But while the crowd may not be particularly large, it does point up one interesting thing: of the relatively few people who have turned up, it looks like fully half of them have come along to see the support band, RazorBladeKisses. How can I tell this? Because RazorBladeKisses - as far as I know alone of all bands in the UK - have adopted the Japanese Elegant Gothic Lolita style as their own, and so have many of their fans. When the front-of-stage area becomes a veritable froth of frills and flounces, kitten heels and big hair, you know you're in the presence of the RBK Doll Army.
And now here comes a surprise. Based on nothing more than the RazorBladeKisses's winsome and flouncy image, I'd more or less assumed that they'd make some sort of whimsical, lightweight music. Well, my assumptions immediately get a right old kicking, because the band actually pack a mighty sonic punch. Building their songs on a framework of live drums and programming, keeping it all nailed to loping, trip-hoppy beats, the band's secret weapon is the gritty, assertive, positively nasty guitar sound which swoops over the rhythms like enemy aircraft on a bombing run. In a way, it's an odd juxtaposition - I've heard many bands do that trip-hop thing, but by and large they all keep it smooth and nice. RazorBladeKisses aren't afraid to let in a bit of rough stuff, and it works.
But, of course, all eyes are on the band's two vocalists, who look like they've escaped from a cautionary tale for disobedient Victorian children. Batting the vocals back and forth, exchanging mischeivious glances like they're hatching a plan to rip up the croquet lawn, they fill the stage with their presence and instantly grab the attention even of the uncommitted rockers at the back. It's an engaging performance from a band which seems to have hit on a unique style and sound: the obvious comparison is Switchblade Symphony (a band RBK themselves quote as an influence), but the RazorBladeKisses mash-up of trippy stuff and rocky stuff, grooves and noise, and the way the vocals stalk and dance around each other, adds up to a package that's all their own. Unexpected...and, yes, rather impressive.
The LoveCrave, I'm told, will be next big thing to hit the gothic metal scene. Well, if the less-than-rammed venue tonight is any guide, so far the gothic metal scene remains to be convinced. I've also heard the band compared to Lacuna Coil, although this seems to be based on nothing more than the fairly irrelevant facts that the band come from Italy, have a female singer, and play rock music. On that basis, I dare say several hundred random bands could be compared to Lacuna Coil. As it turns out, those comparisons strike me as a little overdone. The LoveCrave are a pretty straightforward rock machine, without anything much in the way of goth-metalisms. Sure, they have a song about vampires, but doesn't everybody these days?
Impressively unfazed by the small crowd, they churn out a succession of RAWK anthems with all the swaggering bash and crash of a headline band at the Download festival. The singer, who manages to combine a feisty rock diva attitude during the songs with disarming friendliness between them, hollers every line of lyric with the gritty assertion of a Cherie Currie or a Bonnie Tyler; the guitarist rocks his Kiss T-shirt with enormodome flair. And those references probably drop more of a clue to The LoveCrave's musical territory than any spurious comparisons to Lacuna Coil and the like.
The LoveCrave are steeped in that seventies/eighties rock tradition of big anthems, big guitars, and big voices, with a certain take-no-prisoners attitude to give the band a contemporary edge. It's hardly a new formula, of course, but it has this advantage: we know that it works. There's a big audience of headbangin' rock kidz out there who just wanna rock, and while that big audience may not be in here tonight, I dare say it's only a matter of time before The LoveCrave collides with 'em. Personally, I think I'll be keeping a safe distance. But I wish them well.
For more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.