|Jason Trachtenburg is a noted Seattle songwriter who gives you "Revolutions Per Minute." With musical instruments as his weapons (see album art), Jason Takes on such subjects as cellular phones, business politics, nutrition, auto insurance and toothpaste.
In 1988, Jason moved to New York City where, for five years, he was a member in both the Anti-folk and the Performance-Art scenes of the Lower-East Side.
Austin, Texas was Jason's next destination where, in 1992, he collaborated with the one and only Daniel Johnston on both songs and videos. He also formed a rock band called The Pancakes with Cheese during this period in Austin.
In 1993, Jason moved to Seattle Washington where mere minutes after his arrival, he met and began collaborating with future President of the U.S.A. - Chris Ballew. As the Presidents began their meteoric (yet well above average) rise to fame, Jason could often be found opening up for the President's many sold-out shows with his original, goofy, and bizarrely strange, sharp political songs.
Chris Ballew has produced four collections of Jason Trachtenburg's original songs over the past eight years including 1993's "Let the Fishes Do the Asking", and 1996's "Lefty's Black Bag", the later of which was co-produced by Popllama's legendary founder Conrad Uno. 1999 brought "Your Favorite Song" which expressed Trachtenburg's explanation about the overplaying of big hits.
Jason Trachtenburg has received many extraordinary reviews for his quirky, melodic, and transcendental musical performances from national and localized publications including the Alternative Press (Dave Thompson), The Rocket (Joe Ebhar), The Stranger and The Seattle Times (See top of page).
Jason is currently the music editor of the North Seattle monthly newspaper, The Jet City Maven. He also has had an on-going monthly performance show at The Annex Theater in Seattle for the past two years. Also, Jason has been incorporating the use of a slide-show presentation to compliment the songs and help explain the story that each song tells (The slides were actually purchased from different area Estate sales of people he did not know!!). Jason's daughter, Rachel (age 7), plays drums in these live slideshow musical extravaganzas, while his wife, Tina, runs the projector onto the backdrop from the back of the room. This makes for an audio-visual sensory experience unlike any before - Unreal... absolutely a crowd pleaser!
|If you dig Jason Trachtenburg... You might want to check out The Giraffes... It is a great project from Chris Ballew, who produced Jasons' RPM album. Here.|
|THE NEW YORKER
"Arguably the best-known local act of the new millennium "
PITCHFORK MEDIA on the show in Washington DC
As you know, Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players are knockin em dead on the road with They Might Be Giants. Here's a review from
Opening up this circus was the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, a concept fortified with enough quirk to have been the choice of either Eggers or the Giants. Basically, it's like this: Father Jason plays Casio and sings, nine-year-old daughter Rachel plays drums and sings, Mother Tina works the slide projector. The slides are purchased at random garage and estate sales, and the songs (somewhere between TMBG and an amateur Mates of State) narrate the action, be it two women's escapades through the 50s, 60s and 70s, a driver's education program, or presentations from a 1973 McDonald's executive meeting ("Together as a system we are UNSTOPPABLE"). You are correct in assuming that this is the greatest thing ever.
The latest wacky performance group.
The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players may just be the most talked about trio since Nirvana. While they may not play rock and roll in the traditional sense, their live show is beginning to attract national buzz. Formerly from Seattle, but now based in New York City, the band is comprised of parents Jason and Tina, their 8-year-old daughter, and crown jewel of the band, Rachel on drums. Jason included Rachel in the band when she was six and was bored sitting in the audience. It's even been said that Rachel is a better drummer than Meg of The White Stripes (whom Rachel bears an uncanny resemblance to).
The Trachtenburgs aren't just a band, however. They are a full-on performance. Tina projects slides that she finds at yard sales and thrift shops, consisting of everything from family vacations to a 1970's corporate McDonald's presentation, . Jason plays piano and sings songs about the slides; all while little Rachel bangs away on her drum set. The result is a comedic rock opera of sorts. We wouldn't be surprised if this wacky act goes big time like the Blue Man Group.
