A pop-up store for musicians is always a tricky thing. Creating an ambient experience that feels true to the artist - and doing so for a limited time - is no small task. But the new David Bowie pop-up shop in Manhattan makes it look easy.
Located in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City, not too far from where the singer called home in his final decades, this store eludes simple tourist trap impulses to present a slick but exciting and honorable tribute to the rock icon leading up to what would have been his 75th birthday on Jan. 8, 2022. From art to apparel, music and merchandise and even some interactive pieces, it's a place that warrants repeat visits, if you're lucky enough to be in the area. (A London location is also open in the same timeframe at 14 Heddon Street, where the cover photo to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars was taken.)
Bowie was a visual icon, and the store reflects that brilliantly. Framed photo prints from all eras of his career hang on the walls, along with QR codes offering trivia and other tidbits. A large projector showcases videos and live clips, with the music crackling, though not oppressively loud, from the sound system inside. (Sound and vision are valued well here, as we'll explain in a moment.) Racks, bins and stands offer a dazzling array of wares to purchase: t-shirts, hoodies, ties, pins, patches, coasters, lighters, books, puzzles and, blessedly, plenty of music. Just about everything of Bowie's catalogue that is in print can be found here, from CD to vinyl to picture disc.
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Making one's way to the back half of the store yields some fun experiential touches. Guests can step inside a phone booth and hear a few quotes from the man himself on a variety of topics. A DJ booth emblazoned with (what else?) the lyrics to "D.J." is a sign of live events to come; a timeline of Bowie's BBC recordings stands next to it. Even further back, one can sample selections from Bowie's early catalogue in 360 Reality Audio, an immersive hi-definition experience that works on speaker set-ups or on headphones with participating streaming services like Amazon, Tidal or Deezer. Both are impressive (multiply so, considering that none of the audio from the shop in general tended to bleed into the experience), but the headphones are something else. Hearing "Space Oddity" with all of its component parts building around you makes for a surprisingly emotional experience, all these years later.
"I don't know where I'm going from here," Bowie once famously said, a quote that's emblazoned on the wall as you check out. "But I promise it won't be boring." The Bowie pop-up store is that promise kept.