Music DVD Reviews: Review of The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players: Off & On Broadway

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Buy your copy from The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players: Off & On BroadwaystarstarstarstarstarLabel: Sarathan
Released: 2006

Every now and then there comes something from out of left field that is just the most completely and utterly amazing thing that one can experience. For some people, it’s rejoicing in finding the image of Jesus on a snack food or chunk of wood. For others it’s hearing a Beatles album for the first time. Some folks thrill to collecting oddball junk that no one wants on eBay, while still others want nothing more than to weep at the grave of Elvis Presley and check out the carpeted digs of Graceland. For yours truly, it was watching this wonderful DVD by the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. Indeed, getting the chance to finally see this real family after reading enough about them over the past couple of years was riveting and revelatory.

The Trachtenburgs are dad Jason, who writes and sings songs on either his guitar or keyboards, mom Tina, who runs the slide projector and designs the family’s attire, and daughter Rachel, a 12-year-old who plays the drums, sings a bit, and also handles some bass guitar as well. The songs that Jason and Rachel perform are all based on old slides that the family buys at estate sales. All the lines of the songs rhyme, and are catchy as hell. The family’s initial tune, “Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959” set the oddball and exciting standard for the Trachtenburg’s future musical course.

It’s not a shtick, and it’s not phony, and it’s not novelty. And the fact that it’s none of those three things is quite possibly one of the last truly beautiful things that has happened in the music world. And seeing it for the first time can be a bit of a head-scratcher when you do figure it all out. This trio is doing everything on their own with complete love for the songs, the music, the show, and the audience. While other groups and artists may claim the same, the feeling you get from watching the Trachtenburgs is one of such honesty and euphoria that when it hits you, it completely consumes you. How anyone could not like their songs seems impossible after seeing them performed. Watching Jason pound out these wonderful, little, almost old-timey songs on the piano as he gets completely into it with Rachel grooving out on her drum kit in funky fashion is pure bliss.

And it’s not polished and perfect and produced. Jason’s voice sometimes creaks as he reaches for the high notes, and Rachel has stated in an interview that the live shows are often practice sessions for her, but that’s all part of the groove. It’s like watching a musical rollercoaster. And with the vintage slides from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s being the basis for the songs, it’s also one of a kind. This DVD fully explores the Trachtenburg experience via live show clips and just bumming around with the family on the streets of New York City. Other local artists like Regina Spektor and the Wowz chime in from time to time about the group, as do other notables like comedian David Cross and Chris Ballew from the Presidents of the United States of America.

The feature itself almost doesn’t seem long enough, as you just keep wanting to hear more songs like “Wendy’s, Sambo’s and Long John Silver’s,” and “Let’s Not Have the Same Weight in 1978 – Let’s Have More.” But that just-enough component of the movie is perfect. Doing the job perfectly and efficiently is always better than hanging around too long. There are plenty of bonus features on the disc as well, such as videos for the songs “Eggs” and “Mountain Trip,” as well as some other live show clips and similar performances.

What this all boils down to is that everyone needs a copy of this DVD. If only to restore one’s faith in humanity itself, “Off and On Broadway” will certainly do the trick. Truly, the Trachtenburgs have made a perfect model for working in the entertainment industry that is not about big bucks, bullshit, and the rest of the trappings that go along with fame. Their music is beautiful, and their show an original work of art that needs to be seen. After watching this DVD, I promptly got online, visited the family’s website and ordered two tickets to their show when it pulls through my town. You should do the same.

~Jason Thompson