If family acts inspire nightmares of The Brady Bunch Hour, don't fear the Trachtenburgs. New Yorkers can check them out at venues such as Fez and Irving Plaza. The whole country will be able to pass judgment on January 3, 2003, when the Trachtenburgs will be appearing on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
On Vintage Slide Collections From Seattle, Vol. 1, Jason Trachtenburg assembled the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, a colorful group of musicians including his daughter Rachel Trachtenburg on drums and Presidents of the United States of America frontman Chris Ballew on bass. At the band's live shows, Trachtenburg's wife, Tina Trachtenburg, serves as slide projectionist, adding a dizzying visual element to the festivities. The music is unabashedly light and fun-loving, much like the off-kilter epics on Trachtenburg's 2000 Revolutions Per Minute disc. After an energetic beginning, the light piano at the beginning of "Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959" hints at a new subdued style. The song eventually reinvents itself into another of Trachtenburg's semi-vaudeville-style classics. He shares vocal duties with his daughter on the fourth track, "Eggs." "Wendy's Sambo's and Long John Silver's" is another in a long line of serious-sounding musical statements, with the singer's tongue firmly in cheek. He goes on to again attack the fast-food industry with "Let's Not Have the Same Weight in 1978 Let's Have More." The piano and handclaps on "Why Did We Decide to Take This Decision to You?" add immensely to the short and feverish track. The disc ends with "Believing in You," Trachtenburg's heart-on-his-sleeve ballad, with his piano work again taking center stage. After cutting his teeth in Seattle's open-mike clubs, he assembled this dramatic live group. Robb Benson guests on harmonies, while Fastbacks member Mike Musburger drums on some tracks and Phil Hurley and Hugh Sutton check in on guitar and accordion, respectively. The disc's 11 songs are somehow fuller and more complete than his previous work. Orange Recordings released the disc in late 2001. Stephen Cramer
"Working-class poet. Eccentric writer of memorably eccentric songs. Vaudeville genius. These descriptions have followed Jason Trachtenburg around for years, as his act worked its way deeper and deeper into the Jet City's underground music/open-mic scene. But recent developments have been bringing him quickly towards the surface: an addictive debut CD, a brilliantly bizarre slide presentation, and a six-year-old daughter who plays the drums are all suddenly the talk of the town."
THE TRACTENBURG FAMILY SLIDESHOW PLAYERS @ The Breakroom
(Breakroom) As every Stranger reader knows, this paper tends to dislike many bands, enjoys a bunch of them, and loves a few in particular so much that all of our damn writers have to chip in their two cents. So check it out: I didn't see the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players until just a few months ago, at the Seattle Art Museum. I was there to see Women, the Annie Leibovitz exhibit of photographs, but also to find out what this "Tracht-a-something Slideshow thing" was all about. Women was boring: Each photograph had a singular, straightforward meaning, and the overall "feminist project" of the exhibit was uninspiring because the "strong women" were doing mannish things. The Trachtenburg Family show, by contrast, was brilliant. Rachel (the young Daughter) led the show with, prodigious though charmingly erratic drumming, Jason (Father) pounded out silly songs on the piano, and, Tina Pina (Mother) operated the slideshow; which strictly consists of slides they find at thrift stores. Most of it was funny, but a lot of it, especially the piece about the fast food business plan was, very confusing, strange and here's where it was heads and shoulders over Women - enriching. I could even argue that it's feminism was stronger. The Trachtenburgs should be a permanent exhibit at SAM. Really. BRIAN GOEDDE
[Vol 11 No. 40, Jun 20 - Jun 26 2002]
by Kathleen Wilson
photos by John E. Hollingsworth
The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players Pick A Fight on Their Way Out of Town
I arrived at Victrola coffeehouse on Capitol Hill on May 25 and noticed a slight flurry of action going on. I'd seen the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players perform before, and I knew that Jason Trachtenburg is a tenacious character, so I assumed he, his wife Tina, and daughter Rachel were just standing around talking to fans before the set. What I didn't notice, though, was that Jason had placed a sandwich board in front of the venue that, among other things, criticized local radio and its political agendas: "We have a poingent [sic] message that contradicts [KEXP's] message...[which] is Christian Folk and Hillbilly--nice job Don and John." Needless to say, some patrons of Victrola--a café that has played host to popular KEXP DJ John Richards' morning show--became perturbed, to put it mildly. And due to their complaints, Victrola has told the Trachtenburgs that they are no longer allowed to play at the coffeehouse. (I have to ask, how passively aggressive and typical of Seattle is it to "ban" a band that has announced it is leaving town?) Conversely, Jason, a man of slight build with bushy hair and a permanent smirk on his face, has a bee in his bonnet these days, buzzing with ferocious contempt for anyone whom he feels has thrown up a road block to the advancement of his family's career. Currently, those road blocks include not only KEXP, Richards, station manager Don Yates, and Richards' local record label Loveless Records, but to an extent, Seattle itself.
