VIDEO: Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players live at Harper's Ferry
If you happen to be at a neighborhood garage sale and notice a hipster family gleefully rummaging through boxes full of abandoned family vacations slides from years past, and if this family happens to be composed of a father with Woody Allen-esque glasses, a mother sporting a vintage suit dripping in epilates, and daughter in a turquoise jumper with neon pink tights (perhaps with a tiny Chihuahua tucked under one arm), you are witness to The Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players. And they are in the process of writing a song.
"This is not your grandfather's slideshow - oh, actually it is" quipped Jonathon Trachtenberg, as he introduced the troupe during their show at Harper's Ferry Tuesday night. In addition to Jonathon, The Players are composed of Jonathon's wife (and slide projector manager), Tina Piña, and 15-year-old ukulele-strumming daughter Rachel. Inspiration for the band's self-described "indie-vaudeville-conceptual-art-rock-slideshow" act emerged from Tina's discovery of a box of vintage slides at an estate sale when the family, now based in New York, was living in Seattle. The band's first hit, "Mountain Trip to Japan" segued into a life of song-writing, performing, traveling, and, you know, making cameos in Moby music-videos.
The audience at Tuesday's show absorbed the performance set up: haphazardly-placed mics, a keyboard, and various percussion instruments arranged on the floor for easy use - all in front of the large projector screen that displayed the slides. The music-making process is simple for this unique family: they visit garage sales, antique stores, anywhere they can rummage through and pick out enticing slides. They then let the slides inspire their rhyming verses; after the verses, they compose the music. The lyrics are simply a description of what appears to be happening in the slide, from McDonald's ad campaigns, trips to Japan, Easter-egg hunting, set to light ukulele, light percussion, keyboard, with folksy vocals reminiscent of The Moldy Peaches or Ingrid Michelson. The result is an amusingly interactive show - question and answer sessions are common, and there is a running dialogue between the family and the viewers. Not surprising, as eventually the Trachtenbergs hope to establish a familial-like following: "I would love something like what the Grateful Dead had...where we could all cook together, sew together, and make music together," said Tina Piña Trachtenberg.
The show is cute for the spectacle it makes itself out to be, but the entire time I couldn't help wondering if Rachel went to school, and how her parents could be comfortable starting the show at 11 pm when they have a tween daughter. Also, the Trachtenbergs went out of their way to convey themselves as members of an indie counterculture, professing vegetarianism, fear of "the digital invasion" of iPods and laptops, and advising the limiting "of cellular phones - they're dangerous," but then wrapped up the show by advertising their Twitter account. Take the kitschy songs at face value folks, laugh at what they are showing you, and then leave.
By Mary Delsener