Gig of the Week: Dublin Bowie Festival
With such a wealth of events, you should take your protein pills and put your helmet on
The fourth edition of the Dublin Bowie Festival – perhaps the most intellectually engaged festival focusing on the work and influence of one person – fixes its gaze on the stars. There is a valid reason for this.
David Bowie may have become famous via astronomy-affiliated hit songs such as Starman and albums such as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, but prior to singing lines such as “press your space face close to mine, love, freak out in a moonage daydream” he was, to all intents and purposes, a failed pop star. The single Space Oddity , released in July 1969, cracked the UK top 5, but it would be three long years until his next hit single (the aforementioned Starman). Hence the one-hit wonder stigma in an era where the worth of any aspiring pop star was calculated on how many hits they could clock up in the space of 12 months.
This year the Dublin Bowie Festival has a bona-fide anniversary to celebrate: a big happy 50th birthday not only to the song that started it all but also to the album that contained it (Bowie’s second record, yet the first to have ingredients of what he as a songwriter would become).
The celebration of Space Oddity (the song, as well as the album, which although originally self-titled, is much better known by its adopted name) is the focal point of the festival, and to this end the organisers have teamed up with Blackrock Castle Observatory, scientist and engineer Dr Niamh Shaw and some of Ireland’s leading experts in matters of the final frontier. Dr Shaw will curate a number of events, including workshops, public discussions (in association with Trinity Science Gallery) and talks based around the complex issues of humanity grappling with what may, or may not, live beyond the stars.
Music, of course, is at the heart of the festival. The first intriguing gig takes place on Monday, January 7th, at the National Concert Hall, with a performance of the album Space Oddity in its entirety (followed by other Bowie songs). Delivered by the renowned Trinity Orchestra and the I Heart Bowie band – a gathering of expert musicians from groups you probably know very well – the show will be complemented by (as yet unannounced) guest vocalists.
Other music highlights include A Bowie Celebration, which features former members (including Mike Garson, Earl Slick, Gerry Leonard) of Bowie’s various bands down the years tackling the man’s songs (Wednesday, January 9th, Olympia Theatre); and Swedish singer Miriam Aïda, who reinterprets choices from the songbook with a hefty input of reggae, samba, jazz, and Afro-Brazilian rhythms (Thursday, January 10th, Sugar Club).
You want tribute acts? You got ’em, but the festival organisers have always made it clear that only the best ones get a look-in. To that end, The London Boys (Friday, January 11th, Grand Social) nab the gong this year for focusing on a section of Bowie’s back pages that rarely get flicked through: the pre-Space Oddity years. There is much, much more to soak up during the festival: art and photography exhibitions, movies, public interviews, drag nights, masquerade balls, astronomy talks. You’ll have a hectic time to see even half of what’s on. Your best bet to get from one end of the festival to the other? Take your protein pills and put your helmet on.
The Dublin Bowie Festival runs from Monday, January 7th to Sunday, January 13th. dublinbowiefestival.ie