LIVE: Stick Men @ The Linda, 04/08/2022
Somber organ music plays. It’s like we are in church. An expectant hush falls over a sold-out crowd at The Linda. A solitary figure takes the stage. He does not speak. He coaxes otherworldly sounds from his odd-looking guitar. As the soundscapes swirl around the room, two more musicians enter. A bespectacled man takes his place behind the drum kit. A tall angular bald man steps to the other side and picks up a strange oblong instrument, all neck, no body. They look more like NASA scientists than rock musicians. The waves of guitar echo and ebb and then the three lock-in and… Ka-Pow! We are off and running on a two-hour journey of Heavy Metal Be Bop a Lula a Wap Vroom Vroom instrumental (mostly) prog.
For these three professorial gentlemen are Stick Men. Stick Men being Tony Levin – Vocals and Chapman Stick (and hence the name of the band), Pat Mastelotto – Drums and Synthesizer patches, and Markus Reuter – Touch Guitar (an instrument he invented – hey, maybe these guys are scientists.)
Levin and Mastelotto are of course well known to the prog cognoscenti for being two-sevenths of the current (Last? Ultimate? Final?) incarnation of King Crimson, juggernauts of the genre. And the debt to, and influence of Crimson is clear from the get-go. Stick Men include four King Crimson pieces in their set, and their own compositions often reflect the same aural signature, a mixture of ethereal ambiance and bone-crushing heaviosity.
Mastelotto is ferocious, smacking seven shades of Crim out of his kit, whilst also triggering mesmerizing synth passages of spiraling gamelan curlicues. He used to play with, whisper it, Mr. Mister, but this is a long way from “Broken Wings.” (By the way, I’m no rock snob, I maintain “Welcome to the Real World” is a fine album.)
Levin and Reuter create a remarkable sound, the elasticity of their unique instruments making it hard to decipher who is playing the lead and who is playing the bass lines at any given time.
The three musicians share an easy rapport with the crowd who are won over from the start. And Crimson numbers like “Red” and “Lark’s Tongues in Aspic part 2”, (the show closer) are greeted with an almost messianic zeal. Their riffs, somehow both monolithic and labyrinthine, bring the house down. Like Metal music beamed in from Mars.
A most bizarre and inventive band, Stick Men are surely three of a perfect trio.
- Intro soundscape
- Prog Noir
- Ring Tone
- Red (King Crimson)
- Breathless (Robert Fripp)
- Danger in the Workplace
- Swimming in T
- Level 5 (King Crimson)
- The Sheltering Sky (King Crimson)
- Lark’s Tongues in Aspic part 2 (King Crimson)
All songs Stick Men unless noted.