David Bowie’s been on my mind a lot lately and with good reason. Two key dates are almost here: what would have been his 71st birthday on Jan. 8 and the three-year anniversary of his death on Jan. 10. Bowie is my all-time favorite artist, and on the morning of Jan. 11, 2016, when I got a 6 a.m. phone call from a friend who wanted me to find out from a human being rather than the internet that he was gone, my heart was broken in a way I had never experienced, and it’s still not OK. This was the first time I truly grieved the loss of someone I had never met.
The passing of time has certainly helped, but after listening to his latest album “Blackstar” joyfully on the day it was released (just days before he died), I couldn’t listen to it again for a solid six months. Not knowing quite what to do with my grief or how exactly how I wanted to honor my love for Bowie’s music, I made two things happen within months of when he departed this world – ordered a Bowie license plate and got a line from my favorite Bowie song tattooed on my arm. In case you’re wondering, it’s a line from “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” from 1972’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.”
Another huge Bowie-related experience came in August of 2016, when the Donny McCaslin Quartet performed a show at the intimate venue Blue in Portland. This was significant because McCaslin and his bandmates were the (tremendous) horn section on “Blackstar.” After that show, I had a lovely chat with McCaslin about Bowie.
This brings me to two wonderful events happening this week. I will magic dance my way over to Saco for a screening of the 1986 Jim Henson musical fantasy “Labyrinth,” and I hope you’ll join me.
The film stars Jennifer Connelly as 15-year-old Sarah Williams and Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King. The rest of the cast is mostly incredible puppets made by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Bowie’s role is one of his most iconic as an actor, and he also makes five contributions to the film’s soundtrack, including “Underground,” “As the World Falls Down” and “Magic Dance.” “As the World Falls Down” is my favorite. It’s a dreamy love song punctuated by Bowie’s soaring vocals. I remember seeing “Labyrinth” in the theater when it was released and have had the soundtrack on vinyl since then. But I haven’t seen it since, and I’m ready to revisit it. It’s a delightful, fantastical film and was one of Connelly’s first leading roles. Bowie was well into his film career by then, with previous roles in “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” and “The Hunger,” among others. Many roles would follow, including “Absolute Beginners,” “Zoolander” and “The Prestige.” Some of these films are better than others, and I haven’t seen all of the movies that Bowie was in, but I did, recently and finally, see “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me” from 1992 and loved it (despite the bad reviews the film received). The “Labyrinth” screening at Saco Cinemagic will include trivia and prizes before the film starts, so be sure to get there early.
IF YOU GO:
“Labyrinth,” 8 p.m. Thursday. Cinemagic Stadium Theater, 229 Portland Road, Saco $8.75. cinemagicmovies.com
THERE’S ALSO a fabulous event happening on Saturday night in Portland. Bowie Night: A Glam Dance Party will be a night of Bowie and other post-punk and glam tunes spun by DJs King Alberto, DoomsdayJ and Zimbra. Glam attire is suggested but by no means required. The only true requirement, other than being at least 21 years old, is the desire to celebrate Bowie’s birthday in a room full of open-hearted Bowie fans. Flask Lounge is a small but welcoming space, and I’ve attended a few other dance parties, including a Bowie event right after he died, that have all been fantastic. The evening is presented by Primary, a local group of dedicated DJs that has found a happy home at Flask and regularly hosts themed evenings. I heard that there will be drink specials available during this party, and I’m compelled to offer a few suggestions. I’ll leave the ingredients to the skilled Flask mixologists but hereby suggest the following cocktails: the Major Tom Collins, the Lady Grinning Sour, the John I’m Only Drinking and the Life on Marstini.
IF YOU GO:
Bowie Night: A Glam Dance Party, 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday. Flask Lounge, 117 Spring St., Portland, no cover, 21-plus. On Facebook.
THERE’S ONE MORE Bowie event that I’ll give a brief mention to, with a promise for a longer preview later as the date draws closer. But by all means put a lightning bolt on your calendar on April 5. Mat Zaro will be presenting PortBowie at Port City Music Hall. He and his band will be performing the albums “Outside” and “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” in their entirety. This is the third year Zaro and his band have paid tribute to Bowie, and having attended one of these shows, I can tell you it’s really quite special. Hold that thought for the moment.