Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players in Harbourfront Centre's Brigantine Room, December 6. Attendance: 350 Tickets: free. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
an anxious crowd sat through Riff Salon, a semi-successful, if jarring, exploration of improv featuring slam poetry, dance and monologues, and you got the feeling in the packed Brigantine Room that if there were to be a Trachtenburg Family no-show, a gaggle of hipsters would explode into a riot that would make Montreal's Exploited incident look like Ned Flanders meekly complaining about lukewarm soup. Luckily, after three previous unsuccessful attempts to play Canada, the self-described conceptual art rock/social satire band arrived on the stage. The family consists of slide-show operator/backing vocalist Tina Trachtenburg , her husband, Jason , who plays the role of carny-style barker/comedian/lead singer/guitarist/keyboardist, and their nine-year-old daughter, Rachel , on drums and backing vox, all bedecked in matching silver sport coats.
Their arrival was greeted with wild appreciation, and Jason's David Cross-meets-Austin Powers looks and humorously jumpy stage banter had the crowd in stitches, as did their theme song. After the first song, though, they hit a snag, and there was a brief delay to get the slides in order, an incident that then reoccurred several times. Tina blamed it on the fact that they weren't using their usual projector, but the crowd didn't buy it.
With the second song, the band's modus operandi became fully manifest - a series of family snapshots purchased at garage sales, arranged to retell a life and narrated semi-mockingly. While Jason's songwriting has a goofy Jad Fair/Moldy Peaches kind of charm, Rachel's drumming and backing vocals really are their ace in the hole.
Ever since the days of techno tot Jordy, who told us all it was "dur dur d'être bébé," the world has pined for a young musical star, and although her talents aren't perfectly honed, Rachel's singing works oddly harmoniously with her father's, and her drumming isn't to be sniffed at, given her age. She's a jingling pile of profits disguised as a rhythmic moppet.
As the set went on, there were more equipment troubles that Jason insisted were "part of the bit," and some biting songs about the U.S.'s infiltration of Rhodesia and America's gung-ho middle class. They followed it up with TFSP's master stroke - a six-song rock mini-opera based on a McDonald's advertising campaign. After a happy response they walked offstage, but not before Jason reminded the crowd to check out the merchandise table, where they sold a plethora of items, including a doll bearing Rachel's likeness. I hope Jason and Tina don't mind being JC Chasez and Joey Fatone to Rachel's Justin Timberlake.
Just don't introduce her to the Neptunes.