I did not grow up a David Bowie fan, but became one as an adult, when my defenses relaxed and I realized that “style people” like Bowie weren’t just trying to make me feel bad about my appearance and my inhibitions. I never could make “art of self” in that way and obviously never will, but I recognize it and enjoy it now anyway; and Bowie was unquestionably the best at it, wasn’t he? On the level of influence and current cultural resonance, Bowie’s importance is immune to hyperbole and still on the rise. My 18-year-old son is as crushed by Bowie’s death as I was, as an 18-year-old, on December 8, 1980: the only time that I have ever been crushed by a celebrity passing. 18. 69. Think about that. You can’t buy enduring (expanding) relevance like that, no matter who is backing you.
And he made an awful lot of good music too, now that I allow it. In fact, I’d have to say that his run in the ’70s is about as good as it gets in rock. But that is hardly it. Blackstar is an immersive trip of a record that was already well on the way to stunning the ears of the world before his death was sprung on us, unsuspected. (Even his Blackstar sidemen reported being taken completely off guard by the news.)
Bowie was as good as Miles Davis at freshening his sound with fresh new talent, and for Blackstar he recruited his players from one particular New York City scene (from one band, pretty much). Drummer Mark Giuliana is arguably the star of this stunning and challenging record, his skittering, hybrid electro playing essential in sustaining and animating the album’s long and patient song forms. If you haven’t listened to Blackstar yet – either because it is too painful or because you believe that old rock stars may still be great at playing their classics live but can’t make important new records anymore – make a vow to get around to it eventually.
In the meantime, BSP – our most Bowiesque local venue – presents “New York’s A Go-Go: A Tribute to the Life + Work of David Bowie” on Friday, January 29. Members of Frankie and His Fingers, Battle Ave., Connor Kennedy, SPIV U:K, the Black Horse Riders, the Hudson Valley Drag Brigade, Upstate Rubdown and many more will perform Bowie’s music.
Fashion, of course, is part of the party as well. Audience members are encouraged to come as their Bowie character, be it Ziggy or a Thin White Duke, Major Tom or Goblin King. There will be a costume contest at 11 p.m. with prizes. Admission to this event is free. For more information, visit www.bspkingston.com.