Quick — what cities do you associate with shape-shifting rock icon David Bowie?
London…for sure, it’s where he was born, and where he got his creative start. Berlin…hard to dispute that, it’s where he lived in the late 70s and early 80s, recording his most artistically daring run of albums with Brian Eno.
But the Philadelphia region has just as strong a bond with Bowie. While he was on tour in support of Diamond Dogs, he recorded his July 1974 two-night stand at the Tower Theater, releasing it as the double album David Live. He also worked on his incredibly successful 1975 album Young Americans at Sigma Sound, soaking in the influence of the city’s R&B and soul scenes and and developing a following of “Sigma Kids” — devoted super-fans who hung out in and around the Chinatown studio while Bowie worked inside with Tony Visconti.
In 1987, the North American leg of his ambitious, theatrical Glass Spider stadium tour kicked off with two sold-out nights at Veteran’s Stadium in South Philly. In 1996, he gave an intimate (for Bowie) performance at the Electric Factory on the Earthling tour. And since the mid-thousands, an archive of Bowie’s master tapes from the Sigma years has been housed at Drexel University.
In summary, Bowie clearly loved Philadelphia…and Philly Loves Bowie, as evidenced by Philly Loves Bowie Week becoming an officially-proclaimed municipal happening last year on the anniversary of the rocker’s 2016 passing. It returns this year with 20+ events spread all over the city, from happy hours to film screenings to a closing tribute concert at Union Transfer. So put on your red shoes and dance the blues: here are our picks for ten ways to celebrate Philly Loves Bowie Week.
1. See a David Bowie-inspired art show.
Friday, January 5th, 6 to 10 p.m., FREE
Old City’s Ruckus Gallery rounded up a roster of regional artists for the pop-up show Oh! You Pretty Things, showing a series of pieces about and inspired by the work of David Bowie. Bonus: much of the art will be for sale, if you’re interested in getting some Aladdin Sane style living room decor. 27 North 2nd Street. [INFO]
2. Watch David Bowie’s big-screen acting debut in The Man Who Fell To Earth.
Friday, January 5th, 8 to 11 p.m., $5 at the door
When sci-fi filmmakers of the 70s went in search of an actor to play an extraterrestrial life form, I imagine many of them had Bowie high on their wishlist. After appearing in several shorts while maintaining his music career, he made his starring debut in this 1976 Nicolas Roeg film — screening tonight at South Street Cinema. It’s a truly bizarre story about a being who crash lands on Earth in search of water to save his drought-ridden home planet, and is filled with surreal imagery (some of which might look familiar from Station to Station‘s album art) and loud music. 327 South Street. [INFO]
3. Get a David Bowie tattoo.
By appointment all throughout #PhillyLovesBowie week.
Moo Tattoo is getting in on the fun by offering a range of pre-designed Bowie ink from January 5th through the 14th, with deals ranging from $40 to $160. For the creative superfans, you can bring in your own design as well; proceeds benefit Cancer Center at CHOP. 513 South Street. [INFO]
4. Show how much you know at The Philly Loves Bowie Quizzo Night at Doobies.
Sunday, January 7th, 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., FREE
One of the biggest questions among Philly Bowie fans when news of his passing broke two years ago is “how is Patti at Doobies doing?” As regulars of the Lombard Street eating and drinking establishment know well, owner Patti Brett was a Sigma Kid back in the day, and continues to be one of the city’s biggest Bowie devotees. She is a driving force behind Philly Loves Bowie Week, and Doobies plays host to three events over the course of the week. This quiz night seems like an ideal Sunday night — show off how much you know about the Berlin years, maybe learn a thing or two about “The Laughing Gnome,” and hopefully drink some leftovers of Loving The Alien, a BlackStar Saison that Round Guys Brewing is debuting at the pub tonight. 2201 Lombard Street. [INFO]
5. Eat a stardust-sprinkled David Bowie donut.
Monday, January 8th, while supplies last.
If nothing else, the folks at Federal Donuts are marketing geniuses when it comes to devising new dessert-related gimmicks to make hungry pop culture aficionados salivate. Their donuts are okay too, and to mark what would have been 71st birthday, they are offering a limited edition intergalactic, dark chocolate glazed STARDUST fancy donut. [INFO]
6. Tune in to WXPN’s Bowie Day.
Monday, January 8th, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
While you’re munching on that donut and before you head back for seconds, keep that dial locked on 88.5 FM, which is reprising #XPNBowieDay. Though it’s not the all-Bowie, all-the-time marathon that was the XPN community’s collective grieving process, Bowie will be worked heavily in the mix every hour from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., throughout shows by Kristen Kurtis, Helen Leicht and Dan Reed. [INFO]
7. Sing “Rebel Rebel” at the top of your lungs at BowieOke.
Tuesday, January 9th, 8 p.m., FREE.
David Bowie’s voice is a piece of art unto itself: often imitated, never replicated. But dang it’s fun to try. Philly karaoke royalty Sara Sherr brings an all-Bowie edition of her roving Sing Your Life party to Fishtown during Philly Bowie Week. Peruse the song list here, start practicing your vocal warmups and get there early to sign up in person. 1201 Frankford Avenue. [INFO]
8. Remember David Bowie’s Sigma years in book form and documentary form.
Thursday, January 11th, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., FREE.
World Cafe Live is hosting two free events that explore the storied making of Young Americans in 1974 and 75. The happy hour event Fascination: Inside Sigma Sound celebrates the newly published book, My Bowie Story, in which sixty local fans comb back through their Philadelphia experiences with Bowie, sharing their memories in stories and photographs. Copies of the book will be for sale, benefitting CHOP’s Cancer Center, and the event will be followed by the world premiere of SIGMA KIDS, Anthony Crupi’s new documentary on Bowie’s time in Philadelphia. 3025 Walnut Street. [INFO / MORE INFO]
9. Get loose at a David Bowie-themed burlesque and cabaret party.
Thursday, January 11th, 9 p.m., $10-$15
Local performers Shannon Turner, Farrah Thorne, Masokiss, Genome Kelly, and more will celebrate the music and style of Bowie in song, dance and burlesque at the Baby Can Dance night at Franky Bradley’s. Pay extra for the VIP ticket and get an event poster signed by the entire cast. 1320 Chancellor Street. [INFO]
10. Celebrate David Bowie’s influence on fashion and sexuality at a drag show.
Saturday, January 13th, 8 p.m., $10-$15
David Bowie was one of the first and most notable public figures to introduce the idea of gender fluidity to the mainstream public consciousness, and the RUBA Club will remember this aspect of Bowie’s legacy with Scary Monsters & Super Queens, a drag night starring Sutton Fierce, Lili St. Queer, Onyx Ondyx, Mimi Imfurst and Ron Binary. The show features the work of fashion design students at Drexel University and The Art Institute of Philadelphia, and will be hosted by Mimi Imfurst and DJ Robert Drake — the latter of whom will be in recovery mode from his Bowie-themed edition of the Sex Dwarf rock of the 80s dance party at Club Mousai. 416 Green Street. [INFO]
Philly Loves Bowie Week starts tonight and takes place through Saturday, January 14th; information on all of its events can be found here.
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