BowiElvis Fest Returns to the Continental Club

Houston artist Sara Van Buskirk will be part of the lineup at this years BowiElvis Fest on Saturday, January 8.
Houston artist Sara Van Buskirk will be part of the lineup at this years BowiElvis Fest on Saturday, January 8. Photo By Kaila Lee
According to astrology, Capricorns are the hardest working and most determined of all the signs. Two famous Capricorns live up to this description and will have their yearly combined birthday party courtesy of Splice Records with their thirteenth annual BowiElvis Fest.

BowiElivis celebrates Elvis Presley and David Bowie and will take place on Saturday, January 8 at The Continental Club, with the event landing on the actual birthday of the two legendary artists.

The evening will feature music by Graveltooth, Johnny Falstaff, India Tigers In Texas, Sara Van Buskirk, Elise Morrison and Yaupon as well as burlesque by Dem Damn Dames. Mills McCoin will be the MC for the evening and DJ Boogie Soul will spin some tunes in the rare moments of downtime during the evening.

Bands typically perform a mix of originals and covers of Elvis and Bowie songs making for an evening of unpredictable set lists.  Kitch Catering will be on hand selling sandwiches inspired by The King and the Thin White Duke. 

“My goal sometimes is to try to find bands that no one knows about and to give them the opportunity,” says Shaun Brennan, CEO of Splice Records about the intentionally smaller lineup this year featuring a blend of artists which may be new to some as well as some more familiar artists.

“My job is always to be out there listening to who is in there and give people opportunities,” he adds, noting how the past two years of limited live music have really put a dent in his usual mainline to the Houston music scene.

Splice Records hosts events throughout the year, including River Retreat in March and River Revival later in the summer along with a series of free concerts at Market Square Park leading up to the main event. Splice always strives to highlight and represent diverse local and Gulf Coast talent and their events and releases reflect this vision.

Tickets for this year's River Retreat will go on sale this month following BowiElvis Fest, an event which marks the beginning of the year for the Houston record label which has seen some hard times during this pandemic.  Brennan describes how the past few years have really brought new meaning to the phrase "The show must go on." 

“It’s been devastating to tell you the truth,” says Shaun of the past two years. “I’m making decisions and answers at all times and it feels like high intensity situations at all times. It’s not easy. I've lost a ton of sleep over it but my heart is still in it.”

In pre-COVID times, the event featured many bands playing back to back on the larger Continental Club stage and the smaller Big Top Lounge stage with music lovers of all ages, many in costume and face paint, standing shoulder to shoulder while smiling along to familiar songs from these rock icons.
Last year the event was canceled due to the pandemic and one of the founders of BowiElvis Hank Schyma took the event online where he hosted his own tribute with special guests for a live stream on his YouTube channel.

Brennan admits that he and his crew debated postponing yet again but after reaching out to the artists involved to gauge their interest, all of the bands were interested in pushing forward while making the safest decisions possible in the current climate.

“Everyone unfortunately has to make the decision to themselves whether or not music is important to them and for many it still is and work is very important for everybody. Musicians want to work and it seems like we're two years into now dealing with this to where they've learned to work around it, with it and in regards to it.”

“It seems like we are trying to as an industry reflect what other industries are doing which is just pushing through,” he adds.

This year, Brennan and his crew purposefully scaled the event down due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and will utilize the outdoor stage of the Continental, weather permitting, to allow for a safer and more spread out environment.

“We will try to make sure that it is spaced out well and if somebody is comfortable only outside they could feel more comfortable, hang there and still be a part of it.”

The outdoor stage will be home not only to some of the bands for the evening but also for the costume contest where the winner usually takes home a big prize or “major award” as Brennan says mysteriously.

“The whole thing is about rock and roll and the preservation of rock and roll while honoring two opposite end rock legends, who almost created the spectrum. There’s one side that's Elvis and then the more extreme of rock and roll is Bowie. Rock and roll can mean so many different things.”

“The whole thing is about rock and roll and the preservation of rock and roll while honoring two opposite end rock legends."

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BowiElvis Fest will also be returning to Austin the day before the Houston show at The Far Out Lounge, a newer outdoor venue in the music centered city.

“We’re going into two cities, one that neither one of us have been in in two years and that we love, miss and hope we see some kind of reminiscence and recognition of while at the same time coming back home to be with our people and create rock and roll in an odd, odd, odd time.”

For his part Brennan says he will be there at both events, vaxxed, boosted, masked and with the high level of energy he and his crew always bring to Splice parties.

“For those who come they're going to be given a combination of a bunch of music that hopefully will bring a lot of happiness to them, that's really what we are trying to do. Hopefully it will feel like the old days in the new weirdness.”

BowiElvis Fest will take place on Saturday, January 8 at The Continental Club, 3700 Main, 6 p.m., $20-245.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes