For complete context about why I’m not having a birthday party for my 27th birthday this year and how you can still celebrate with me, read You’re Invited to My 27th Birthday Bash.
When it comes to my heroes, I’m a bit compartmental. I want to write like Margaret Atwood. I want to create amazing art like J.H. Williams III. I want to play the bass guitar like Kim Deal. But since I was about 13-years-old, David Bowie has been my icon of everything. I don’t just want to sing, write songs, be outspoken, dress lavishly, etc. like him. I want to be like him. (Okay, I would also totally have sex with him. Which those “want to be” and “want in my bed” circuits in my brain have always cross-fired.)
But back to Bowie, what I like best about him is his attitude. A principle of living life to the fullest in all aspects. I love life as a performance, while managing to have an actual life. I love that, even as an older artist, he is who he is at that very moment. He’s confident in both his talents and his life. And especially when I was younger, struggling with my sexuality and being a “weirdo,” I felt a great kinship to Bowie and his story.
The summer before I went to college in 2002, I lost my mind and went to see Bowie perform at Moby’s Area2 concert at the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington. All summer, I should’ve been preparing and packing for college as I was moving to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, which was about 6 hours away from my hometown. But no, I was obsessing about David Bowie. I read at least two biographies and everything I could find on the internet and watched Ziggy Stardust and Labyrinth over and over.
If you’ve never been to the Gorge Amphitheater, I highly recommend it. The stage backs up right to the Columbia Gorge so the performers are set behind perhaps the must beautiful natural setting possible. (Sadly, I seem to have lost or misplaced the few photos I had. Though I don’t remember clearly, but we may not have been able to bring cameras to the concert.)
I went to Area2 with my boyfriend-at-the-time Chris. He drove. I navigated and played dj as these were the days before either of us wanted to invest in an iPod. I know I cleverly stuck in some of my Bowie CDs into the mix. But going up, it was mostly the business of ‘which way do I turn?’ and ‘where the hell are we?’ The Gorge Amphitheater is a little bit in the middle of nowhere in the middle of Washington. But I relate, being from the middle of nowhere Oregon.
When we finally got there, we did the festival milling about that you do. Eating bad greasy food and checking out the little booths. Moby’s festival was aimed at bringing attention to electronic music; but I can’t say that beyond Moby and a few other select groups, I’m big into that genre and probably passed up the chance to see some awesome performers. I did, however, buy a t-shirt, which was about 4 sizes too large for me, because I wanted a memento.
Chris and I sat on the lawn which serves as the theater seating to watch the other performers. We watched the Blue Man Group do their thing in Eastern Washington sunshine. They were awesome, but I still long to see them in Vegas or somewhere with the lights out. We saw Busta Rhymes, perhaps the oddest act of the afternoon, entertain his audience by having them fight for a bottle of Courvoisier.
Normally, I’m someone who’s content to watch a concert from a comfortable place with a good view. Even if that good view requires binoculars. But not for Bowie.
When Busta Rhymes’ act ended, I made my move. Chris was content to stay seated on the lawn, but I bee-lined my way to the front of the stage. I knew it’d be an hour or more before Bowie took the stage but I was going to be up front dammit. And I was. Along with about eight other women my own age, we stood with our hands on the barrier which the security guards stood behind to protect the stage and the performers. Behind us, a group of 30-and-40-something women formed a wall. They weren’t going to let some obnoxious moshing boys shove their way through.
When Bowie came on, there was lots of screaming. And it wasn’t just me. Usually I pride myself on not losing my mind or doing any other sort of annoying, embarrassing, or just plain crazy fan behavior. Maybe it was the concert atmosphere. Maybe it was my love of Bowie.
Bowie opened with “Life on Mars.” A classic and one of my favorites. And for the rest of the concert, I stood there mesmerized by Bowie, my icon of everything. As I type this, I can still see him on stage, grinning and wearing a crisp white shirt. I may have been in a crowd of thousands, but the world faded to the background and it could’ve been my living room.
A performer who knows his audience, Bowie dragged out a women’s nightie during a cover of the Pixies’ “Cactus.” After being sexy with it (listen to the song lyrics), he tossed it into the audience. No, he didn’t aim for where I was and I didn’t lose my spot to rush after it. (Or get into a pulling and scratching contest to win it.) But suddenly, I realized that perhaps I shoudn’t have been so hard on those Busta fans for rioting for a drink of Busta’s Courvoisier.
At one point when the music paused and the audience was quiet, I shouted out, “I love you, Bowie.” To which Bowie laughed.
Bowie singing “Heroes” at one of the Area2 concerts.
For one night, I got to be 8 feet away from Bowie and watch him perform at a beautiful venue with great acoustics. I enjoyed the rest of the concert — I adore Moby too, whom I watched run around like a maniac from my perch next to Chis on the lawn — but nothing will compare to Bowie. I was completely enthralled for about two days afterward, and no doubt, I annoyed Chris the entire drive home the next day by spouting off random Bowie love.
If you enjoyed hearing about me losing my mind over my idol, consider making a donation to GeekGirlCon, a convention and unapologetic coming together to celebrate geeky women. We’ve aiming to create a convention for geeky women, and part of that is giving women a safe place to interact with their icons or even someone they really want to write, draw, act, or program code like.