When I was 13, my room was my rock ’n’ roll sanctuary. Known as the girl with the unusually large assortment of classic rock T-shirts, my enclave was an extension of my adolescent obsessions, with three walls devoted to Mick Jagger, Johnny Depp and David Bowie. At the top of each shrine, their names were emblazoned in giant blue-glitter letters (the kind you used to use for school projects). While most of my peers were listening to an awful amalgam of Christian hardcore and bland, gutless alternative rock (Train and Jason Mraz topped the Billboard year-end Hot 100 chart in 2003), I was singing along to “John I’m Only Dancing” on my Walkman.
In 2004, David Bowie embarked on what would be his last tour, and the day his Vegas show went on sale my parents had just dished the ultimate punishment—I wasn’t allowed to go. Hoping to extend the olive branch, my parents gave me their blessing to buy tickets later that day, but they had sold out in seconds.
After enduring a heart attack on that same Reality tour, Bowie mostly receded from the public eye and made his last live appearance 10 years ago at a charity concert. Like countless others, I never gave up hope that I’d see him one day.
I’ve since forgiven my parents for being the thing that stood between David and me (honest). And when he passed away on January 10, not getting to see him live was the least of my sorrows. Sitting at the table on my laptop that night, I simply couldn’t comprehend what I had read. It’s a hoax, I thought. He just released an album. In a few minutes, news will hit that David Bowie’s social media accounts were hacked. My mind went to battle searching for an explanation. Obviously, none of those theories were true. Rock ’n’ roll had lost its gender-bending, genre-defying prince.
It’s hard to describe exactly what David Bowie meant to me, especially when he meant something equally important to all of his fans. And that’s precisely why the Bunkhouse’s tribute to Ziggy Stardust on Saturday night felt so special. Hundreds gathered to celebrate the life of one of the most influential and subversive musicians of our time, and there was an overwhelming sense of love and camaraderie. It was like knowing—to quote the man himself—you’re not alone.
The night’s lineup operated like a revolving door with a handful of local supergroups, most of which assembled just for the opportunity to honor the late Starman. Around 10:30 p.m., singer/guitarist Diego Cano led the Electric Spider Eggs through “All the Madmen” (my favorite song from 1970’s The Man Who Sold the World), plus three Station to Station cuts. Cano’s outfit was an homage to Bowie’s The Man Who Fell to Earth promo (reappearing recently in the music video for “Lazarus”), with slicked-back hair and black and silver striped pants. The group’s heartfelt performance of the 10-minute title track “Station to Station” was a perfect segue into a debut set from newly formed rock group the Acid Sisters, fronted by Elayna Delsy Thompson and featuring husband Nick Thompson on guitar. The Sisters tore through “Five Years,” “Starman” and a powerful, bass- and synth-focused “Sufragette City,” before psychedelic rockers the Laissez Fairs took the stage. It’s come to be expected that whatever this group sets its collective mind to, it most certainly delivers. With singer/guitarist John Fallon (of The Steppes fame) on vocals and Joe Lawless on guitar, the Laissez Fairs’ charisma and energy lent itself to one of the night’s best performances, a supercharged rendition of “Rebel Rebel” centered around its iconic, unruly guitar riff and bass line.
The final performances of the night welcomed a wide cast of characters, as the 11th Street Band featured all-star Vegas musicians Ryan Pardey, Dale Gilbert, Megan Wingerter, Felicia Taylor, Mike Fish, Rod “Michael Valentine” Pardey, Rob Winder, Dillon Shines, Frank Salvo, Mark Stoermer and more—not to mention Neon Reverb organizer James Woodbridge decked out in wig-to-toe Ziggy. Woodbridge’s electrifying rendition of “Ziggy Stardust” set the bar high, and Rod Pardey’s deep, throaty register lent itself to a cool version of “China Girl” before vocalist/pianist Megan Wingerter performed enchanting versions of “Rock ’n’ Roll Suicide” and “Moonage Daydream.”
But the night’s most memorable moment saw all of the greats onstage at once, fronted by 11th Street Records owner and founder Ronald Corso. The group launched into the Bowie-penned Mott the Hoople hit “All the Young Dudes,” with Corso’s brazen vocals and fuzzed-out guitar riffs front and center. And when Corso shouted with chutzpah, “Oh, brother, you’ve guessed, I’m a dude, dad!” the energy spilled over into the room as the crowd sang in unison. If you’ve ever watched the legendary footage of Mott the Hoople performing with David Bowie (playing the saxophone in a mint-green suit, no less), this was Vegas’ far-out version.
After nearly four hours of music, I still wanted more. A decades-spanning collage of glam, funk and avant-garde rock ’n’ roll, the night proved (in case anyone forgot) that Vegas’ music scene is overflowing with seasoned professionals. While many of us weren’t ready for the show to end, it only signified the weight of the evening—a tribute suited for rock ’n’ roll royalty, and the tasteful sendoff Ziggy Stardust deserved.