Accidents will happen. Jason Trachtenburg struggled as a solo songwriter in Seattle before a trip to an estate sale changed his life. "I was getting nowhere, making backwards progress," he says. At the sale, his wife, Tina, bought a five-cent box of slides and a $5 projector. She thought the slides might give Jason's stage performance a visual kick. He took the idea and ran with it, crafting songs around the dead stranger's vacation photos. And audiences dug it.
The couple's nine-year-old daughter, Rachel, had already shown an interest in music, and Jason decided to put her in the band. Then audiences went freakin' wild. With Jason on guitar and keyboards, Rachel on drums and Tina commanding the projector, the family became a phenomenon. Soon they were playing twice a week, more than most Seattle bands gigged in a month. "It happened completely by accident," says Jason.
The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players have ventured into new territory since that first estate sale purchase. Tina eventually got her hands on some internal Army ROTC and McDonald's corporate training slides, and the group made a splash exposing the absurd tactics of the government and corporations. Those slides have given the show a subversive edge that complements the stripped-down setup. "You can mix social commentary, political poignance and a little song-and-dance," says Jason. "That's entertainment."
The Trachtenburg cocktail for success appears to be working, but the family knows not to get too tipsy. (They already turned down a Gap ad.) And even after landing an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, the family's profile continues to explode while its collective ego remains in check. "We're making a living doing this," says Jason. "We love touring."
Jason says he realizes that the band's longevity isn't guaranteed. Rachel could decide to pursue other interests in the coming years. She is, after all, a kid. But for now, the trio is one tight unit. "The family band is just an extension of our real life," he says. "We're always together."