Artist: The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players
Album: Off and On Broadway DVD
Label: Sarathan Records
Review By: Jacob Gehman
The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players have become an odd phenomenon in the world of music and art. They are actually a family: Jason Trachtenburg (who writes the songs, sings lead vocals, and plays guitar and keyboard), Tina Pena (his wife, who operates machinery and visual conception), and their daughter Rachel (who plays drums and does back-up vocals.) And they actually use slides in their songs. Which might at first make a person shrug and say, “So what? A lot of bands use visual materials in their live shows. The Flaming Lips set up a big screen and show various images and films while they perform. So did Sufjan Stevens on his last tour. It’s hardly a new concept.” No, not put like that. But here’s the thing.
With The Flaming Lips and Sufjan Stevens (and really any other artist who uses a screen during a performance) the visuals are merely complimentary to the music. The music was written first, the music stands alone, and could get along just fine without any photo or video accompaniment live. Not to mention that the visuals were found or created specifically to go with the music. The Trachtenburgs, on the other hand, turn that all upside down. Jason Trachtenburg starts off with the slides (which they find at state sales, rummage sales, garage sales, or wherever else you can randomly find old slides no one cares about) and then writes music to tell a story with them. Thus the slides become an integral part of the music because they show the tale that otherwise becomes incomprehensible gibberish in the song.
This becomes a double edged sword as it makes the Trachtenburgs unique and individual also limits them to visual media (live shows, DVDs) because just listening to the songs without the slides is kind of dull. Which makes Off and On Broadway such a key release for the family. For the first time those who couldn’t catch a live show can see what is going on.
The DVD is a mixture of live songs, interviews, watching the Trachtenburgs in their everyday life, and an explanation of how they operate. In the actual feature there is enough songs to qualify as a regular length set, but they’re interposed with the interviews and other segments. Often in DVDs like this I would be upset at that kind of thing, however here the segments serve to get acquainted with the Trachtenburg Family to where they feel like kin. It is all shot very well, there isn’t any of the grainy or badly lit footage that you often get with these kind of projects. The special features are very good for such a scattered DVD. Quite a few music videos and some interesting Jason Trachtenburg solo performances on a talkshow.
All in all this DVD is essential for the active Slideshow Players fan. While live is probably the ideal setting, this DVD is a worthy second best.