Words by Andrew Stellmon
Video by Lauren Farris and Andy Morrison. Edited by Matt Mejstrik.
Audio by Brent O’Neil
Feb. 20, 2018
No matter what pickle Uh Oh vocalist Joe Champion finds himself trapped in throughout the Omaha indie rock band’s catalogue, they always seem to be occurring as he’s singing about them, and always on some imaginary center stage. Broken conversations, anxious confessions and desperate pleas, colored with a mix of lament and hope, and all encompassed by the glow of a basement show.
Perhaps it’s the way the band appeared, with full-steam immediacy, onto Nebraska’s music scene in 2015 via debut EP In The Glow, which literally begins in the thick of a house show audience. That album set not only the tone but also the template for its rousing, anthemic brand of indie rock, emulating the tongue-in-cheekness of Jeff Rosenstock and revering the formative grounds of DIY. It also snagged a few accolades, including best new band at the 2014 Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards, along the way.
Spend even a little intimate time with Champion’s honest pennings, though, and it becomes clear the setting is vital to the story and its teller’s sanity. Uh Oh’s 2016 follow-up You’re Not Dead channels the joy, vigor and abandon of youth while intensely cognizant and terrified of its impending evaporation. Like much of their work, these songs search for or cling to a sense of camaraderie from anyone or from singular ones, strangers in the crowd or close-knit friends. It repeats the title like a mantra keeping its protagonist’s head above water and their hope at a resolute level. It shouts that even as we’re surviving, we’re partying along the way.
The band comes to KZUM now in a transitional state, welcoming guitarist/vocalist Mari Crisler, who also fronts currently on-hiatus band The Way Out and whose own confessional, spunky songwriting chops make her a great fit for the role. Bassist Erik Trent and drummer Jay Jacobson power a catchy and dynamic rhythm section. Armed with a couple of new songs, Uh Oh gives us a taste of its new direction tonight. But first, from Nov 2017, here they are with “Desperate.”
Andrew Stellmon hosts Hear Nebraska FM every Monday from 8 to 10 p.m. on KZUM.