TrachtenbUrg Family SlideShow Players performing as part of Gobsmacked! in Harbourfront Centre's Brigantine Room (235 Queens Quay West), Saturday (August 16), 11 pm. Free. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNNN
The first time I read about jason Trachtenburg, his wife, Tina, and their nine-year-old daughter, Rachel, last year, I just knew that the New York City-based Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players would be big. With a concept that has Tina operating a slide projector, showing images the family digs up at garage and estate sales, and Jason accompanying the flicking images with his own tunes and funny political commentary along with little Rachel on drums, how could they miss?
Fast-talking family patriarch Jason admits the sudden popularity of his family band with indie-rock hipsters was completely unexpected.
"For reason unbeknownst to me," he says from his Manhattan home, "our band is like the hottest thing. I can't figure it out for the life of me. I wish I'd known how to do this 15 years ago."
Before coming up with such brilliant ideas as writing a six-song rock mini-opera based on a found McDonald's corporate report impressively titled The OPNAD Contribution Study Committee Report, June 1977, Jason banged his head against the wall doing "three or more" open-mike nights a week.
He was doing that for the past 15 years. Then, suddenly, whammo - he's a fucking star. And all it took was a projector and some cast-off holiday snaps labelled Mountain Trip To Japan, 1959? Well, that's part of it.
"Nobody paid any attention until we added the slides. But, of course, there's also the Rachel factor. It's a combination of all the elements. If we only had one of those things, like just a slide show and no nine-year-old drummer, or vice versa, we wouldn't be getting anywhere."
He's absolutely right. Cute only goes so far. Rachel is awfully cute in an alt-rock Wednesday Addams sort of way. She never smiles in photos, and has cultivated a perfect bored look for the stage.
Rachel has new turtles named Flip and Rosie.
"Daddy! The turtle!" I hear her call out during the conversation. Evidently, one of her turtles - either Flip or Rosie - has its head caught under something, and Jason needs to put me on hold to sort out the emergency.
Crisis averted, he comes back on the line to tell me, "Rachel's a kick-ass musician. The only thing that could bring me more joy than watching her play music is her emotional well-being, and she is happy. She's a really happy kid."
She seems rather blasé about the whole rock-star thing, and I get the impression she'd rather play with her turtles than talk to me. Who can blame her? She explains that she doesn't practise that much. Their Manhattan apartment is too small for a drum kit.
"I play a lot of shows," she assures me. "When we're on tour we play a show a night, so that's pretty much like practice for me."
Rachel says she likes signing autographs for fans and will be going into fifth grade in September. She tells me she's been keeping herself busy lately playing bass for King Missile.
"John S. Hall saw me playing, and he thought I was pretty good, so he wanted me to play with him."
"Seeing her play with King Missile brings me so much fulfillment," Jason gushes. "Even more than when she plays with our band."
Rachel's full-on into the showbiz lifestyle. She's already had a number of small parts in musicals like Hair, West Side Story and Peter Pan, and she's ready for the next step.
"I've just done a movie," she says. "It was a... Daddy? What do you call that? An underground movie."
Rachel has her priorities straight.
"When I grow up I want to be famous with my mom and dad, but I also want to have a band with all my friends." firstname.lastname@example.org