Too Much Rock
Pics+Video Podcasts Singles About
Thursday January 25th, 2024 at Record Bar in Kansas City, MO
The Band That Fell to Earth KC

It is, once again, Bowie Christmas in Kansas City. What, you've never heard of Bowie Christmas? Why, it's the most magical time of the year! It's when the city's cold and dark winter is briefly lit by the glitter of The Band That Fell to Earth KC. The annual extravaganza is organized by musical gadfly Michelle Bacon, who reassembles her thirteen members of KC's musical murderers' row to pay tribute to the music of David Bowie. There are fancy lights, video projections, keepsake crafts, and surprise guests every night. The event eases the seasonal depression of KC as well as providing financial assistance for a rotating group of charities. The 2024 installment benefited Midwest Innocence Project who supports the wrongfully convicted in a myriad of ways.

While the format of the event has changed throughout the years, it has recently settled into a three-day pattern where the Thursday night kickoff is a VIP affair (for those wishing to up their contribution to the charity) featuring a playthrough of an entire album. This year, those generous fans were treated to the entirety of the 1971 art-rock and glam masterpiece Hunky Dory. The album is as varied as it is brilliant, creating a sizable challenge for most acts – but of course this ensemble made it look easy. Every member and arrangement deserve a call out, but I'll avoid the clutter and only mention a few memorable moments:

The sparse "Eight Line Poem" featured some of guitarist Katy Guillen's best playing of the night. Every bare, bluesy note was bent with emotion. Guest vocalist Julia Othmer took the stage in a glammy blue jumpsuit to deliver a larger-than-live animated performance of favorite "Life on Mars." The band has featured this song before, but never so wonderfully over the top as Othmer took it. Backing singer Havilah Bruders came to the front of the stage where she was joined by husband Kris Bruders for "Kooks." The happy song had the couple dancing and twirling about. A similarly fun version of "Andy Warhol" began as an acoustic number filled with claps before exploding into a full-band electric number. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that one again. Lastly, Alex Alexander had his turn at guitar heroics during the thrilling maximalist finale of "The Bewlay Brothers." That song pushed singers Steve Tulipana and Nathan Corsi to the bottom of their vocal range trying to replicate the studio trickery used by Bowie.

There was no break after the album's completion, instead the band quickly ushered background singer Julia Haile to center stage for a version of "Heroes." The poppy fan favorite was well received – especially after the dense and arty B-side of Hunky Dory. During this bonus portion of the set, the band debuted the funky "1984." I'm told this was worked up years ago but held for just the right time. That time is now. While the Giorgio Moroder-penned "Cat People" could have been just as funky, the band instead leaned heavily on the 1983 rearrangement done for the Let's Dance album that features a muscular Steve Ray Vaughn guitar solo. Once again, Katy Guillen stepped up, showing just how talented a player she is. Alex Alexander’s solo in "Moonage Daydream" was equally as impressive. In total, there were seven songs played during this portion of the set for a combined 80 minutes of Bowie, but there is usually a little extra, and of course there was.

The band stayed on stage for a planned two-song encore that allowed the night to end with "Under Pressure," as it often does, and maybe always should. At its finger-snapping finale, the club was full of smiling people who had gotten glammed up to sing and dance all evening. Some of them were on stage, some were in the audience. Many planned to return the next night to prolong their respite from the winter blahs. After all, there would be a different set of songs and a different set of guests each evening. But catch it while you can, because the three-day Bowie Christmas only comes once a year, and you don't want to miss out.