Sonic Spectrum Presents: A Tribute to David Bowie
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Better than: Anything (or anyone) else I've ever done on a Sunday night.
Kansas City's first family of musicians paid one hell of a tribute to the king of glam rock last night, and 250 of their biggest local fans made it one of the best Sunday nights this city's seen in a while.
The Sonic Spectrum tribute series kicked off at RecordBar with an homage to David Bowie, featuring Soft Reeds, the Vi Tran band, Steve Tulipana of Roman Numerals, and a host of Kansas City's finest rock musicians. But perhaps the best component of the night was how evident it was that these talented individuals were all friends -- if not family.
Solid Gold Easy kicked off the night with a rocking rendition of "Moonage Daydream," and from the moment Adam Stotts' lips hit the microphone, we all knew it was going to be a special night.Though the sets were all short, to allow for a lot of people to take the stage, they started the night off right with four of the most beloved Bowie classics, and nailed the Bowie wail with their set-closing cover of "Ziggy Stardust."
Up next was Erik Voeks with special guest Cody Wyoming, who brought their acoustic flair to the Bowie catalog. Playing more obscure songs than the first group, Voeks and Wyoming strummed and harmonized through versions of "Everybody Says 'Hi'" (off the often overlooked Heathen), "Five Years," "Ashes to Ashes," and a beautiful cover of "Absolute Beginners," a theme track to a movie by the same title in which Bowie co-starred. Voeks and Wyoming brought the much-needed slow, acoustic interpretation to the tribute night with quick-witted banter (at one point Voeks had to take a replacement guitar from the audience) and poise.
Local rock hero Steve Tulipana hit the stage next, with an assembled group of musicians to flesh out the sound. Drummer Ryan Shank, of Roman Numerals and Be/Non, keyboard extraordinaire Dan Talmadge of Soft Reeds, and guitarist David George of the David George Band, filled out Bowie's stranger, less-known sound as Tulipana wailed through his lyrics. He was undoubtedly one of the best Bowie vocalists of the night, covering just three songs - "Strange Plot of Land," "Eight Line Poem," and "Bewlay Brothers."
The Vi Tran Band, featuring the only girl Bowie-er of the night, Katie Gilchrist, brought a full band plus strings to the stage, and paid tribute to some of Bowie's poppiest, most beloved songs. Wearing feather boas, Vi Tran and his band rocked through versions of "All the Young Dudes," "Suffragette City," and "China Girl." His drummer, Giuliano Mingucci, wins the prize for the best Bowie makeup of the night, donning the signature smoky, colorful eyeshadow that Bowie was known for. The Vi Tran Band was the most animated, visually Bowied-out group of the night, successfully walking the fine line between tribute and parody.
But the highlight of the night hit the stage last, and the packed bar full of local music aficionados and Bowie-loving fans of yore was ripe with anticipation for Soft Reeds. It was a tribute built for Ben Grimes, whose songwriting and vocal style take notes from the Bowie lesson book, and he did not disappoint. Wearing face paint and feathers, the band (featuring drummer Ryan Shank in place of Josh Wiedenfeld) began their set with two pared down renditions of "Life on Mars" and "Lady Stardust," showcasing Grimes' ability to sing Bowie perfectly. The full band took up the catalog after that and culminated in the best moment of the night: Soft Reeds covering "Fame." It was a moment that will reverberate through the local music scene for some time (and certainly was the buzz at the after-party).
Though my whiskey hangover makes me think it will be hard to live up to last night, I wait anxiously for the next tribute and, if nothing else, certainly feel that the Kansas City music scene has been brilliantly reinvigorated.
Solid Gold Easy:
Erik Voeks & Cody Wyoming:
(I admittedly missed the first song, while on a smoke break)
Everybody Says 'Hi'
Ashes to Ashes
Steve Tulipana & friends:
Strange Plot of Land
Eight Line Poem
Vi Tran Band:
All the Young Dudes
The Man Who Sold the World
Life On Mars
Sound & Vision
Oh, You Pretty Things
Overheard in the Crowd: Everyone was stunned by how well the musicians did, and there wasn't a lot of the typical dumb, drunk banter -- just lots of smiles.
Critic's Notebook: I caught up with Pioneer's guitarist, James Taylor, and asked him what he would have covered if he were involved in the tribute. His set list:
Modern Love (I, too, am sad no one covered this)
John, I'm Only Dancing
Baby With the Power