Trailer Trash singer and guitarist Nate Dungan has lost track of the time. Has it been five years, six? Who knows? All he knows is that time flies when you’re having fun.
However long, the Minneapolis-based band will be making a return engagement when it hold its annual “Trashy Lil’ Xmas Show” performance at Rochester Civic Theatre starting at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9.
The event has become something of a Rochester holiday tradition for Minnesota’s premier honky tonk band and the theater’s Americana Showcase performance series.
“Nothing beats fun for having a good time, and that’s what we do. We’re professional hedonists,” Dungan said.
The six-member band is perhaps best known for its long-running relationship with Lee’s Liquor Lounge in downtown Minneapolis, where it has been drawing crowds since 1993 and introducing them to its brand of American roots, country, swing and rockabilly.
Dungan is originally from Tennessee and thus the only band member with roots outside of Minnesota and the larger Midwest. When he moved to Minnesota, Dungan brought his country music heritage with him. But he also discovered a vibrant honky tonk music tradition here in his adopted hometown.
“There’s a strong hotbed of live music and talent in Minnesota that I think people take for granted,” Dungan said. “You got to have a great audience to have great music, and really Minnesota crowds are enthusiastic music lovers.”
Honky-tonks were rough and often disreputable places that catered to a working class clientele throughout the U.S. by offering dancing, piano players and small bands. They were places people went to escape the rigors of a hard life. The Rochester Civic Theatre isn’t exactly a honky-tonk, but the music played within will harken back to those rough-hewn places.
“I think cheap and dirty can be good,” Dungan said. “I mean, that’s synonymous with good in a lot of ways. We perform the music of the American working people. We enjoy it.”
For its Christmas show, Trailer Trash puts its own country-western spin on traditional holiday songs as well as plays some of its own that “are a ton of fun and slightly irreverent,” Dungan said. “It’s usually a great excuse to let loose.”
Trailer Trash has won seven Minnesota Music Awards, appeared in two movies and released six albums. The band also performed at Jesse Ventura’s Inaugural Ball at Target Center and played the opening of the new Guthrie Theater.
The band includes Dungan, Randy “Moe” Anderson, guitar and vocals; Jon Duncan, piano, organ, accordion and vocals; Keely Lane, drums; David Weeks-Wynne, bass and vocals; and Randy “Tyrone” Broughten, pedal and lap steel.
Duncan said their music relies on the chemistry that develops between an audience and the band during a performance.
“It takes two to tango,” he said. “It’s like the old saying, ‘if a man played honky-tonk music in the forest and nobody was there to hear it, would it be any good?'”