At the start of the '00s, anti-folk stalwart Jason Trachtenburg began writing songs inspired by old family slide-sets that his wife Tina found at thrift stores and estate sales; he performed them in clubs while Tina projected the slides, and their pre-teen daughter Rachel banged on a drum kit. On the DVD Off & On Broadway, Trachtenburg's musical fellow travelers Nellie McKay, Regina Spektor, and Langhorne Slim—along with alternative comedians Eugene Mirman and David Cross—extol the virtues of The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, in a documentary that combines live performances with benign domestic scenes and a general salute to Trachtenburg's wryly smarmy, pointedly critical songs.
In truth, Trachtenburg is often too on-the-nose with his songwriting, which goes after pictures of middle-class middle-Americans in ways that intend to be affectionate but often come across as smugly condescending. Still, there's something original and magnetic about Trachtenburg's crazy rhymes and deceptively sloppy performances, particularly when he connects the slides he's found with a vision of America as one big "psychedelic daydream." And the DVD's well-shot, well-assembled concert footage is crucial for anyone who wants to experience what The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players are all about. As Tina Trachtenburg herself says in the documentary, "If we lose these slides, we don't have an act."