David Bowie and Philly's own, Gail Ann Dorsey.

Loving the Alien, Again: Philly Loves Bowie Week heads into 2020

Celebrating the City of Brotherly Love for The Starman.

It wouldn’t seem possible under any other circumstance – the idea of wrangling some semblance of joy from David Bowie’s passing in 2016 – if it wasn’t for Philadelphia. Along with this city being one where his Ziggy Stardust character broke big, and the place where he recorded 1974’s plastic soul 1974 “Young Americans” at the famed Sigma Sound Studios – a seminal moment for Bowie, the studio and the adoring visiting fans eventually known as “Sigma Kids” – Philly formed a community around him and he never let go. In turn, Bowie always went out of his way to explain how and why this city mattered, how its’ embrace allowed his art to thrive and his overarching aesthetic(s), when it came to music, fashion, even matters of sexuality and gender, become the textbook to what it means to be alive in the 21st Century, and therefore its most influential artist.

And that’s why there’s a Philly Loves Bowie Week, January 3-12, with the tag line “Celebrating the City of Brotherly Love for The Starman.”

Now, in its fourth year, some forget that, theoretically, this is its fifth iteration of Philly Loves Bowie Week, kinda-sorta, as the event’s co-founders, Doobies saloon owner and Sigma Kid Patti Brett and WXPN on-air personality Robert Drake, moved quickly after his January 10 passing in order to secure local Bowie-worthy cover bands and a suitable location (Market Street’s Hard Rock Café) for their live tribute. Even that 2010 week’s concert in Phoenixville with longtime Bowie producer Tony Visconti and Spiders from Mars drummer Woody Woodmansey celebrating “The Man Who Sold the World” became part of the mournful, but, unifying occasion, one where Visconti kept referring to the fans who had gathered that night as old friends and family members while sharing their pain.

David Bowie at Tower Theater, Upper Darby, 1974.

Four years later, and all for the charitable good of benefiting the Cancer Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philly Loves Bowie Week features elements that are now familiar to fans of the week such as specially-made, private stock Bowie Beers, showcases with Bowie acolytes Candy Volcano (World Cafe Live’s Jan 3 Free at Noon, Theatre of Living Arts’ Jan 4 concert), Bowie-oakes where all could sing their hearts out to his catalog, and screenings of The Sigma Kids documentary at The Roxy Theater with director Anthony Crupi (Jan 6).

Raquel Cion’s “Me & Mr. Jones: My Intimate Relationship with David Bowie.”

Last year, the Philly debut of “Me & Mr. Jones: My Intimate Relationship with David Bowie” with Brooklyn-based performance artist Raquel Cion was so strong, she now has two nights at Franky Bradley’s starting January 9.

Philadelphia’s own, Gail Ann Dorsey.

There are also newer events such as Blackstar saxophonist Donny McCaslin’s gig with longtime Bowie bassist, Philadelphia’s own Gail Ann Dorsey (Jan 5, Ardmore Music Hall), a Bowie Yoga, and a different lineup of performers than usual (Mike LeCompte!) for Union Transfer’s January 11 “Night of Stardust.”

“A Night of Stardust” at Union Transfer.

In many ways, the particulars of the events themselves are superfluous. Being there for Bowie, with Bowie, and with ourselves as a community for and through him, is the thing.

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