It still seems hard to believe that David Bowie is gone. The great master of shape shifting, he never really seemed human — much less mortal. Many of us are listening to Blackstar, the goodbye album released just a couple days prior to his passing, as well as our many favorite Bowie songs from his five-decade career. We are thinking about all those changes he went through over the years and realizing just how pervasive his influence on popular culture has been. Maybe we're even watching some of his films.
But it can also be a good idea to leave the house and be around others who want to celebrate the man’s art and, perhaps, shed a few tears. David Bowie influenced everybody: Musicians of virtually all genres, artists, actors, fashion designers — you name it. Throughout the world, there are countless events scheduled to celebrate Bowie’s music and films. But among all the movie screenings and DJ nights, there are two in particular that stand out for showcasing live renditions of the man's music.
Tyrel Choat is the guitarist and vocalist for the Cosmic Trigger, a metal band, and he's also part of a Tool cover band. But he will be playing an acoustic set of Bowie covers for “Let’s Dance,” a show at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth on Sunday that will also feature DJ Snoopi with an all-David Bowie mix and Dead Mockingbirds doing Bowie covers.
Choat still can’t believe Bowie is dead. The recent deaths of Scott Weiland and Lemmy Kilmister were sad, but not necessarily surprising. “Keith Richards looks like an ashtray,” he says. “That wouldn’t surprise me if he died. I’d wonder how he was around for so long. But Bowie looked young.” Choat bought Blackstar the day it came out and failed to pick up on any of the clues of what was to come. He just figured Bowie was switching it up again. He never imagined it would be the last album.
Bowie taught Choat just how important it is to keep reinventing yourself. “It’s incredible just how many times he did that,” Choat says. Indeed, Bowie was a rockstar in the '70s who, unlike many of his contemporaries, became more popular in the '80s. It helped to have such a bold visual style when MTV was dawning. Choat is just happy to be able to pay tribute to someone who was so influential to his music. He remembers falling asleep to his mother singing him Bowie songs when he was a child. “We say this about a lot of people,” Choat says, “but he really was a musical genius. He’s a staple. Losing him really hits home.”
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Choat will be playing standards like “Modern Love” and “Space Oddity,” but also a few songs from Bowie’s 1986 film, Labyrinth. “Kids couldn’t watch his lesbian vampire film, The Hunger,” Choat says. But he remembers watching Labyrinth all the time when he was growing up and considers it part of his childhood. “You had the success of The Muppets and Dark Crystal, but Labyrinth is what everyone could relate to. Everyone’s had to babysit bratty kids and there’s cool stuff with the goblin too. As a kid you think it’s a whole world. And that would not be the same movie without him.” Granada Theater will be having its own Bowie tribute tonight. The initial plan after hearing of Bowie’s death was to screen Labyrinth, but Thin White Dukes, a David Bowie cover band that’s been going for seven years, will kick off the evening with a live performance before the film. They were happy to be performing at House of Blues on Friday, David Bowie’s last birthday. They were opening for Graceland Ninjas, an Elvis Presley cover band with a different birthday to celebrate that night. It just so happens that Presley and Bowie have the same birthday.
“Little did we know that we would be losing our hero a couple days later,” says bassist Doug Grabowski. Thin White Dukes sometimes play three sets in one night. “Bowie has such a diverse catalog of music that many people don’t realize we are doing a tribute to a single artist. The landscapes changed so much over the decades he was making music.”
The Thin White Dukes have backup singers, a full band and even a saxophone. They are not impersonators, but play music from all of Bowie’s different eras. “Rock stars are larger than life,” Grabowski says. “Bowie may be one of the last real artists. He was more than just a musician, he was a fashion icon who always reinvented himself and stayed ahead of the game. He changed the rules, but never played by them.”
The night is being approached as a celebration of Bowie’s life and art. But even people who make fun of people who cry when famous people die have cried about the passing of Bowie. And watching Labyrinth takes many back to a happy place. “I’m a fan of everything Bowie did,” Grabowski says. “Minus ‘Dancing in the Street’ with Mick Jagger.”