girlfriends” (I have to put that in inverted commas – when you’re 15 and in love it’s a bit early to be planning for the diamond wedding anniversary. One of my recent pupils was upset one time that her boyfriend had dumped her. That romance had lasted a full 6 weeks) and mums and dads. Most of these left once they’d helped their respective offspring shift their gear from the stage at the end each set.

You have to understand how Rock City – and the Rescue Rooms in particular – operates. During the week it is a student hang out. Whenever you go in, there’s always a student couple or two sitting in dark corners gazing into each other’s eyes as they make their one Happy Hour drink last all night. I also reckon that if you did an age check, the under-14s restriction on gigs isn’t enforced very well. Maybe it’s just me getting older (but don’t forget I deal with 17-year olds all the time, and I know what one looks like), but not many at that show last night looked more than 16 at best, and of the 20 or 30 or so who saw CJD I’d say that half of them had just wandered in from the bar “for a look” (one of the acts mentioned something about getting in free, and thanking the guy who’d organised that). It was clear that they weren’t interested. I‘d paid £6.50 for my ticket, by the way – that’s a week’s worth of beer money to most of those who were in there.

All right, I’m not going to be leaping around the room at my age – I go for the music and the show – but at least I respect what I’m listening to.

I enjoyed CJD and will definitely keep watching out for them whenever they are here. But I really felt for them last night. The lead singer did his best to try to involve the audience by coming out and singing to them, but because they were very young girls they were more ashamed at the attention than anything else. As he pointed out when they supported The Darkness, they’d had a bad experience at the Rescue Rooms previously. God knows how he would rate this one.

Maybe I’m being naive, and performing to crowds like this is part of the rocky road upwards. Maybe it’s because I’m used to seeing arena sell-out shows (though I do go to smaller gigs fairly often). Maybe I’m being too harsh on people who are simply too young to behave like adults, even if they’re trying to look like them. I don’t know.

But CJD are really much, MUCH better than this crowd was. They just haven’t cracked the UK yet.

You can listen on their MySpace pages [dead link].

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