For rockers trying to abandon their genre, one method is to ditch the guitar. You can hear the instrument on "Travistan," the debut solo album by former Dismemberment Plan frontman Travis Morrison. But it was missing Saturday night at the Galaxy Hut, where the D.C. musician played keyboards and sang, backed by two percussionists and two other keyboardists.
The quintet's set drew mostly from "Travistan," which Morrison claimed sounds "totally different" from the live arrangements. Morrison "totally" overstates the case, but it is true that the band didn't try to reproduce the album. The live sound was more stark, based principally on jazzy polyrhythms and rudimentary keyboard vamps and synth outbursts. The effect was to magnify the music's affinity with hip-hop and dance-pop, notably during a Beastie Boys-like version of "Change" and a raucous cover of Janet Jackson's "When I Think of You."
Hip-hop and dance-pop, however, are studio creations. As the Hut show demonstrated, Morrison's aesthetic is considerably more rough-and-ready. His conversational melodic forms and singsong delivery suited his limited range, which was alternately punctuated by his own howls or sweetened by keyboardist Kristen Forbes's complementary vocals. Even when performing thematically somber tunes such as "People Die," a sense of play trumped musical precision. He may not have any guitarists in his current band, but Morrison is still a punk rocker.
-- Mark Jenkins