Joe Bonaparte got the idea last year at a Halloween party in Oaklyn.
Musician Kevin Monko was providing the entertainment, leading a handful of different singers through the changes on some David Bowie tunes. Call it timing or atmospherics, but the performance was uncannily affecting, Bonaparte recalls.
“A good friend of mine who’d schooled me in all things glam rock, coincidentally, was on his deathbed at the time,” Bonaparte said.
“After that, I thought we should have a party all-things-Bowie where we do the entire Ziggy Stardust album.”
Bonaparte, who runs the Collingswood Bike Share, is an avowed music lover who often christens his refurbished two-wheelers with rock n’ roll names. So it wasn’t much of a stretch to consider organizing a music-related fundraiser to benefit the program.
“We’d talked about having a show back when the old coordinator was running things,” Bonaparte said. “It never really came to fruition.”
But in Monko, Bonaparte found a musical director ambitious enough to coordinate the project and reverent enough of the repertoire to do it justice.
'I wanted it to be fun'
“I’d always wanted to do that album with a bunch of different people performing it, but I couldn’t wrap my head around logistically how that would go,” Monko said.
“It’s really about people in the community that could do this, so I didn’t have really high expectations for quality,” he said. “I wanted it to be fun and find as many people as I could who were into it. But then what happened was the people who were into it were pros.”
Not only were they local, professional musicians, Monko discovered—including Patch’s “I Am Collingswood” columnist Shannon McGill of the duo She Hates Me—but they were dedicated to performing the material faithfully.
“[Pianist] Meggie Morganelli, [bassists] Scarlet Rowe [and] Jen Brodzik, I invited them to do it just because they were part of the community,” Monko said. “I hadn’t even heard these people play but I invited them to be part of the project, and they kicked ass.”
Sacrificing to the Candy Volcano
Talent trumps all, but any musician will tell you that the hallmark of professionalism is doing your homework before the gig. The rollicking house band assembled for the evening has dubbed itself Candy Volcano, a name that possesses “that playful connotation” of glam-rock bands from that era, and “sounded amusingly decadent and dirty,” Monko said.
The group has also truly put in the time to hone its chops, rehearsing twice weekly at the home of Oaklyn guitarist John Falco, in a space lovingly dubbed the “Garage Mahal,” since October.
As in any successful enterprise, their effort has been contagious.
“People are coming to a lot of rehearsals; they want it to be good,” Monko said. “Then people who show up and get what’s going on are stepping their game up. Everybody’s been doing their homework and coaching each other through difficult parts of the songs, which has been kind of weird for a glam rock show.
“We still have one week to develop egos,” he joked.
'If you don’t like Bowie, you’ll like our version much better'
Selections for the evening will include not only the entirety of the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars but also other early Bowie tunes and those of his contemporaries, including acts like T. Rex, Sweet, Mott the Hoople, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed.
Bonaparte himself will tackle “Lady Stardust” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” with his wife, Stella, singing “Queen Bitch.”
"If you really love that album and you’re really into Bowie, you should definitely come to the show," Monko said, "and if you don’t like Bowie, you’ll like our version much better."
“Hopefully we’ll do some more, or do it again or something” beyond just Saturday’s performance, Monko said. “I’m really excited about it and I’m excited to see people get that excited about it.”
Editor's Note: Sponsors for the event also include Casona of Collingswood, which is donating the titular beef for the event, and Canal's Liquors, which is providing a keg of beer. Frugal Resale is also donating some vintage glam-appropriate attire, such as that seen in these photos.