Your Guide to Philly Loves Bowie Week
The citywide celebration pays tribute to the Starman with art, concerts, food specials and more.
While he has always seemed otherworldly, David Bowie had deep connections to Philadelphia. His tenure here was brief, but it was a crucial period in the legendary musician’s eclectic career as he moved away from glam rock and into his “plastic soul” era inspired by the Sound of Philadelphia. In 1974 he recorded David Live at the Tower Theater (renaming his Diamond Dogs-fueled tour “Philly Dogs” along the way). He then followed it up by making Young Americans at Sigma Sound studios. It was during that period that the “Sigma Kids” were formed, the very superfans who began Philly Loves Bowie Week after the musician’s death in 2016.
Sigma Kid and Doobies owner Patti Brett told Philly Mag back in 2017:
In 1974, David Bowie was at the Tower Theater for a series of performances. He was staying at the Bellevue-Stratford at Broad and Walnut. He would sit on the steps and chat with everybody. One of the nights he was there, he told us he was going to be recording a new album at Sigma Sound [the album would come to be Young Americans], and that we should look for him. This was 1974 — there were no cell phones, no Internet, so we’d have to drive around and look for his car.
One night my friend called and said, “His car’s outside.” He was staying at the Barclay Hotel that time. So we sort of had a routine – we would wait for him, he would come out of the hotel, usually around 5 in the afternoon, and he’d take photos and chat with fans and get in his car and go to the studio. And then we would jump in our cars and run every red light to get to the studio before him, and we’d be waiting there when he got out again. It just sort of became a routine.
This went on for two weeks. At some point he went into his studio and said, “If you guys are out here when I come out, I have a surprise for you.”
When he came out he said, “We really appreciate everything that you’ve done in supporting the project. We want you to come up when we’re done laying tracks and listen to what we’ve done.”
And so we did.
Brett and her fellow Sigma Kids have kept their love for Bowie alive over the years (her bar is covered in memorabilia), and once again they’ve put together a week of events celebrating his groundbreaking music, art, and life. Philly Loves Bowie Week runs from January 6th to 14th, encompassing both Bowie’s birthday (January 8, 1947), as well as the anniversary of his passing (January 10, 2016). A portion of the proceeds from the week’s events — as well as auction items from a special pop-up art exhibit — help benefit cancer research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The week includes everything from concerts to sweet treats to an all-out masquerade; here’s how to get involved.
Kickoff Party and Art Exhibit
First things first, National Liberty Museum returns as one of Philly Loves Bowie Week’s de facto hubs with their third annual Bowie Bash, pop-up gallery and art sale on Friday, January 6th. The night features live music with Bowie covers by the fabulous Johnny Showcase and Rumi Kitchen, specialty cocktails from Tattooed Mom and a raffle for some Bowie-inspired prizes. The museum will open their pop-up art gallery that night, displaying local artists’ work celebrating Bowie’s legacy. The gallery will run through January 23rd; all artwork is available for purchase, with a portion of proceeds donated to CHOP. Be the Match will also be on-site running a swab event to find a stem-cell blood match for beloved drag queen Martha Graham Cracker due to her recent leukemia diagnosis.
January 6th, 6-9 p.m. (VIP admission at 5 p.m.), National Liberty Museum, 321 Chestnut Street.
Concerts and Live Performances
WXPN Free at Noon with Candy Volcano
This Philly glam-rock band will kick the week off with a free concert at World Cafe Live (and broadcast on WXPN 88.5 FM or stream on xpn.org) on Friday at noon. The concert is free, but pre-registration is required online to get tickets. And if you can’t make it, don’t worry: Candy Volcano will be performing a full concert the next night (see below).
January 6th, noon, World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut Street.
haZy cosmic jive at Brooklyn Bowl
This Philly-based Bowie tribute band is — as you probably gathered from their name — focused on the artist’s glam-rock Ziggy era, but they’ll also be playing favorites from Let’s Dance, as well some deep Bowie cuts. Come early for Bowie Bowling Night!
January 6th, 8 p.m., Brooklyn Bowl, 1009 Canal Street.
Candy Volcano performs Aladdin Sane at Ardmore Music Hall
If you missed them on WXPN or just want more, Candy Volcano is back the next day in Ardmore. This time, they’ll be performing Bowie’s iconic Aladdin Sane in its entirety to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the album’s release.
January 7th, 8 p.m., Ardmore Music Hall, 23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore.
BOWIECHURCH: Scenes of a Rock n’ Roll Life
Bowie fans all have their own story of how he has touched their lives. In that vein, this original one-man show by singer and guitarist ERIC13 “explores the phenomenon of how David Bowie has been present alongside some of ERIC’s most memorable and frightening life experiences,” and includes both Bowie covers and original songs.
January 8th, 6 p.m., Gloria Dei Old Swedes Church, 927 South Water Street.
