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flag Czech Republic - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 26 - 12/03/98

Uz Jsme Doma
Live at Middle East Cafe, Boston, 11.11.98

It is a strange scene in the basement club of the Middle East Cafe in Boston, Massachusetts: On one hand, the band Uz Jsme Doma (We're Finally Home) stands lined up across the stage. On the other, the audience - shifting uncomfortably, whispering and nervously giggling - looks like villagers about to storm Dracula's castle.

The band members appear to be mumbling to themselves, accompanied by the rah-tah-tah of the snare drum and only occasionally interrupted by an oddly placed bass drum kick. Unexpectedly, the sax player Jindra Dolansky lets out a blood-curdling scream and the band break into an insanely fast ska, in a 5/7 groove. Predictably the audience backs away - no-one dares to dance. "It always happens at the beginning," says Mirek Wanek to me later. "We call it 'teaching them Czech.'" He's the guitarist, keyboardist, vocalist, composer and the musical leader of the group since 1986.

But then, just when you think this tempo cannot be sustained any longer, Wanek grabs his guitar and starts hitting it in an intricate rhythm pattern, and in perfect sync with the bass and the drums, for good five minutes."I used to bleed a lot, but then I changed the angle of attack. My fingers feel much better now and I'm still able to get the speed and the power I need," he says later. Finally, this 'song' ends with all the band members marching in place and doing bird calls.

Uz Jsme Doma (the name could also be translated as an idiomatic Czech phrase for 'Now You Got It'), is wrapping up its 1998 50-day, 22-city North American tour. This is not the band's first visit to the Western hemisphere, yet despite consistent touring they remain fairly obscure. The reason is definitely not their musicianship. ("We've rehearsed some songs for almost a year. We're not done until every cymbal crash and every shriek finds its place," says Wanek.) Their four albums released in the States did make their their way to many college and alternative-music radio stations. (They all sport surrealistic cover paintings by Martin Velísek, who gets a credit on every release as 'playing the brushes.') Yet popular success still alludes the band. "I think we make people nervous," admits the sax player Dolansky, as he surveys the crowd with his dark, deep-set, and piercing eyes.

So what is it about the music? Many people labeled the style 'jazz-punk,' and likened it to Frank Zappa, John Zorn and especially The Residents. "I did listen to them in Teplice where I was growing up ," agrees Wanek, who is 36 now and bears a resemblance to Don Rickles. "But for the last ten years we've been touring and playing constantly, I can't relax by listening to music any more." The bass player Honza Cerha adds: "The only thing we really listen to is Jára Cimrman (a Czech surrealistic theater group)."

I admit the band's music is not easy to listen to - everything is loud, fast, in-your-face and odd. But at the same time, that's what makes Uz Jsme Doma so fascinating. If you can, try to catch their live show; your mind will be opened to new experiences. "We are still trying to capture the show onto a recording. I'm not happy with any of them," says Wanek, as his voice trail off. "We're still searching..."

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