Patti Brett can’t bear to say the “D” word — that would be deceased — when it comes to David Bowie. Instead, superfan Brett — the owner of Fitler Square mainstay Doobies Bar — talks of Bowie “leaving us” on Jan. 10, 2016 when she speaks of the reason she started Philly Loves Bowie, a 10-day appreciation of his life and work that has its second iteration at venues throughout the city starting Friday and running through Jan. 14. “I’ll never stop preaching the gospel of Bowie,” Brett says while preparing Bowie Quizzo questions for Doobies. “I’m not religious, but for me, he’s a spiritual identifier, a guidepost, as well as being the most influential artist as far as music and fashion goes.”
Brett, who famously met Bowie as a teen when he was recording Young Americans at Sigma Sound Studios, created the weeklong tribute with WXPN’s Robert Drake and her fellow “Sigma Kids” Mary Dunham-Smith and Marla Kanevsky. The second year of the fest has expanded greatly from Year 1. “We knew it would succeed when everyone from bands and beer makers to artists and venue operators wanted in,” says Brett.
The now-annual (“I’ll do this ’til I drop” states Brett) party dedicates its proceeds to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in Bowie’s name. “Whether old or young, he speaks to the outsider in us,” says Brett, who discovered him in 1972, when she was “a young freak of 17,” and the Brit-born Bowie was discovering America. “David opened the doors for anyone out of the norm, then and now.”
Here’s what you can’t miss at this year’s Philly Loves Bowie. All info and additional events found at phillylovesbowie.wordpress.com.
Opening night is a doozy: Not only can you get your modified mullet hairdo blown out and bathed in cruelty-free fashion at the Bowie song-named Rebel Rebel Organic Hair & Dreadlock Salon (3 p.m., 2952 Richmond St., $25 for a one-hour hair bath and blowout, appointment required, 267-858-0964), check out the space-oddity film that made him an icon of the silver screen — 1976’s The Man Who Fell to Earth — at South Street Cinema (8 p.m., 327 South St., $5 suggested donation) and view original, Bowie-inspired paintings from Philly artists at Ruckus Gallery (6 p.m., 27 N. 2nd St., 6 p.m., free, 267-457-5544) during Old City’s First Friday. You can hit a Doobies Happy Hour (4 p.m. 2201 Lombard St., free, 215-546-0316) for a tasting with the Round Guys Brewing Company and their Loving the Alien, a BlackStar Saison (6.3%). “I worked with them last year on this, and it was such a hit we had to bring it back,” says Brett, before mentioning other specialty-Bowie brews such as the Buddha of Suburbia stout and a Sigma Kids beer (“maybe a sour or a Belgian quad”) available at exclusive events throughout the festival.
The wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am of Philly glam rockers, Candy Volcano, get funky at the TLA (8 p.m., 334 South St., $17, 215-922-1011) for a take on David Live, Bowie’s album recorded at the Tower Theater in 1974. “On July 14 and 15 that year, Bowie recorded his infamous concerts from the Diamond Dogs tour at the Tower in Upper Darby, one of first of many connections that tied him to our city,” says Volcano singer Kevin Monko. “The live album marks the bridge point between Bowie’s ‘glam era’ and ‘Plastic Soul’ of Young Americans.”
To celebrate what would have been Bowie’s 71st birthday, get whimsical with the glitter-specked, dark-chocolate glazed “Stardust” fancy doughnut available in all four Federal Donuts locations for $2.75. Doughnuts are first come, first served, but they can pre-ordered at www.federaldonuts.com. Then, hit up Chinatown’s Trocadero for a screening of Bowie’s cinematic shot at “Dungeons and Dragons,” Labyrinth (8 p.m. 1003 Arch St. $3, 215-922-6888).
Sara Sherr’s Sing Your Life Karaoke at Johnny Brenda’s (8 p.m. free, 1201 Frankford Ave., free, 215-7389-9684) offers one-and-all a chance to capture Bowie’s golden years in glorious vocal tones.
World Café Live offers two quietly, uh, fascinating events with “Fascination: Inside Sigma Sound” (5 p.m. 3025 Walnut St., free, 215-222-1400). First up is editor Dale Perry, who offers up tales from her self-published My Bowie Stories with several of its authors in tow who will share essays about the Starman. Immediately following will be the world premiere/rough-cut screening of Anthony Crupi’s The Sigma Kids at 7 p.m. Not so quiet is Franky Bradley’s Baby Can Dance: A Bowie Burlesque & Cabaret (9 p.m. Franky Bradley’s, 1320 Chancellor St., $15 VIP, $10, 215-735-0735) with drag doyenne Lili St. Queer at the wheels of steel, and performers Shannon Turner, Farrah Thorne, Masokiss, and Genome Kelly doing the peeling and the belting.
Saturday, Jan. 13
Along with five drag acts doing their best of Bowie for Ruba Club’s Scary Monsters & Super Queens (8 p.m. 416 Green St., 8 p.m., $10-$15, 215-627-9831), fashion professor extraordinaire Karen Karuza (who teaches at Drexel University and the Art Institute of Philadelphia) partnered with Drake for a student-designed couture runway show. “Bowie is part of my DNA as he connected the dots of art, music, literature, and life for me,” says Karuza.
Sunday, Jan. 14
Directed by local musicians Dan Kaufman and Lance Davis, and featuring vocal glitterati such as Johnny Showcase, Ginger Coyle and Roisin covering the week’s honoree, “A Night of Stardust” at Union Transfer (7:30 p.m. Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., $20, 215-232-2100) gets a massive personal boost from Bowie band alumni Mark Plati and Earl Slick. “We first met Earl back when he did the David Live shows in 1974, so it’s an honor to have him here, along with Mark and the other singers,” says Brett. “This is a perfect finale to a perfect week.”