Let Yourself Go! The Best Things To See and Do at Dublin Bowie Festival 2023

Posted January 10, 2023 in Festival Features

DDF apr-may-24 – Desktop

Dublin Bowie Festival returns with a jam packed programme celebrating the life and musical legacy of the iconic Starman along with a number of very special events to mark the 50th birthday of the maestro’s classic glam rock album, Aladdin Sane

We’re buzzing for the return of Dublin Bowie Festival which this year marks its 8th edition with a glittering programme of incredible live music, vibrant dance, and an array of stunning art, film and cultural events dedicated to the life and work of the iconic Starman. The festival runs over five glorious days from January 10th – 15th in a number of venues throughout the city, with plenty going on to get going out in the city off to a perfect start this month.

While DBF is all about celebrating the life and musical legacy of the iconic David Bowie, there’s an added bonus for festival goers this year with a number of very special events to mark the 50th birthday of his classic glam rock album, Aladdin Sane.  These include the performance of the album in its entirety by acclaimed 8 piece Playback in Opium on Friday Jan 13th, as well as a listening party and panel discussion hosted by Pat Carty on the album’s merits and influence on popular music, featuring B.P Fallon, Gerry Leonard and visiting Bowie scholar Leah Kardos. Here at Totally Dublin, we’re really looking forward to hearing what they have to say about The Jean Genie, generally regarded as one of the shining sonic stars of the outstanding 1973 gem.

Meanwhile Bowie’s guitarist, musical director and co-songwriter Gerry Leonard, who was famously ‘discovered’ by Bowie in a small New York city venue and quickly became one of his key collaborators from the year 2000 on, returns to his hometown to headline two exciting shows in Whelans.  These include An Evening with Gerry Leonard, featuring a Q&A and some of Leonard’s solo work as Spooky Ghost, and the always buzzy festival closing party, Bowie Raw, Let’s spend the night together, where he’ll be lighting up the room with musical wunderkid Shobsy. Other musical treats include the brilliant classical ensemble Glasshouse who are set to tackle a range of Bowie classics in Golden Years at Opium on Thursday January 12th, with Bowie tribute band Rebel Rebel set to headline Opium on Saturday Jan 14th.

Over on Dublin’s Southside, Rathfarnham Castle is the location of a visual feast as they host Bowie – Icon, a fascinating exhibition of photographs featuring Bowie across the decades by renowned French photographer Philippe Auliac. In addition to taking part in that panel discussion we mentioned earlier, Australian music creator, writer and academic Leah Kardos  brings her fascinating Blackstar Theory presentation to the Festival, with an audiovisual spin off from her book of the same name. There’s also a great lineup of films featuring Bowie and his music over at the Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield.

With such a glittering programme of mouth watering, foot-tapping, visually appealing events, there’s plenty to interest everyone. So, in the words of the Jean Genie… Let yourself go! We’ve put together six(ish) picks for your consideration…


Let’s Dance!

The organisers of Dublin Bowie Festival  invite you to put on your red shoes and dance the blues at a myriad of musical events at over the course of the next few days. Enjoy a brace of Bowie Silent Discos at Whelans, Dance to the Underground with A David Bowie Queer Night in the company of DJ’s Rod Fibula and Tibia at Fibber Magees. Groove all your cares away as festival favs I Heart Bowie return to their spiritual home at Whelans on Wednesday January 11th with a stellar list of guest vocalists performing classic hits and album tracks, and plenty of surprise guests to look forward to on the night.

Veda Lady & Friends will be celebrating The Prettiest Star in The George at 9pm on Wednesday 11th, while Saturday Jan 14th sees The Bowie Ball with Today FM DJ Ed Smith, which also features some cracking live sets by the aforementioned I Heart Bowie and Bowie 60’s specialists The London Boys.


Bowie – Icon

Rathfarnham Castle hosts a stunning exhibition of over 60 Bowie photographs by Philippe Auliac. The acclaimed French photographer has captured the rock icon many times over his long career, since first shooting Bowie in 1972, with many of his images  now deemed classic portrayals.

As an official chronicler of Bowie, Auliac had premium stage-side access to many of Bowie’s most iconic shows, so this is a great opportunity to get some insights into some of his magical stage performances. This visual feast also features some rare interviews with the starman, as well as audiovisual screening of further images.

Wed Jan 11th – Sun Jan 29th. Open 9.30am – 4.45pm. Free admission.


Celluloid Bowie

In a special tribute to the Starman, The Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield is showing a trio of iconic celluloid Bowie Classics; kicking off with vampire classic The Hunger at 8.30pm, on Wed Jan 12th, with screenings of Labyrinth and Moonage Daydream to look forward to in the coming days.

Online tickets can be booked in advance via lighthousecinema.ie

Wed Jan 11th – Sun Jan 15th.


The Bowie Brunch

Treat yourself to an afternoon of great food and live entertainment as city centre restaurant NoLita hosts The Bowie Brunch featuring classic brunch favourites and a nice selection of refreshing cocktails. Enjoy the company of The Bowie Brothers Live this Sunday as they serenade diners with a fantastic soundtrack featuring a fab selection of classic Bowie songs.

12pm – 3pm, Sunday Jan 15th,  The Bowie Brunch – NoLita, 64 South Great Georges St, D2.


Blackstar Theory – The Last Works of David Bowie

A fascinating visual presentation by Blackstar Theory author Leah Kardos takes a close look at David Bowie’s ambitious last works: his surprise ‘comeback’ project The Next Day (2013), the off-Broadway musical Lazarus (2015) and the album that preceded the artist’s death in 2016 by two days, Blackstar.

Her superb book explores the swirl of themes that orbit and entangle these projects from a starting point in musical analysis and features new interviews with key collaborators from the period: producer Tony Visconti, graphic designer Jonathan Barnbrook, musical director Henry Hey, saxophonist Donny McCaslin and assistant sound engineer Erin Tonkon. These works tackle ideas and themes such as identity, creativity, chaos, transience and immortality, ultimately enacting a process of individuation for the Bowie meta-persona and inviting the audience to consider what happens when a star dies.

Sunday Jan 15th: Blackstar Theory – The Last Works of David Bowie – an audio visual  presentation by author Leah Kardos. 3.30pm. Whelans. Free admission. 


Bowie Raw – Let’s Spend The Night Together

The festival closing party sees Bowie guitarist/musical director Gerry Leonard team up with some of our brightest emerging stars for an informal night of Bowie songs. Joining him will be the brilliant new Dublin artist Shobsy, fresh from his sold out headliner gig and some superb performances with the RTE Concert Orchestra.

7.30pm, Sunday Jan 15th: Bowie Raw – Let’s Spend The Night Together, featuring Gerry Leonard, Shobsy & very special guests. . €18  Whelans.

Dublin Bowie Festival takes place in a number of different venues across the city from January 10th – 15th.

See dbfest.ie for full listings and details.

Lead image: David Bowie, September 2015 (Jimmy King. Copyright The David Bowie Archive.)


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