David Bowie sing-alongs at Alamo theaters, local reactions

David Bowie in a still from the video for "Blackstar."
David Bowie in a still from the video for “Blackstar.”

In the wake of David Bowie’s death on Sunday, Alamo Drafthouse has gathered many of the artist’s music videos for special sing-along screenings Monday night at three of its Austin locations.

The events at the Village (9 p.m.) and South Lamar (10:30 p.m.) quickly showed as sold-out, though a handful of single seats appeared to still be available. A 9:45 p.m. screening at Lakeline still showed availability as of midafternoon Monday. (Update: a second South Lamar showing has been added at 10:50 p.m.)

Radio station KUTX also will be paying tribute to Bowie with a 5 p.m. guest-DJ slot from Charlie Sexton, who’s captured in performance with Bowie in a 1987 YouTube clip. Sexton and KUTX DJ Jody Denberg will spin records and air part of an interview Denberg did with Bowie in 1997.

Bowie’s Austin ties were mostly tangential, though some were high profile. The most significant was when he hired the late, great blues-rock guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan to play guitar on his 1983 album “Let’s Dance” after seeing Vaughan perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. It seemed an unusual move at the time, but in retrospect was very much in character for Bowie, who was renowned for constantly reinventing himself.

Vaughan’s own career was taking off at the same time and so he didn’t take part in Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” tour, which stopped in Austin on Aug. 20, 1983 at the Erwin Center. A subsequent Erwin Center date on June 6, 1990, was followed by an Oct. 14, 1995, double-bill with Nine Inch Nails at Southpark Meadows. Bowie’s last Austin concert was April 27, 2004, at the Backyard.

An excerpt from American-Statesman writer Michael Barnes’ review of that final Austin show:

His sold-out concert at the Backyard on Tuesday took me back 35 years, but it also proved that Bowie has lost none of his high-voltage charisma or elegant allure. After a harmonious jamboree by Polyphonic Spree (“Godspell” gone wild), Bowie sauntered onstage in an aubergine jacket, looking every bit the teen rebel with his trim, tanned figure and dangling bangs.

Can a 57-year-old man pull this off? Bowie did, partly by delivering songs with a supple playfulness, but also by taking himself none too seriously, adding what he called an “interpretive dance” to one number, then dramatizing the flight of the Congress Avenue Bridge bats (“flying squirrels!”).

On Saturday night at Drinks Lounge in East Austin, a line reportedly circled around the block to get into a second annual David Bowie Birthday Bash, with the artist’s music spun by DJ Sue. A public Facebook video posted by Marc Fort of the Texas Music Office shows a packed house of attendees dancing to the sounds of “The Jean Genie.”

Local musician Adam Sultan has done occasional shows over the past three years with a Bowie tribute band called Super Creeps and in collaboration with Andrea Ariel Dance Theater on the multidisciplinary program “The Bowie Project.” Super Creeps were already booked for a Jan. 22 show at the Highball that now shapes up to be a memorial event.

Rock drummer Hunt Sales moved to Austin in 1993 after playing for three years with Bowie in the band Tin Machine. Sales has kept a low profile locally in recent years, though his band, Hunt Sales Memorial, played a show in October at the Austin Speed Shop in southeast Austin.

Few Austin musicians had a deeper connection to Bowie than Alejandro Escovedo, who turned 65 on Sunday, the last day of Bowie’s life. Escovedo’s three most recent albums were produced by Tony Visconti, Bowie’s longtime associate and the producer of his final album, “Blackstar.”

“He taught me so much,” Escovedo said Monday afternoon. “He was a beautiful man who worked on a higher level than any other artist in the modern rock era. When I made “Real Animal ” with Tony Visconti we borrowed from the Bowie soundscape quite readily. Tony and Bowie together created some of the most important recordings of our time. I am beyond sad. He left us with a beautifully challenging record, and as an artist, what better way to say goodbye?”




Author: Peter Blackstock

Music writer for the Austin American-Statesman and austin360.com. Twitter: @Blackstock360

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