Dublin David Bowie festival: Everything you need to know

The singer, who died two years ago on January 10th, is remembered in words and music

Two years ago, music promoter, booker and David Bowie aficionado John Brereton thought it would be a great idea to devise a celebration of all things Bowie albeit with, as much as possible, a Dublin slant. And so the Dublin Bowie Festival was born, not only to celebrate Bowie's birthday, which falls on January 8th, but also to have a blast of a time doing so.

On January 10th, however (the day after a particularly revealing public interview with Bowie’s long-time Irish musical director, Gerry Leonard), news emerged of Bowie’s death.

Unwittingly, the Dublin Bowie Festival became a totemic focus, not only on the passing of one of the world’s most influential and iconic pop stars but also on the nature of fan grief and how the music output of someone people had most likely never met could mean so much.

The festival’s third outing ramps up the fan engagement via some intuitively smart programming. This isn’t a festival of tribute acts dutifully paying homage to their leader – yes, there is that, too, except here there is more quality than quantity – but rather one that is curated with a curious, questioning aesthetic.

Specifically, two non-music events highlight this approach. The first takes place on Sunday at the DC Club (7pm) where UL’s Professor Eoin Devereux interviews Gavin Friday about the influence Bowie had on him as a teenager and a musician.

The second (Wednesday, January 10th, Harry Clarke Lecture Hall, NCAD, 6pm, Adm free) sees London-based designer Jonathan Barnbrook being lightly grilled about his collaborative, process-driven work with Bowie on album covers for Reality, Heathen, The Next Day, and the acclaimed, multilayered Blackstar.

Of course, the festival isn’t just talking about Bowie – the man’s music is celebrated in all its glory. Highlights include The Bowie Ball (tonight, Saturday January 6th, Sugar Club, 10pm), for which we are advised to “dress to impress, plaster on the make-up, and shine up the space boots”. Music is provided by the Bowie-loving Salty Dog Allstars, and there will be prizes for the Best Dressed Glam’n’Giltter Freak.

Sore heads on Sunday can be taken to the Woollen Mills for the child-friendly Bowie Brunch (3pm), where you can load up and chow down with a background of softer Bowie tunes provided by Today FM presenter Ed Smith.

On Monday (January 8th), two events mark Bowie’s birthday. Messing with the Paintwork – Bowie, Yeats & Beckett (Studio 10, 1pm Adm free, limited seating) is an exploration by Prof Eoin Devereux of Bowie’s admiration for the work of Jack B. Yeats. Later that evening (The Grand Social, 8pm) one of the more specialised tribute bands, The London Boys, focus solely on Bowie’s pre-fame music, from his 1960s Mod/R&B/novelty output to his 1969 David Bowie (aka Space Oddity) album.

The festival concludes next Wednesday, January 10th, with Bowie Raw (The Grand Social, 8pm), which is an intimate acoustic show featuring special guests. It’s a fitting, somewhat more personal end to a festival with its heart and intellect in the right places.

  • For further information about ticket prices for all mentioned shows and events, and other festival details, see dublinbowiefestival.ie

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