The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TAKE - TONYCLAYTON-LEA

The fourth edi­tion of the Dublin Bowie Fes­ti­val – per­haps the most in­tel­lec­tu­ally en­gaged fes­ti­val fo­cus­ing on the work and in­flu­ence of one per­son – fixes its gaze on the stars. There is a valid rea­son for this.

David Bowie may have be­come fa­mous via as­tron­omy-af­fil­i­ated hit songs such as Star­man and al­bums such as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Star­dust and the Spi­ders from Mars, but prior to singing lines such as “press your space face close to mine, love, freak out in a moon­age day­dream” he was, to all in­tents and pur­poses, a failed pop star.

The sin­gle Space Odd­ity , re­leased in July 1969, cracked the UK top 5, but it would be three long years un­til his next hit sin­gle (the afore­men­tioned Star­man). Hence the one-hit won­der stigma in an era where the worth of any as­pir­ing pop star was cal­cu­lated on how many hits they could clock up in the space of 12 months.

This year the Dublin Bowie Fes­ti­val has a bona-fide an­niver­sary to cel­e­brate: a big happy 50th birth­day not only to the song that started it all but also to the al­bum that con­tained it (Bowie’s sec­ond record, yet the first to have in­gre­di­ents of what he as a song­writer would be­come).

The cel­e­bra­tion of Space Odd­ity (the song, as well as the al­bum, which although orig­i­nally self-ti­tled, is much bet­ter known by its adopted name) is the fo­cal point of the fes­ti­val, and to this end the or­gan­is­ers have teamed up with Black­rock Cas­tle Ob­ser­va­tory, sci­en­tist and en­gi­neer Dr Ni­amh Shaw and some of Ire­land’s lead­ing ex­perts in mat­ters of the fi­nal fron­tier.

Dr Shaw will cu­rate a num­ber of events, in­clud­ing work­shops, pub­lic dis­cus­sions (in as­so­ci­a­tion with Trin­ity Sci­ence Gallery) and talks based around the com­plex is­sues of hu­man­ity grap­pling with what may, or may not, live be­yond the stars.

Mu­sic, of course, is at the heart of the fes­ti­val. The first in­trigu­ing gig takes place on Mon­day, Jan­uary 7th, at the Na­tional Con­cert Hall, with a per­for­mance of the al­bum Space Odd­ity in its en­tirety (fol­lowed by other Bowie songs).

De­liv­ered by the renowned Trin­ity Or­ches­tra and the I Heart Bowie band – a gath­er­ing of ex­pert mu­si­cians from groups you prob­a­bly know very well – the show will be com­ple­mented by (as yet unan­nounced) guest vo­cal­ists.

Other mu­sic high­lights in­clude A Bowie Cel­e­bra­tion, which fea­tures for­mer mem­bers (in­clud­ing Mike Gar­son, Earl Slick, Gerry Leonard) of Bowie’s var­i­ous bands down the years tack­ling the man’s songs (Wed­nes­day, Jan­uary 9th, Olympia Theatre); and Swedish singer Miriam Aïda, who rein­ter­prets choices from the song­book with a hefty in­put of reg­gae, samba, jazz, and AfroBrazil­ian rhythms (Thurs­day, Jan­uary 10th, Sugar Club).

You want trib­ute acts? You got ’em, but the fes­ti­val or­gan­is­ers have al­ways made it clear that only the best ones get a look-in. To that end, The London Boys (Fri­day, Jan­uary 11th, Grand So­cial) nab the gong this year for fo­cus­ing on a sec­tion of Bowie’s back pages that rarely get flicked through: the pre-Space Odd­ity years.

There is much, much more to soak up dur­ing the fes­ti­val: art and pho­tog­ra­phy ex­hi­bi­tions, movies, pub­lic in­ter­views, drag nights, mas­quer­ade balls, as­tron­omy talks. You’ll have a hec­tic time to see even half of what’s on. Your best bet to get from one end of the fes­ti­val to the other? Take your pro­tein pills and put your hel­met on.

The Dublin Bowie Fes­ti­val runs fromMon­day,Jan­uary7thtoSun­day, Jan­uary13th.dublin­bowiefes­ti­val.ie

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