Life of a House Band: Trailer Trash

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"Other guys were looking for record deals, I was looking for a bar deal."

The holiday season is upon us once again. Sweaters, eggnog, mistletoe... and so goes the generic list of items we see every year. But then there are some special events outside of the ordinary celebration. One of those, the Trashy Little Xmas Show created by house band Trailer Trash, is dedicated to celebrating Christmas throughout the month of December until Christmas day.

On these nights inside Lee's Liquor Lounge is a crowd done up in their ugliest sweaters, flashing lights, sequins, and of course Santa hats. Imagine Uncle Eddie from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

As soon as the first Christmas song starts, the dance floor at Lee's erupts and people of all ages get into the spirit. The band's frontman, Nate Dungan, leads the charge.

[jump] "I came to town in '83 because it was the big rock 'n' roll mecca of my generation," Dungan says. "At that time... [Curtiss A] had a regular Wednesday night gig at the Uptown Bar.... Those Wednesday nights were legendary. And me, being the student of rock 'n' roll that I am, I connected the dots and I said to myself, 'I wanna do that.' "

Almost a decade later, aiming to recreate those magical nights at the Uptown Bar on his own terms, Dungan got a band together, which would soon become Trailer Trash, and went hunting for a gig.

"I went to a place that nobody was going to. Where there was a whole lot of opportunity to grow," Dungan says. "And I said, 'Hey let's take an off night, like a Wednesday night, and build it.' I was just looking for a place to rock and a house to pack. That was my goal. Other guys were looking for record deals, I was looking for a bar deal."

For about a year, Trailer Trash played at the 24 Bar. The following year, Lee's Liquor Lounge on Glenwood Avenue would be the band's home every Wednesday night for six years. Dungan wanted Trailer Trash to become a mainstay at Lee's, and be able to bring the regulars and soon-to-be fans of Trailer Trash a good show.

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"I'm not happy until the glitter is falling from the ceiling and everyone is outside themselves," Dungan said.

From those early shows,  That band would eventually become reflexive, according to Duncan. The chord changes and song choices are now communicated through subtle gestures.

"Ask anyone who has sat in with us, and it's terrifying for bass players and drummers because we use this secret language," Duncan says. "We don't even think about it, we don't even know that we're using it, but we communicate so well on stage that we forget that there are people who don't know the code [laughs]."

Trailer Trash has now become a side gig for many members of the band, who all have regular jobs and careers. Every first Friday of the month you can still find the boys playing at Lee's. The band is also still able to recreate those packed nights of yesteryear with their now-famous holiday shows.

Trailer Trash's Trashy Little Xmas Show began as an afterthought from the band recording its first Christmas album. In 1996, the band played its first Christmas-themed show and it would soon become a yearly tradition.

"It became its own thing. It just sort of morphed into this bizarre ritual," Dungan says. "People were looking for an excuse to blow off steam during the Christmas season. The holidays are stressful... there's a lot of forced happiness that jars everybody's psyche, I think... the holidays provide a pretty good excuse to rock out."

One final word of advice: Should you find yourself at Lee's Liquor Lounge during the Trashy Little Xmas Show, Randy "Tyrone" Broughten, the band's pedal steel player, has a friendly reminder for those who get to wield the coveted "Jingle Stick," a scepter-like instrument covered in sleigh bells.

"The Jingle Stick is not a toy," Broughten says. "You get in trouble if you don't use it right."

Trailer Trash's Trashy Little Xmas. $20, December 19, 20, 23. Info.

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