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David Bowie

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Sons of the Silent Age drummer Matt Walker talks Bowie, Ava Cherry, and playing for a cause

Posted By on 03.02.16 at 11:15 AM

Sons of the Silent Age at Metro in 2013 - COURTESY SONS OF THE SILENT AGE’S FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Courtesy Sons of the Silent Age’s Facebook page
  • Sons of the Silent Age at Metro in 2013

Just a month before David Bowie's death, local Bowie cover band Sons of the Silent Age made plans for their next show, a concert benefitting cancer research at the University of Chicago Medical Center—the same place that Metro owner Joe Shanahan went for his own cancer treatments. Once the Thin White Duke died from cancer, says the Sons' drummer, Matt Walker (previously of Garbage and the Smashing Pumpkins), it became even more clear that playing a benefit show was the right thing to do. On March 4 the nine-person band will take the stage with Bowie's former girlfriend and collaborator Ava Cherry to play Station to Station in its entirety plus a set of songs spanning Bowie's career. 

I caught up with Walker to talk about the first Sons of the Silent Age performance, the time he met Bowie, and what it was like singing "Young Americans" with Cherry herself. 

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Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie's best work of art was himself

Posted By on 01.11.16 at 03:00 PM

David Bowie's Top of the Pops performance and his "Starman" suit at "David Bowie Is" - ANDREA BAUER
  • Andrea Bauer
  • David Bowie's Top of the Pops performance and his "Starman" suit at "David Bowie Is"

I was never a huge David Bowie fan. He was part of the musical background of my life, particularly the year I worked at a Barnes & Noble and the staff unanimously decided that Best of Bowie was the only one of the CDs chosen by corporate that we would work to; "The Jean Genie" had a particularly good rhythm for shelving. But I never really paid close attention to him until last fall when "David Bowie Is" opened at the MCA. Brianna Wellen and I went to cover it for the Reader—the idea was that we would jointly review the exhibit from the perspective of a Bowie fanatic and a Bowie novice.

"David Bowie Is" knocked us both out. Brianna was thrilled to see all the relics of his life and learn more about how his songs were made; she felt more connected to him than she already was. For me, it was almost the opposite. There was some debate at the time about whether the MCA should have wasted valuable space on a rock star's costumes and his cocaine spoon when there were plenty of up-and-coming contemporary artists whose work deserved to be shown in a major museum. But the costumes and the cocaine spoon weren't the point of the exhibit. The point was Bowie himself. David Bowie was the work of art. There is probably nothing more contemporary than a work of art where the medium is the persona.

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David Bowie and me

Posted By on 01.11.16 at 01:30 PM

This is what greets everyone who walks into my apartment. - MADELINE WELLEN
  • Madeline Wellen
  • This is what greets everyone who walks into my apartment.

When news of David Bowie's death broke this morning, I found out not through social media or a news outlet—I woke up to more than 20 personal messages offering condolences, making sure I was OK. (The first thing I had to do was figure out what terrible thing had happened.) My Reader colleague Kevin Warwick even brought me a doughnut, knowing I'd need sweets to ease the emotional pain. Whether because I've told them myself or just because of how I live my life, everyone around me knows how much Bowie means to me. Maybe they just never really knew why.

I first heard the Starman's music as a baby. During the first year of my life I spent most of my time with my dad, who took care of me while my mom finished school to become an occupational therapist. Most of my musical taste can be traced back to those days with my dad swinging me around our Palos Hills apartment, singing songs by the Beatles, the Violent Femmes, and of course David Bowie. I'll always remember my dad belting out "Changes" and turning and pretending to look into a mirror when Bowie sang "As I turn myself to face me." (To this day my dad will delightedly explain that that's what Bowie does in the video—how cool is he?)

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From station to station with David Bowie

Posted By on 01.11.16 at 11:46 AM

MASAYOSHI SUKITA
  • Masayoshi Sukita

1. July 2001

I work at a record store in Chicago, where I am paid six dollars an hour (I take my day's pay right from the register at the end of my shift) and can have any used CD in the store I want so long as I clean it. On my last day at the store, two albums come into the shop that I've never heard before: Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. I walk away with a bundle of CDs and casually forget about the Bowie albums.

2. February 2002

At college, my roommate asks what we should listen to, and I tell him to put on whatever he wants. He looks through my CDs and puts on Hunky Dory. It doesn't leave our CD player for two months.

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Crazy old Bowie may be the best Bowie yet

Posted By on 01.08.16 at 07:00 AM

David Bowie looks like a creepy cult leader now, and it's great. - JIMMY KING
  • Jimmy King
  • David Bowie looks like a creepy cult leader now, and it's great.

