Challenger, Travis Morrison, Able Was I

Solar Culture Gallery, Sunday, June 20

On the way downtown to see Travis Morrison and Challenger, I stumbled across a radio show called Backtrax USA, where they were playing "nineties trax" (with an X, of course) as though it were 2024 and not 2004.

And so, prematurely nostalgic for the '90s, I walked into Solar Culture just as Able Was I was beginning their last song. These local boys are more 2004 than 1994; there's a cello, guitar, drum machine and other electronic instruments. Travis Morrison was standing next to me; his former band, The Dismemberment Plan, recorded their first record right smack in the middle of the '90s, but you won't hear such songs as "Gyroscope" and "Onward, Fat Girl" on a show like Backtrax.

Morrison took the stage with his acoustic guitar and began playing cover songs; two songs in, he announced to the audience that he's playing cover songs while he waits for his new record, Travistan, to be released. He then asked, "Christina Aguilera or Prince?"

"Prince!" replied nearly everyone, and Morrison launched into a Prince song--one of the especially dirty ones. On Morrison's Web site, Morrison writes that the shows on his solo tour "will likely be pretty dirty-minded and crazy"; the Christina Aguilera cover, which he talked the audience into hearing, was "Dirty."

Morrison threw in a couple songs from his new record, and at one point during the show, his cell phone rang, and he answered it; it was his friend Josh.

"Everybody say hi to Josh," said Morrison, pointing the phone at the audience. And we all said hello to Josh.

Morrison ended his set, which was entirely too short, with "What's Your Fantasy?" by Ludacris.

Chicago's Challenger are almost a late-'90s anachronism, with their two guitar, bass, drums and two-singer screaming arsenal; the band is composed of three members of Milemarker, another typical Chicago rock band, and Jessica Hopper, who runs a music PR firm in Chicago and played bass barefoot. They gave out zines after the show. Perhaps the days of indie rock are not quite gone, especially at our dear Solar Culture, which Travis Morrison pointed out that we should not take for granted, because it could be taken away from us and given to the more deserving music fans of Baltimore.