But before we get into all of that, a little background for folks who've missed out on one of the city's most original rock bands. The music part of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players is composed of keyboardist and guitarist Jason and drummer Rachel, age nine. The rest of the act is centered on a slide projector, run by Tina. A couple years ago, the Trachtenburgs came up with the idea of purchasing vintage slides sold at estate sales and then writing songs based on the inherent themes the anonymous images lent to the imagination. "Fondue Friends in Switzerland," "Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959," and "European Boys" are but a few of the hilariously playful, and at times, bitingly political songs. The family played their first show as part of The Stranger's annual PIZZAZZ! talent show, and the performance garnered them an award for second place. Since then the Trachtenburgs have played shows at many local rock clubs and coffeehouses, and even released a CD, Vintage Slide Collections from Seattle Volume 1, prompting this glowing review from former Stranger Music Editor Jeff DeRoche: While referential, this bizarre local family affair is a unique project unto itself. And yes, the idea that Trachtenburg's [then] eight-year-old daughter, Rachel, plays drums is precious, until one actually hears her play. She's excellent. The songs recall the Beatles, Camper Van Beethoven, and even the Dead Milkmen at times.... It's a tongue-in-cheek manifesto for the entire family.
DeRoche was right on the mark, and much of the band's fan base agreed. But lately the family has felt that all is not so rosy in Seattle's music community, and that their career advancement requires a move to New York City. They'll leave our fair city in July, and we will miss their quirky act dearly. But I have a feeling it's only a matter of months before the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players turn up on Letterman. Already, they've nabbed themselves a month-long residency in August at hip Manhattan club Fez.
But back to the current controversy and Jason's conspiracy theories, as that is just about all the alternately gushing and agitated singer wants to discuss during his final days in Seattle. Jason shows me the e-mail sent out by a woman who was angered by Trachtenburg's Victrola appearance. It begins, "Top Five Reasons why All KEXP fans should boycott the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players," before recounting, among other reasons, that Jason had proclaimed their performance to be a direct protest to the John Richards-sponsored "Christfest down at the Showbox" (where Christian act Pedro the Lion was performing), and that the sandwich board stated that "KEXP is a pulpit for born-again folk rockers to the exclusion of 100s of great Seattle bands. They are on the take (PAYOLA)." Jason fires back, "Yeah, I saw [the woman taking notes for her e-mail] and should have intervened but I believe in freedom of speech and freedom of expression. And as far as [that woman's] reaction goes, if anyone feels passionate about something, it's fine by me. Social commentary, political satire, it's all part of our act. And she got really bent out of shape about it and decided she's gonna stick up for the corporation, stick up for Don Yates and the morning faithful and all that stuff, which is fine. If she feels a connection to that morning show, that's great. It's wonderful that people get something out of KEXP."
Now, however, Jason reveals his real grudge: "We have realized that in Seattle, if you're in a band and you think that KEXP is going to be on your side because you're rising through the ranks of this music scene and that independent radio is the next logical step of the progression of your career, they're not there for you. You've been misled. KEXP helps artists who don't deserve to be played on their station because those artists feed their vested interest." Many accusations follow, including supposed collusions between the radio station, Sub Pop, all-ages venue the Paradox, and even certain local Christian rock bands, but most of his diatribe is rife with misinformation. That said, it sure is entertaining, and maybe a little frightening, to witness such a gale force of suspicion and conviction.
Tina, the calmer of the two, agrees with Jason's claim that some form of payola is involved, using a voicemail Yates left on their manager Beth's phone as evidence. Yates doesn't mention the Christian connection at all, but says, Apparently [Jason] was defaming the station in public and saying and writing down a lot of, you know, actually slander, like, "They are on the take, payola," which is an outrageous lie and really upsets me. She posits: "What we noticed was that the thing that pissed them off the most was the mention of payola. He didn't go into any of the other issues we are against, he only cared about the notion of payola. And that to me is very telling."
