Uz Jsme Doma
Will’s Pub, Orlando • October 24, 1998
Uz Jsme Doma is one of those bands that surprises the hell out of you when you find out they’re coming to Central Florida. Bands this eclectic rarely stop this far southeast. UJD have toured North America before, but this is the first time that they’ve played a date in Florida. The five members of Uz Jsme Doma hail from the Czech Republic, and sing nearly all of their songs in their native language. Their music comes across like a unique fusion of classic punk and hard-core, whimsical ska, and European art rock. Imagine what a group made up of members of Fugazi and Madness might have sounded like, if they had played together during the Communist era in an isolated eastern European country where they would have been forced to play all of their shows in secret, knowing that at any moment they could be arrested just for performing the type of music they enjoy. Imagine the fierce creativity that would erupt from such a group in this situation, and you will begin to understand what a live performance by Uz Jsme Doma is all about.
When the band took the stage and did their sound check, some members of the audience seemed a bit disarmed at hearing the Czech language spoken over the PA, as if they were having flashbacks to the Cold War days, when hearing someone speak a Slavic language or with a Slavic accent could bring about unconscious, Reagan-induced feelings of fear. It’s hard to gauge exactly what the audience was anticipating as they waited for UJD to start their set. Some may have already known or heard about their uncompromisingly original sound. Others may have been expecting something along the lines of one of those generic, Communist-approved rock bands that invaded our airwaves in the mid-1980s. But when UJD started their set with the Naked City-style thrash of “Blinded,” with its frantic vocals and wild, staccato saxophone, excited mutterings of “wow, this is something different!” seemed to affirm a consensus that this was indeed a band to be reckoned with. UJD played a good number of songs from their latest studio release, Fairytales From Needland, as well as a few tunes from some of their earlier albums. With each successive song they played, the audience seemed to warm up more and more to the bizarre and wonderful roller coaster ride that is the music of UZ Jsme Doma.
One of the show’s highlights was UJD’s performance of “Sopot,” which started out with a weird, unaccompanied vocal round that sounded like a nursery rhyme heard in a warped dream, with the band then weaving its way through some loopy-sounding klezmer circus music, and then finishing with some N.Y.C.-style avant-thrash courtesy of leader Mirek Wanek’s Frisell-like finesse on the guitar and co-leader Jindra Dolansky’s Coltrane-plays-punk-rock jazzy licks on tenor saxophone. The rest of the band sounded incredibly tight, demonstrating an uncanny ability to swing smoothly through a variety of musical styles and tempos within a single song. Another highpoint in the show was “Magician,” which started out with diabolical-sounding group mumbling, and then flew through some ska-like rhythms and sax lines that sounded like the Bosstones possessed by demons.
The group finished their set with “Ms. Lazy-Bones,” and then came back out for a brief encore that ended with the triumphant punk of “Yeah Or Or,” which brought some members of the audience into a dancing frenzy.
Obliterati, a local Orlando band, was supposed to open the show, but ended up playing last due to some conflict with the clocks being set back. They had an interesting experimental funk sound, highlighted by quirky keyboards and alto saxophone, but because the avant-garde nature of UJD’s music seemed to come so naturally, Obliterati came across a bit self-consciously artsy. To be fair, there are few groups in the world that wouldn’t have sounded somewhat ridiculous following Uz Jsme Doma that evening.