It was unofficial Cute Night on Saturday at First Avenue, as the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players opened for Kate Nash. A family act featuring a keyboard-pounding dad, a tambourine-slapping mom, and a 14-year-old daughter on drums? Cute. A 20-year-old British redhead in platform heels who coos lyrics about beautiful birds in front of a pink neon sign bearing her name? Cuter. An encore uniting the two acts for a rendition of the Supremes’ “Baby Love”? Cutest!
For more information about Kate Nash: myspace.com/katenashmusic. The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players: myspace.com/slideshowplayers. Upcoming shows at First Avenue and the 7th Street Entry: first-avenue.com.
You can make a good musical career out of being cute, but fortunately, neither of these acts will need to. Newcomer Nash is on her first U.S. tour, supporting her debut album Made of Bricks. She’s often compared to her Brit peer Lily Allen, with whom she shares an independent spirit, a wicked sense of humor, a pop sensibility, and dangerously low bangs…but whereas Allen revels in a party-girl persona, Nash proudly described herself storming out of a party to write lyrics like “you don’t have to suck dick to succeed,” the chorus of an unreleased rave-up she performed on Saturday. To me, Nash’s performance recalled the young Natalie Merchant: a coy, demure, and slightly prim songstress who comes uncorked as she belts her confessional lyrics.
Reviews of early shows in Nash’s American tour reported that Nash seemed occasionally unsure of what to do with herself onstage, but by this point in the tour she seems to have learned how to make that touch of awkwardness work in her favor. With her nervous smiles and game banter (in response to a shout of “Marry me!”, she asked, “Have you even met my dad?”), she reminded us that we were watching a live performance by an actual human being. Besides running through Made of Bricks, she performed a few appealing new songs that suggest its follow-up is unlikely to evidence a sophomore slump.
As for the Trachtenburgs, they may be the perfect opening act—for Nash or for anyone. Performing off-kilter pop songs that serve as soundtracks to displays of slides scavenged from estate sales and thrift shops, the Trachtenburgs had the crowd cheering and giggling. Paterfamilias Jason Trachtenburg is set to return to First Ave (well, the Entry) on the 27th for a show sans family, sans slides…but his daughter Rachel’s charming ukulele-driven song about pigeons (her mom handled the feltboard illustrations) suggested that she may be the Trachtenburg to watch.
Jay Gabler is the Daily Planet’s arts editor.