Smile Politely

The strange delight of Oh No Oh My

When I first saw Oh No Oh My in the spring of 2005, they were playing to a crowd of seven or eight inside a little record store at Nashville’s Belmont University, and still so unabashed in their enthusiasm that they punctuated their name accordingly: Oh No! Oh My! I had heard one song of theirs, a bouncy, sunny day melody called “Walk in the Park”, and the Austin boys were thrilled that someone at the free in-store was actually singing along. They were buoyant, bright, and their songs glided smoothly along through playful pop drawn in bold, whimsical colors.

Before we knew it, we found ourselves on a road trip to Louisville, following the band of relative unknowns to an only slightly larger show in an upstairs venue, clapping along to songs we had learned on the car ride over, then guiding the boys back to Nashville when they confessed they had no idea how to get home.

The young band had just relocated to Nashville and had moved into a house outside the city. Then, the group was made up of Greg Barkley, Joel Calvin, and Daniel Hoxmeier. They were working on their self-titled first album, and releasing it themselves, tucking promo copies into envelopes and filling up boxes in their dining room. I got one of the first t-shirts they printed, mustard yellow with two little girls gleefully chowing down on two tiny boys, already bitten in half.

This is part of the delight of Oh No Oh My: they sing about unplanned pregnancy, gender identity, and the purest, simplest brand of heartache, but gently, in sing-along tones and playful obliviousness. What I loved about Oh No Oh My from the start were the vivid, childlike scenes they create, all with a hint of sinister reality: bicycles plunging into the ocean, polished shotguns wrapped in loopy red ribbon, flowers exploding in a spray of gunfire and sunshine. Oh No Oh My makes clean, spirited pop in the vein of The Boy Least Likely To and Belle & Sebastian, storytellers with one foot in reality and one foot lost in the sky. It’s a world where wordplay overshadows explication, handclaps skip in and out of chorus, and the melodica is a legitimate instrument.

Oh No Oh My always seemed like a band that could and would do well for themselves, with a balance of determination and creative passion along with the instrumental prowess to pull it off. While I’m sure Oh No Oh My occasionally still plays to the seven-person crowd, after they left Nashville in 2006, they headed out on a tour that brought them to packed stadiums, opening for The Flaming Lips and Gnarls Barkley as well as an extended tour with Au Revoir Simone. They moved back to Austin, and have been touring and recording heavily since then, gearing up for their next major release. Their new album, People Problems, comes out January 11th, but you’ll have a chance to grab it way, way ahead of time this Saturday.

As part of Mike n’ Molly’s two-night Halloween celebration, Nightmare on Market St., Oh No Oh My will be playing along with Grandkids, Santah, and Dr. Manhattan, all for $5. Sans Oh No Oh My, it’s a line-up we’ve seen before — at Santah’s Canopy Club show last May, where Dr. Manhattan KILLED, getting the crowd so hyped up and dancy that we were worried everyone would be too spent to offer Santah the same enthusiasm. Not to worry — Santah played a heartful, rocking set, carrying over the full, rich sound that had me digging White Noise Bed so entirely. And while early set times have kept me from catching Grandkids, with all the enthusiastic endorsements from local music regulars they’ve gotten, I’m looking forward to finally remedying that. The inside word is that Grandkids will be opening, followed by Dr. Manhattan, then Oh No Oh My, with Santah closing out the night. With only a $5 cover and a slew of tasty beers, there’s no reason not to be at Mike n’ Molly’s Saturday night in full Halloween regalia. Rumor has it Santah and the Oh No Oh My boys might even bust out some costumes of their own.

Oh No Oh My, Santah, Dr. Manhattan and Grandkids perform tomorrow night (October 30th) at Mike ‘N Molly’s. The show begins at or around 9 p.m. and carries a $5 cover at the door.

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