Vancouver musicians play Bowie Ball

Rickshaw hosts annual fundraiser and David Bowie tribute Jan. 6

David Bowie’s death in early 2016 prompted all manner of reactions. For Dave Bowes, his response was to channel those emotions back to the world via Bowie’s prodigious, four-decade output.

Bowes is the organizer behind the Bowie Ball, which now in its third year and slated for the Rickshaw Theatre on Jan. 6.

About 20 acts will perform over the course of the evening, touching on everything Bowie was involved with — the ground rules are open to anything the Thin White Duke wrote, covered or produced.

“It started with the outpouring of sentiment on Facebook,” Bowes said of the first gig in 2016. “There seemed to be a lot of that kind of outpouring of grief, and I felt that people needed to coalesce around something, around an event.”

That first go-around was slapped together in short order. Within two months of Bowie’s death, the acts were lined up and the venue was secured. The format has remained the same — 15-minute sets — and there’s been a charitable angle every year. The Canadian Cancer Society has the been the main beneficiary, though portions from the inaugural event also went to the Keep A Child Alive movement, which raises money for kids in Africa living with HIV/AIDS. Bowie’s last live performance took place at a Keep A Child Alive fundraiser in 2006.

“I’m a huge Bowie fan,” said Rickshaw owner Mo Tarmohamed, who’s hosted each Bowie Ball. “The first time we did it there was a tinge of sadness, but I think what comes through is the love of the music that he created. And it’s the music that lives forever.” 

Bowes leans on a core group of musicians to make each show happen, though each gig has featured new faces as well. Some of the performers on the Jan. 6 bill include Bend Sinister’s Joseph Blood, Jimmy Baldwin, Left Spine Down, the Judys and Cass King and the Next Right Thing.

Back for her third Bowie Ball, King says the crowd mix is nothing if not eclectic: punks, goths, EDM fans, singer-songwriters and just about anyone in between.  

“[Bowie] kept changing and evolving and doing what was interesting to him, so his catalogue was so deep. In a way that’s what allows us to keep doing this event year after year, and it feels like a new experience every time,” King told the Courier.

While King can’t quite recall her entry point into Bowie’s career, Bowes sure does. He was in junior high and Ziggy Stardust was playing in the background during his first foray with the birds and the bees.

“She had a turntable in her bedroom and that’s what she put on — from there I just always remember his music being around,” Bowes said. “When you’re young you don’t necessarily know that something you hear on the radio is necessarily the same artist as when you hear them in other instances. When you finally put it together, you go, ‘Oh, that’s the same artist, this stuff if great.’ That was my lightbulb moment when I realized this is something, this is David Bowie.” 

Bowie Ball tickets are available for $15 at Redcat, Zulu, Highlife and Neptoon records, or online at