When asked to comment on Jason's accusations, Yates says, "[Jason]'s called up in the past to complain about not getting played and because someone didn't read his listing in the concert calendar. We've never had a problem with him, and his CDs are in the library and they have been played." I ask him if anyone has said anything anti-Trachtenburg on the air, and he says, "Not that I'm aware of. We look at ourselves as being very supportive of local music. It's sad that he wants to rip apart what is one of the most supportive media outlets for local music in this city. There's a lot more to the local scene than just the Trachtenburgs." At this point Yates rattles off the names of bands currently being played on the station. When he mentions several Sub Pop titles, I ask whether the local label is given special attention, and he emphatically denies the accusation. "That's bogus. Just look again at the local list. Sub Pop has put out a lot of good stuff this year. We give the attention to the music we think is deserved. That's the bottom line."
Jason is not convinced, however, and he calls Richards into the drama. "John Richards has a vested interest and a blatant conflict of interest with owning a record label and plugging his bands, or bands that he has in his back pocket, at least once a shift. [For the record, Richards' playlists show that he spins his own bands on average of once a week.] He never, ever, says on his radio show that he owns his own record label. People think he must just like Vendetta Red, he must just like Voyager One, that's cool."
Yates replies for Richards, "Loveless has some great bands and it would be a disservice to both the bands and the station listeners if we didn't play them.... He plays Loveless bands sparely... and when he does, he avoids hyping them." Perhaps admitting that the band just happens to be on his label is considered hyping.
Since the e-mail that was circulated centered on the now infamous Victrola show sandwich board, Sub Pop artist Damien Jurado sent Jason a retaliatory e-mail calling Jason a bigot and ending with this unfortunate phrase: "Maybe we Christians would be better off sitting in the back of the bus, drinking from our own water fountains and wearing colored arm bands." The Trachtenburgs now regret having made comments about local religious acts, and find it ironic payback that the van they recently bought to ferry them to NYC is Pedro the Lion's discarded oil-burner. "We just want to apologize if we offended any believers in Jesus Christ," says Jason. "We have no problem with anyone believing in anything that works for them, and we've found them to be nothing but the most upstanding and cool people." Get ready, here we go again: "That being said, our problem is with KEXP and the preference they give to certain genres of music, at the exclusion of what's really going on in the scene. Everything they don't play you won't hear for a reason. You will never hear the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players or the Pinkos on KEXP because we have a blatant left-wing political agenda that says we are anti-corporate, we are anti-right-wing. We've been on the KNDD morning show, we've been on NPR. The End's morning crew is particularly on our side--they love us. They're better to us than KEXP ever will be. KGRG 89.9 in Green River Community College also has a very good local music show hosted by Sharlise and Shaun. They support all kinds of local music on that show. They're not closed off to anybody. They genuinely support a wide range of local music and vary the playlist from week to week, and do not play the same acts over and over again, year after year."
But enough about KEXP, I want to know the plan for New York. Jason is excited about Fez, but has no idea what it's like. I tell him it's a hip place and he replies, "Oh, that's great to hear. We've been waiting for someone to say, 'Oh, that's the Ballard Firehouse of New York City.'" Despite all the ranting and raving, it's the underlying vulnerability that shines through with this band and, for their fans, makes the difference between perceiving them not as total blowhards but as comically skewed entertainers. Tina tells me the reason she runs the slideshow projector is because the thought of having to stand up on stage makes her want to faint, yet she's married to the absolute embodiment of attention-grabbing controversy. When Jason starts to rant one last time, she reminds him that I asked about the future, so he gets back on track with, "We're going to play a lot of open mics [in New York] to start plugging our show at Fez, and just try to make contacts and get the word out and do our act. And if the response is anything like it is here, we should be professional musicians within a short time. Here we got a huge response. The mainstream and alternative press have been completely on our side and wonderful." But he just can't leave it at that now, can he? Of course not. "Due to the vested interests in the 'industry' here--and it's such a small industry, basically KEXP and Sub Pop--due to their small little world and their small little spectrum, we won't even get close to 'getting in there' here."
The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players perform Fri June 21 at Mr. Spot's Chai House (with Rob Alleson), Sat June 22 at the Vera Project (with Passive Aggressive Fist and the Pinkos), and Thurs June 27 at the Sunset Tavern.