Two Bloomington-Normal bands are again adopting English personas for the annual Toys For Tots Silver Ball Fundraiser at the Castle Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 24. This year’s title: Bowiemian Wrapsody.
Wildermore tackles the many phases of David Bowie while Jack Dupp & the Empty Bottles offers up covers of Queen. That comes a year after Wildermore dove into The Who’s extensive catalogue and Jack Dupp covered Beatles music.
Wildermore's Aaron Wissmiller, Dave Gueldenhaar, and Zack Hoffman brought their instruments to the GLT studios to talk about Bowie.
Wissmiller conceded he needed to "bone up on Bowie" before deciding to cover his music at The Silver Ball.
“I’ve always appreciated Bowie, but he’s not an artist I’ve spent time digging into his catalogue,” said Wissmiller. “What’s the quote … ‘My favorite Bowie album is Changesonebowie’ the greatest hits thing? I had that, but didn’t realize the depth of his catalogue and what a chameleon he was musically.”
“He made a point to change if up every album,” added Gueldenhaar. “To make sure it can be viewed as art and not just music. It was more than visual even, it was an attitude,” as the trio picked up their instruments. Gueldenhaar on acoustic guitar (and lead vocals), Hoffman provided percussion with Wissmiller on acoustic bass guitar.
“We call it Big Bertha,” clarified Wissmiller as the group tore into Bowie’s “Soul Love” from the critically acclaimed “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” album.
Bluesman Walter Trout once told GLT that he loved Bowie, but really appreciated bluesman Luther Allison because he never hid behind a mask, insinuating an audience always saw the real deal. Wissmiller can understand the sentiment, but said he appreciated Bowie’s many personas from an artistic point-of-view.
“I also look at it from a business standpoint,” said Wissmiller. “It’s a hard road. The easier thing to do would be recreate what made you successful. The hard thing to do is the more artistically challenging and rewarding thing to do is to continue to evolve, continue to partner with new people that are younger than you and in different genres of music than you and literally transform yourself in front of the audience. To me, that’s the summit of artistry.”
Hoffman appreciates Bowie’s wide-ranging sounds.
“It’s pop, it’s punk, it’s almost jazzy … it’s fun,” said Gueldenhaar.
Gueldenhaar jumped in and used Bowie’s giant first American single "Space Oddity" as an example of one of his first personas.
“And he embraced that but moved on from it many times,” said Gueldenhaar. “Wearing a mask as Ziggy Stardust and then just hanging it up … it was like he did that tour and now it’s time to hang it up.”
So what about Wildermore? How does diving into the catalogues of classic rock legends help their own sound, which they describe as genre-defying that “draws strong influences from jazz, rock, blues and soul, culminating in a sound that’s as hard-hitting as it is heady and served over a funky groove to makes you move.”
“It’s been fun for me every time, and educational for sure,” said Gueldenhaar. “It’s fun to make yourself buckle down and learn a bunch of songs in a short amount of time and then as an original band translate that afterwards. It’s like, ‘Geez, we’ve put all this work into this, let’s put some work into our own songs,'" he laughed before the group encored with Bowie’s “Golden Years.”
The annual Toys for Tots Silver Ball fundraiser titled “Bowiemian Wrapsody” is Saturday, Nov. 24, at the Castle Theatre. Doors open at 6 p.m. Wildermore covering David Bowie and Jack Dupp & The Empty Bottles covering Queen starts at 7 p.m.
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