Who are the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players? Well, according to Jason Trachtenburg, they are the “first and only indie-vaudeville conceptual art-rock pop band.” The group compiles vintage slides of “anonymous strangers”, found at estate sales and second-hand stores, and sets them to their own clever tunes, creating “pop-rock exposés.”
“Otherwise, we’re just like any other band,” Trachtenburg deadpanned, as he prepared to launch into the Slideshow Players’ set at Automotive High School last Friday.
While Jason Trachtenburg sings and plays guitar or the keyboard, his 15-year-old daughter Rachel mans the drums and his wife, Tina Piña, works the slide projector and occasionally adds in vocals. The trio performed a half-hour of their better-known material, including college radio hits “Eggs” and “Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959,” what Jason Trachtenburg jokingly refers to as their “greatest hits ’05 tour.”
The family, which recently relocated from the East Village to North Brooklyn, has been touring the indie rock circuit with their act—equal parts anti-folk songs and performance art—since 2000, when Rachel Trachtenburg was just six years old.
They began, in part, as a way to demonstrate the possibilities for innovation in popular music.
“We kept hearing people say ‘Everything’s been done before.’ How can you say that? There are those VH1 shows [that list] the ‘hundred greatest songs of all time’…That is the most presumptuous statement that anyone could possibly make. The hundred greatest songs of all time haven’t even been written yet,” Jason Trachtenburg said.
With almost 10 years of slideshow playing under their belts, the Trachtenburgs have the slideshows—and the audience patter—down to an art. “When we started out there would be long periods of silence,” said Jason Trachtenburg, demonstrating by inserting a 30-second pause. “Now it’s fireworks. Our act has evolved into this performance. It’s very sharp.”
Over the years, the Trachtenburgs have staged several variations on their set, such as the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players On Ice, a holiday edition of the family’s act. Recently, Rachel has taken the lead, starring in her own children’s television show, Rachel Trachtenburg’s Homemade World (formerly Rachel Trachtenburg’s Morning Show). With parents in tow, Rachel plays the ukulele and puts on puppet shows, among other attractions.
“We wanted a project that would be informative and entertaining for children without being annoying or embarrassing for their parents,” said Jason Trachtenburg. “It’s going to be an all-Brooklyn production with various guest stars who are too big to even mention right now,” he laughed. “Too big to confirm, I guess.”
Homemade World aims to be the next step in children’s entertainment, which “seems to have made backwards progress since, most experts say, 1980,” Jason Trachtenburg noted. “[The show aims to] mold and evolve entertainment channels for future development.”
The Slideshow Players are holding a CD release party and benefit for the filming of RTHW at Cameo in Williamsburg on August 23, complete with puppets, vegan bake sale, and performances from artist/poet the Reverend Jen, anti-folk singer Major Matt Mason, and, of course, the Trachtenburgs themselves.