Bowie and beer. That should be pretty much all I have to say, shouldn’t it? There can’t be many combinations more promising than a day dedicated to music’s most prolific genius and some dedicated ales brewed specifically for the occasion. There’s a fair few reasons that I can’t just stop there, though. Not least because I don’t think my editors would be best pleased.
More than that, though, it would also give a pretty false impression of the day as a whole if I was to sum it up so glibly and optimistically. Because, unfortunately, this was a day when the actuality fell somewhat short of the promise.
The convention flickered into life with a video reading of a forthcoming novel based loosely on the work of David Bowie. After a rather strange reading of a chapter or so from the book, performed by an unexplained person who seemed to be aiming for a Bob Fossil from The Mighty Boosh type persona, the author emerged from the shadows to take part in a Q&A. What followed was a slightly bizarre conversation in which we learned that the author had never been much of a Bowie fan, but had begun working the words of his songs into his fiction following a conversation with his brother about what he should write next. It seemed a strange confession to make when trying to sell your book to people who had paid for a Bowie convention. It also hinted at a theme that would hover over the whole day.
Next up it was the advertised ‘play inspired by David Bowie’. If anyone was at The Smiths Convention in the same venue earlier this year, they might remember that the play, Mr Smith, was one of the highlights of the day. A fully formed work of theatre that had The Smiths as it heartbeat, but would have been equally as absorbing and enjoyable at any other time or place. That isn’t what we got here. Instead, we were treated to one act of an unfinished musical, in which the actors read from scripts and the stage directions were read from an iPad. Even if the play showed promise in parts, which it kind of did, you have to ask whether this lived up to the bill as a Bowie inspired play. And whether patrons deserved a little better when paying £30 to attend.
Suffice to say then, it had been a somewhat ambling beginning. But, as is always the case in this boozer, there were some great beers on offer. And the party atmosphere was being maintained by those in fancy dress. But a certain concern was beginning to beat heavily at the back of my mind. At The Smiths Convention, I had felt immersed in the world of Manchester’s finest. Merchandise lined the walls, their videos played on TV screens, and a quiz and a talk about the band made it clear what we were there to celebrate. Here for a day of Bowie, I was feeling little connection to the great man. So far we’d had a reading from a book that ‘wasn’t really about him’ and we’d watched a play we didn’t know the meaning of because we’d only seen one act. Where was the advertised talk? And where was the sense that we were here to revel in the life of a legend?
This concern was to reach its peak with the next performance. As experimental singer Die Hexen took to the stage, there was a sense of anticipation and intrigue over how she would connect with the theme of the day. In the end, she didn’t. Other than some make-up that might have been seen in the Ashes to Ashes video, there was no connection at all. She was interesting to watch for a while, but a sense of disappointment was beginning to be the most prominent feeling from the day.
As good or bad as any of the things on show were, a Bowie Convention can’t really be a success if it doesn’t make you think of Bowie. So despite a fun day in the pub, this wasn’t an event to shout about. It was rescued somewhat by the fantastic Bowie Experience, the tribute act which ended the show and grew in confidence with every single song, but unfortunately even a brilliant last couple of hours was not enough to save the day.