For Wacky Lounge Act the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, Life Is a Cabaret

By Evan Serpick
Updated February 28, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

A 9-year-old drummer, a shaggy troubadour, and a woman with a slide projector walk into a bar…No, this isn’t a joke. It was the scene one recent night at Brooklyn’s Galapagos. Also entering the club — or trying to — were scores of hipsters angling for the city’s hottest ticket: the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players.

Once inside, Seattle native Jason Trachtenburg sang and played keyboards and guitar to accompany slides projected by his wife, Tina, while daughter Rachel kept a steady beat… Okay, maybe it is a joke, but it’s a very good one: The Players regularly sell out, and stories in The New Yorker and the New York Post, a fall 2002 tour with They Might Be Giants, and a Jan. 3 appearance on Conan have upped the group’s profile.

Like many bands, the Players started with a garage — a garage sale, actually, in 2000. Looking to spice up his folk gigs, Jason and Tina bought a projector for $5 and a set of slides labeled ”Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959” for 25 cents. Jason wrote a loopy song to follow the slides (sample lyric: ”We like death, yes we do/Going to see the graveyard and a hanging too”), and started performing it at the end of his set, with Tina in charge of pics and Rachel on harmonica. ”Everyone was coming to see the last song,” says Jason, ”so we focused on slides.”

Rachel soon moved to drums and, in three years, has become a solid musician — Spin compared her to fellow pig-tailed percussionist Meg White. But Jason says she’s more than a mini-rhythm section (she’s started playing bass, too). ”She knows everything that’s going on,” he says. ”She knows our percentage for each show — and hers.” Rachel has worked out a $20-25 take per gig — but it sounds like the demands won’t stop there. ”The shows are really fun,” she says. ”[But] I want to write more songs.”