Late in the afternoon of the third Saturday in January, a near-perfect day by virtually anyone’s ideal climate standards, thousands of unconventional-looking people gathered in the epicenter of America’s most unconventional city to celebrate the life of an unconventional man, David Robert Jones, famous to the world as David Bowie.
They came from all over, the revelers. A couple from Nashville said they dropped everything, got in their car, and drove in to New Orleans the prior evening after seeing a social media posting by Win Butler, Arcade Fire’s frontman, announcing the event with the note, “Let’s say goodbye right.”
“We didn’t have time to put together costumes before we hit the road, so we just picked up some things this morning at a vintage store and a flea market and went to Walgreens for some makeup and other stuff,” the male half of the couple explained, his face adorned with glitter.
New Orleanians, meanwhile, never ones to shy away from an opportunity to celebrate anything by imbibing and dancing through the streets of their city, predictably embraced the occasion fervently.
“I’m pretty sure everyone I know in New Orleans is coming to this,” a young woman wearing a spandex jumpsuit told a friend as they walked through Jackson Square. “Every single person I’ve asked in the past 24 hours if they were going to the David Bowie parade has said ‘yes’ in response.”
“I had a bunch of things I’d planned to do today around the house; me and my roommate are having a party for Krewe du Vieux next weekend,” said a man who arrived in the French Quarter on an oversized tricycle. “But when I heard about this, I just had to say ‘fuck it, I’ll do it all later.’ Shit like this is why you live in New Orleans, right?”
Being confined to a wheelchair didn’t stop local hero Steve Gleason from being in attendance. Larry David is even rumored to have shown up. (Ed. Note: After publication, a reader wrote in to say, “He was there and was wearing a NASA jumpsuit.”)
According to reports, the idea for a Bowie tribute was conceived in conversations between Preservation Hall creative director Ben Jaffe and Arcade Fire’s Butler and Regine Chassagne, who are married. They moved to New Orleans in 2014 and had coincidentally been recently collaborating with musicians from Preservation Hall on something Bowie-related. An idea was hatched to hold a Bowie-tribute show at the Hall, a plan which later morphed into an idea for a parade so that more Bowie fans could participate.