If you can’t rock out to David Bowie then maybe you just can’t rock.
At least that’s how Chuck Vosganian sees it.
He’s been organizing Rochmon Record Club events at Universal Preservation Hall and Caffe Lena since 2016, honoring albums and musicians from previous decades. He’s held nearly 50 events so far, where he’ll play some records and talk about how they came together and the musicians who recorded them. His talks usually bring in quite the crowd, often selling out at Caffe Lena.
But with Bowie, who died in 2016, he wanted to do something different.
“I love Bowie and [I wanted to do] a retrospective about his life, his music and also [tie] in local bands to reinterpret it,” Vosganian said.
Four local bands will be taking listeners through Bowie’s discography, not playing it all mind you.
That would take a while. Rather, each band has selected songs from key albums from Bowie’s career and reinterpreted them in its own style. It’s a departure from the norm and perhaps a better way to honor a musician who so often went against the grain.
“He was such a collaborator and that’s what I love about the idea of a Bowie show doing it the way we’re doing it. It’s all about the collaboration,” Vosganian said.
One of those local bands is Haley Moley, an electronically inspired group with a sound so layered with hints of new wave and surf rock that pigeonholing its sounds into a single genre is impossible (and inaccurate).
“The first song that I loved was ‘Fashion’ which was off of ‘Scary Monsters,’ which was a really gritty disco grungy song. . . He was just so visually fascinating in the MTV era it was just so much fun to watch everything he did and all his transformations. I think he was a prototype for a lot of the pop icons of today who just change and evolve all the time to keep people interested and he was one of the first to do that,” said Jennifer Maher Coleman.
She’s one of the founding members of Haley Moley, along with her husband, Paul Coleman.
Both had been working on other projects and bands for years—Jennifer working as a DJ and Paul in rock bands—before they came together to create Haley Moley in 2014.
They later brought in fellow musicians Andrea Kosek, Pat Thorpe and Mike Broomhead. Most of them are also DJs, though they all come from different musical backgrounds, bringing in a variety of influences, from new wave to funk and disco.
“We all like electronic music and that’s our common bond. It doesn’t really come through anymore as much as it used to in the band’s sound. Because we have a live drummer we don’t really have electronic beats anymore. So it’s become more of a real rock project with a lot of synthesizers. We all love dance music and we try to work a dance beat into most of the things that we do,” Coleman said.
As one might imagine, the band will be playing songs from Bowie’s 80s music, including songs like “Let’s Dance” and “Modern Love.” The band is striving to perform faithful adaptations of the songs and in order to do that, Coleman had to bring in a few other musicians.
“We’re bringing in my father and my daughter to be our horns section. They both play saxophone. It’s so cute,” Coleman said.
The show has connected the family on several levels.
Sonja Mankes, who is 11, wasn’t familiar with Bowie before she started practicing with Haley Moley. While she’s not nearly as much of a fan of his music as Coleman is, she is having fun improvising and rehearsing with the band.
The show has also allowed Coleman to musically connect with Dennis Maher, her father.
“He has always been a jazz musician. He plays the clarinet, oboe and saxophone and he has always had jazz bands. . . . But this is the first time we’ve ever connected musically because jazz and what I do have been very disparate so this is the first place where it’s ever met up,” Coleman said.
They also brought in Jim Chiefari on bongos and Brittany Schweiker-Broomhead on backup vocals.
"Bowie’s songs are deceptively simple-sounding. It turns out that they’re extremely complicated and there’s a thousand little elements underneath what sounds like one element. There’s a lot going on with the vocals, there’s a lot of different layers and a lot going on musically. [We] just needed more hands for some of these rich, deep, multi-layered songs that we didn’t realize were so multilayered until we dug into them. So we brought as many people as we could on board,” Coleman said.
Zan & The Winter Folk, a Troy-based band, will be taking on songs from “Space Oddity” and “Hunky Dory.” Ampevene is slated to perform songs from “Rise and Fall” and “Aladdin Sane,” while Bendt performs “All the Young Dudes,” and songs from “Diamond Dogs.” Front Biz will perform songs from “Young Americans,” “Station to Station” and “Low.”
In between each band, Vosganian will speak about Bowie’s life and music.
“In the age of [having lots of different names for the way we identify Bowie was there first. He made it okay for a lot of people to dress the way that they wanted to dress and be who they wanted to be. Bowie is a hero. I’m not sure that anyone not of my generation necessarily sees it that way so doing [a retrospective on] Bowie is about being able to give voice to that,” Vosganian said.
“I really do feel like the world has turned to sh** since Bowie died, almost like he was keeping the universe in balance. Without him, we get people without empathy or understanding.”
The Rochmon Record Club "David Bowie Spectacular"
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: The Linda
MORE INFO: thelinda.org