A Night of Stardust
Philly Loves Bowie Week’s grand finale takes place at Union Transfer with an all-out tribute concert featuring five vocalists and a full band to celebrate the Starman. Celebratory dress is welcome: “We challenge concertgoers to be as outrageous as you can with fashion. Dress like you always wanted to be, but maybe never had a reason to do so in the past. Now’s your chance – Bowie would’ve wanted it that way!
January 14th, 8 p.m., Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden Street.
Bowie Masquerade at Johnny Brenda’s
For its fifth year, the Bowie Masquerade Ball️ returns with DJ Baby Berlin and DJ JEM spinning Bowie (obviously), plus Bowie-inspired drag and burlesque performances, a photo booth, themed drinks, a Stardust DIY glitter bar, and of course a Bowie costume contest.
January 6th, 9 p.m., Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 Frankford Avenue.
Let’s Dance! A Bowie Blitz Dance Party
DJ Robert Drake hosts a “glamtastic” Bowie-inspired dance party under the Divine Lorraine. What’s not to love?
January 7th, 9 p.m., Broad Hall, 699 North Broad Street.
Sound & Vision Happy Hour at the Trestle Inn
This annual Philly Loves Bowie Week vinyl and go-go dance party features DJs SoundinBetween and The Slinky Vagabond spinning Bowie on vinyl, go-go by Trestle Specials Farrah Fox and Prudence Farrow, and happy hour specials including the “Young Americans Sour.”
January 13th, 6-9 p.m., Trestle Inn, 11th and Callowhill streets.
Fun & Games
Bowie Bowling Night at Brooklyn Bowl
Bowl to a Bowie soundtrack and career-spanning video footage, plus Bowie-themed drink specials and a special raffle with proceeds donated to CHOP. Stick around for a tribute concert (separate tickets required).
January 6th, 6-8 p.m., Brooklyn Bowl, 1009 Canal Street.
Bowie Quizzo at Doobies Bar
Sigma Kid and Doobies owner Patti Brett hosts an entirely Bowie-centric quiz night with prizes! (I’m not trying to brag, but I won the Zoom version of this back in 2021 when PLBW went virtual. Ok, maybe I’m bragging.) Special Bowie beers include Loving the Alien Saison, Young Americans Cranberry Sour, and Never Get Old IPA. A portion of each sale of Bowie beer will benefit CHOP. Doobies will also be showing Bowie movies and concert videos on Monday, January 9th and Tuesday, January 10th.
January 11th, 5-11 p.m., Doobies Bar, 2201 Lombard Street.
Sara Sherr of Sing Your Life Karaoke returns to Johnny Brenda’s to host an all-Bowie edition. The event is free to attend, but fills up fast, so get there early and pick your song!
January 12th, 8 p.m.-12:30 a.m., Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 Frankford Avenue.
Blue, Blue, Electric Blue Ice-Cream Sandwich at Weckerly’s
Weckerly’s created this special blue ice cream sandwich for Philly Loves Bowie Week back in 2020 and it sold out within hours. It features pea-flower blue sweet cream ice cream and “Ziggy Stardust cocoa cookie crumble” between “Thin White sugar cookies,” topped with a strawberry-jam lightning bolt. It will be available starting Friday, January 6th at their Fishtown location and 20 percent of proceeds will be donated to CHOP.
Available beginning January 6th, Weckerly’s, 9 West Girard Ave.
Philly Loves Bowie Brunch at Chatayee Thai
Enjoy a Bowie soundtrack and themed “Stardust cocktails” alongside Chatayee’s Thai brunch menu to benefit CHOP.
January 8th, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Chatayee Thai, 1227 Walnut Street.
“John, I’m Only Eating” at Doobies Bar
Local chef Melissa McGrath swings by Doobies Bar with a special pop-up sandwich menu to accompany a night of Bowie music. Special themed beers include Loving the Alien Saison, Young Americans Cranberry Sour, and Never Get Old IPA. A portion of each sale of Bowie beer will benefit CHOP.
January 12th, 6-11 p.m., Doobies Bar, 2201 Lombard Street.
The BowNut at Federal Donuts
Federal Donuts brings back its Bowie-inspired “Velvet Goldmine” — a spiced cake doughnut with vanilla-cream glaze, blue sugar, red sprinkles and an edible gold-flake stripe. It benefits the Bowie CHOP fund, and will be available at all FedNuts locations until it sells out.
January 13th, various locations.
The Rock & Roll Playhouse presents Music of David Bowie for Kids
“Let all the children boogie!” The Rock and Roll Playhouse brings the music of David Bowie with a side of fun (think glow-sticks, freeze-dance games and a giant parachute) for the littlest fans. It’s a full-on tribute concert that parents will enjoy too, performed by (who else?) Candy Volcano.
January 7th, 11:45 a.m., Ardmore Music Hall, 23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore.
David Bowie narrates Peter and the Wolf on WXPN Kids Corner
Here’s another random Philly-Bowie connection for you: In 1978 he narrated the story of Peter and the Wolf for the Philadelphia Orchestra’s recording of the Prokofiev composition. WXPN’s Kids Corner will play it in its entirety on Monday night — listen on 88.5 FM or stream on xpn.org.
January 9th, 7 p.m.