The 1960s and '70s were a boom time for family pop groups -- Cowsills, Jacksons, Osmonds -- as well as for slide-projector shows. Figuring that two gimmicks are better than one, singer-songwriter Jason Trachtenburg has combined close relatives and strangers' pictures into an act with a self-explanatory name: The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. They performed Wednesday at the State Theater, projecting slides found at garage sales while warbling ditties inspired by the images. How amusing is this?
Well, at least it's funnier than Jason's stuttering, self-amused between-song patter.
Alas, the Trachtenburgs' set featured a great deal of the latter. In an hour, the trio played only eight tunes, one of them a reprise. Musically, the songs were essentially solo numbers, although projector operator (and spouse) Tina sang a little, and 11-year-old daughter Rachel played drums.
The competent if inappropriate percussion often obscured the lyrics, but then the badly keystoned slides were also hard to decipher. So Jason had to explain not only what the songs were about, but also what in the pictures inspired them. (Was that really a public execution in someone's 1959 vacation snapshots of Japan? The audience had to take Jason's word for it.) The slides weren't all of American families and their vacations; other subjects included a driver's education course, a McDonald's marketing conference and military exercises in the former Rhodesia. There was no audible evidence that Jason had anything to say about any of these subjects, but such mild-mannered guitar-based rockers as "The World's Best Friend" showed that he can write a song that upstages the slideshow concept. Give Papa Trachtenburg a real band and decent projection, and he could have the next They Might Be Giants.
-- Mark Jenkins