Let me preface my review of David Bowie's new Blackstar by saying that there's no way I wasn't going to like this album. I am so enamored with Bowie that if he released a literal heaping pile of garbage, I would defend it to the death as a work of creative genius even as the stench threatened to knock me unconscious. But luckily for me (and for the world, really), Blackstar is anything but trash. It's a master class in what all aging rock stars should do: go completely bonkers.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Where to find more Nam June Paik video art outside of the MCA's David Bowie exhibit

Posted By on 10.01.14 at 02:30 PM

Nam June Paiks Global Groove (1973)
  • Nam June Paik's Global Groove (1973)
Before attending the David Bowie exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, I was unaware that Bowie had collaborated on a music video in the 1980s with Nam June Paik. I wasn't surprised to learn of this collaboration, however. Paik, who died in 2006 at the age of 74, is widely considered to be the godfather of video art. His groundbreaking work from the 1960s and '70s introduced a range of devices to the new medium of video, such as stroboscopic effects, closed-feedback loops, and the use of magnets to deform how the images appeared on TV sets. Bowie, of course, has always looked to the art world for inspiration (the MCA exhibit makes reference to a number of postwar avant-gardists). In hindsight it seems practically inevitable that he would turn to Paik when he embarked on his own video-making endeavors.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Siskel Center revisits a transformative era in the career of Japanese director Nagisa Oshima

Posted By on 09.30.14 at 01:00 PM

In the Realm of the Senses
  • In the Realm of the Senses
Chris Marker's Level Five (which screens again tomorrow at 6:30 PM at Columbia College) features a cameo by director Nagisa Oshima, who shows up to share his critical view of postwar Japan. Seen here in his 60s, Oshima comes off as an authoritative figure, delivering years of political thought in measured, lucid terms. This image of Oshima contrasts sharply with the one he projected in his 30s, when he was attacking the hypocrisy and conformism of Japanese society with one explosive film after another. How did he transform from a young upstart to an elder statesman?

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Monday, September 29, 2014

The time David Bowie called Chicago home

Posted By on 09.29.14 at 02:27 PM

Bowie at Neo in August 1980 with Noni Martin and Noah Beadreaux
  • Photo Courtesy of Ken Ellis, Taken by Gavin Morrison
  • Bowie at Neo in August 1980 with Noni Martin and Noe Boudreau

As much as David Bowie exuded his own charisma, he understood how fashion could be harnessed to magnify his power and presence: an Alexander McQueen Union Jack coat, faux-punk finery dotted with cigarette burns; or a black jumpsuit by Kansai Yamamoto sporting flared legs and thick grooves, making the wearer appear like some kind of anthropomorphic vinyl record. Amid the costumes and sensory overload of "David Bowie Is", the retrospective at the MCA, it's understandable if visitors blithely pass by a lowly white loincloth, a literal undergarment included in one of rock's most eccentric and influential wardrobes.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to get 'David Bowie Is' to come to your town

Posted By on 09.23.14 at 02:02 PM

Well, you could just call up the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, where the exhibit was created, and ask. This method worked pretty well for Michael Darling. Of course, it probably also helped that Darling's the chief curator of the MCA, which actually has the space to hold all of Bowie's stuff, and also the technical capacity to run the autoPORT autoguides, which use headphones with geolocators to match audio with visuals, and also the 3D sound in the final gallery, meant to make you feel like you're at a live Bowie show. (Both these things were invented by the German company Sennheiser.)

Still. Geoffrey Marsh, one of two V&A curators (the other is Victoria Broackes) who worked on the exhibit, made it sound that easy in his chat with Darling at the MCA's press preview.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The influence of David Bowie on the rom-com Words and Pictures

Posted By on 09.02.14 at 12:30 PM

Clive Owen as a high school English teacher in Words and Pictures
  • Clive Owen as a high school English teacher in Words and Pictures
Like many Chicagoans, I'm eagerly looking forward to the David Bowie exhibit that opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art later this month. I'm also excited about the upcoming Doc Films series (copresented by the MCA) of movies featuring Bowie, which occupies the second Thursday-night slot on Doc's fall calendar. Bowie's records have always exhibited strong affinities with cinema. Many of them center on Bowie playing a different character (Ziggy Stardust, the soulless soul man of Young Americans and Station to Station), and the production often suggests a sonic equivalent to cinematic spectacle, conjuring up specific environments (like the futuristic noir landscape of Outside) or guiding the listener through little narratives.

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