Mt Misery/Love'n'Joy – Hit The Bar Thurs 30 March 2023

Not many gigs you go to where the band is on the telly before the show but this was a very special event indeed and worthy of a Look North news item. Love'n'Joy are on a special mission to raise money and raise awareness of a cause that is in their hearts and heartlands, Middlesbrough and Teesside turned out with a show of force to support the band from occupied Crimea in the Ukraine.

First up were Mt Misery, the band from Hartlepool and Sunderland. Cue a few boos in a venue for that intro as Hit The Bar is on the approach to the Riverside and a very popular matchday option for these days very upbeat Boro fans. But don't worry all was friendly tonight as this is a night where all football tribalism was set aside on the stage that could now emerge as a genuine live music contender for Middlesbrough.

Mt Misery put mellow melody and songsmith to the fore. The two guitarists take turns on vocal leads, their often downbeat lyrics are a direct contrast to the cheery tunes. Tonight they were giving us some snippets from a new album recorded recently in Scotland. Some of the material took me back to the no longer teenager Teenage Fanclub. No bad thing at all for those that enjoy graceful double guitar delights. In The Blink of an Eye is like a familiar old warm jumper, a rich narrative trundling along a tune that is glorious instant nostalgia. A Ready Brek glow from Hartlepool or is that Hartlepool and Sunderland.

Two of the three piece Love'n'Joy come from occupied Crimea and have been given special dispensation to raise funds for emergency first aid operations including a rescue car. The third original member is actually away fighting on the front line, a really sobering fact. The band play behind the Ukraine flag and showcase a sound that cries out optimism and hope. It is a psychedelic clarion call that is bang on the money at the moment, rooted in 90s pre Britpop and one that is full of very danceable rhythm. Hence the dance floor is soon a forest of weaving limbs.

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Middlesbrough's own vinyl pioneers Press On have have pressed the band's latest album, Half Home and put on this gig, hence the BBC Look North story. The long player is available for donations for the emergency car and there are long queues at the merch. table afterwards.

There are whirling guitars here, an anthem-ic riff there, a meaty beat and beefy bass line. The vocals are warm, rich and melodic but can turn on the power when the music needs it. Pop sense and sensibility prevails. This is commercial, totally availing and accessible. A song dedicated to the military zone that is Crimea has sparkling guitar work driving home the vocal of Shoot Us Down like a hammer to a nail. Single Reinvented Wheel builds through a turbulent, tortured middle eight, exploding into an emergent emergency chorus.

By the end of the set the whole crowd are joining in, singing and chanting and moving and grooving along and totally feeling the Love'n'Joy.

The final acts of the night see everyone, band and audience and Press On press gang joining together for a big photo op with the Ukraine flag. Or not quite the last act as no one really wants to go home such is the feeling of camaraderie engendered by the music, the venue, the cause and the coming together of two communities in a time of strife and war.

This gig review is dedicated to sound technician and band producer extraordinaire Nigel Crooks quietly watching the show with the Press On gang having helped bring the very best out of another band on vinyl. Thoughts and best wishes to his family. Nigel's legacy will live on and on through so many wonderful recordings and so many friendships he helped forge.

Photos - Tracy Hyman

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