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The Mind Warp Pavilion – Celebrating Bowie

The night before what would have been David Bowie’s 70th birthday, and three days before the first anniversary of The Starman’s passing, a team of Bowie aficionados have assembled a galaxy of local musicians to celebrate the life, music and shining light of the iconic innovator.

The night before what would have been David Bowie’s 70th birthday, and three days before the first anniversary of The Starman’s passing, a team of Bowie aficionados have assembled a galaxy of local musicians to celebrate the life, music and shining light of the iconic innovator.

The Mind Warp Pavilion – the name inspired by a lyric in Bowie’s The Bewlay Brothers, from his 1971 Hunky Dory album - is happening at the Gate One Theatre at Claremont Showgrounds, on Saturday, January 7, from 7pm.

Featuring 40 musicians over three full sets of live music, DJ Claude Mono spinning Bowie tunes and covers, a Bowie-inspired artwork painted live at the event by Rahalie McGuirk, multiple surprises, and encouragement for attendees to glam it up with extra stardust, the event promises to be magical – some might say, ‘The Naz’.

The event’s musical director Greg Dear (The Holy Rollers, The Beautiful Losers) explains how the artists and song listing for the night were selected.

“Almost everyone accepted the invitation. Those who couldn't be part of this show - due to being on tour or otherwise out of town - all expressed disappointment that they couldn't be part of it. I had a fairly wide net of people to invite, but I managed to get the bands and singers together without needing to cast that whole net. The most difficult aspect was that I would have loved to have many more people involved, but we just can't fit them all in.

“Selecting which track for each singer was a process of negotiation,” he continues. “I had some ideas about which songs to include but each singer had his or her own idea about what to sing. Most of the singers wanted to do the song as closely to how Bowie did it as possible, but some of the singers wanted to reinterpret the song or put their own spin on it.”

The end result is three bands, and 22 singers, each interpreting a song from Bowie’s stellar career, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. Among the performers, such luminaries as Steve Parkin, Rachael Dease, Joe Kapiteyn, Timothy Nelson, Wayne Green, Bob Gordon, Nick Turner, Lee Sappho and Tanaya Harper.

Co-organiser, Sham McCourt Harkins, says that the event, “started as a mad idea – ‘Can we do this? Should we do this?’ Yes and yes were the responses,” before approaching Leanne Casellas. The pair had previously worked on the two Red Parrot Reunion events, and in the words of ardent Bowie fan, Casellas, “thought it was about time we did something together again and this was an obvious choice.”

“There have been many Bowie tributes but this show goes beyond the norm of merely stringing together Bowie songs,” Harkins elaborates. “The musos will challenge each song with a splash of poetic license and a sprinkle of personal interpretation. I'm sure Bowie would wholly approve.”

Gate One Theatre – formerly the Claremont Showgrounds Wool Pavilion – will be new to most punters.

“Gate One is not your average venue,” agrees Harkins. “It’s still in its infancy but is bypassing the crawling stage with head down, full throttle running. This venue is Perth's next big contender in presenting music, arts, comedy, fashion, theatre and even sporting events”

“It is a new venue,” confirms Dear. “In 12 months’ time no one will be looking at it as an unusual venue. It is set up for larger events and touring bands with a great sound system, concert lights, and video projection. The WAM Awards night was held there and the sound was great and the venue was perfect for that occasion.

“Our Bowie show needs a venue with that sort of special-event atmosphere rather than having it in one of the regular pubs or clubs. Plus, the regular venues don't have the capacity of Gate One. We've limited the number of tickets available so that we can have seating sections within the venue as well a dance floor and both areas have great viewing of the stage. And talking about the stage, it is big enough for big productions like this one, whereas we wouldn't fit nicely onto any of the regular stages around town.”

“This is not a usual rock’n’roll show: it’s rock theatre, which couldn’t be more appropriate to uphold the tradition of David Bowie!” adds Casellas.

As to which song from the night’s beautifully eclectic career-spanning track list the organisers are most looking forward to hear, Dear pleads diplomacy, refusing to favour any of the performers over another.

McCourt Harkins, meanwhile, plumps for “Jean Genie - I remember seeing the video clip for the first time as a child. The way the intro jumps straight on you; look at me, listen to me. It just blew me away!” Meanwhile Casellas is far more contemporary, stating, “I can quite honestly say all of the songs, but after last night’s rehearsal, I am very much looking forward to Lazarus (from Bowie's final album, Blackstar). Not only because of the amazing sax, but because of its relevance to the event. It’s a very poignant choice.”

Casellas says Bowie’s death impacted more widely than some other, equally iconic artists who have recently passed, “because he is the most iconic. Bowie has influenced every generation since the late ‘60s - whether they know it or not - in not only music but fashion, art and popular culture. His legacy is diverse and very far reaching. I believe he will continue to influence generations to come for quite some time. He was a trailblazer, he pushed the boundaries, he was the epitome of eclecticism, cool and experimentation.

“His appeal spanned generations and continues to do so. That is evident in the musicians who are playing in The Mind Warp Pavilion show – they vary in age from their 20s through to 50s, as well as musical backgrounds, and they’re equally passionate about him and his music. Everyone can find something in his vast body of work that resonates with them that bridges the age divide. He’s a leveler.”

“He was brave, he was bold, he pushed boundaries where many were happy settling for mediocrity,” adds Harkins. “He challenged your senses, he challenged society and perceptions. He was constantly reinventing, never stagnant.”

Singer, Tanaya Harper, elevates Bowie’s words even higher. “He had so much wisdom to impart to those who wished to listen and learn about creativity and individuality from this absolute genius. He almost lives with a guru status in my mind. He often spoke of being true to yourself, which in essence is exactly why one would embark on creative expression in every sense of the word.”

Perhaps most poignantly, songwriter Steve Parkin (Autopilot, Basement Birds, Newport Record Club) cites Bowie’s “legacy… of artistic fearlessness and experimentation… to fly the flag for the outsider, the ‘other’, the ‘queer’, the fringes of society and culture and encourage those afraid of ridicule or persecution in any walk of life to stand tall. He gave me the bravery to be different, put songs together with unexpected and very ‘non-pop’ chord changes, be free lyrically and melodically.”

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