Stephen Marley fills Center Stage Theater in Atlanta with soul, family legacy, and love.
By Clara Goode
Photos by Sara Vogt
Terminal West was a busier than I’ve ever seen it on Sunday night. Stationside restaurant served a taco bar with some of the most savory empanadas I’ve had the pleasure of ever tasting. Stick Figure’s tour companions, Raging Fyah, hailing from Kingston Jamaica, and Fortunate Youth, from South Bay, LA, rocked the house with their roots/reggae jams. All three bands have devoted followings. They are known for their feel good grooves and positive song lyrics dedicated to opening your mind and spreading the energy of peace to create a global community of love and understanding.
Stick Figure, the headliner of the tour, is the incredibly unique creative expression of self-taught, multi-instrumentalist, Scott Woodruff. Stick Figure is a one-man show with all albums being written, recorded and produced by Woodruff himself. Woodruff then recruits musicians to play the numbers for the live shows. The current line up is Woodruff on vocals and guitar, KBong on keyboards and vocals, Tommy Sulliman on bass, and Kevin Offitzer on drums.
As I write this article, I am listening to the latest album, Set in Stone. It is primarily reggae with groovy keyboard melodies and catchy, repetitive feel-good lyrics. However, there is an edge to his music. In addition to the mellow roundedness of traditional reggae sounds, there are layers of synthesized effects both vocal and instrumental that clearly draw inspiration from electronic music. Also intertwined in the mix are guitar riffs that embrace both rock and blues influences. These combine to create a constantly shifting musical experience that will have you swaying one minute and jumping in the air the next.
Woodruff’s lyrical choices also reflect a vast array of experiences and beliefs. From the social commentary seen in “Walk of Life” off of his first album The Sound of My Addiction.
"For who is to say all life is created equal,
When some die happy and some die poor,
To say that money is the root of all evil,
When money is power and nothing more,
To the hopeful celebration of life in all its joyful melancholy that is Fire on the Horizon."
I knew this band was something special when I first heard that song at their show on Sunday night. It’s a beautiful piece of art with words, it's soaring layered melodic effects create a landscape on which dreams are born and the wholeness of life embodied. It’s one of those songs that makes you want to laugh, cry and dance. Then take the hand of the person standing at your side because you want to know they understand. It’s a song that I will probably have set on repeat for the rest of the afternoon.
I had not heard of Stick Figure before they stopped in Atlanta during the promotional tour for Set in Stone. When I arrived at the venue, it was obvious that I was in poor company to that point. It was their first time playing at Terminal West and it was a sold-out performance. The crowd in the main room had overflowed into the side room and people were pressed up against the railing of the balcony over the stage. The band was greeted with whoops and cheers as the first drum roll sounded. From there it was a beautiful journey through both old and new music with the crowd singing along, swaying and raising lighters to the sky.
Infectiously positive energy prevailed throughout the entire show. Every eye I met sparkled with a smile. Pungent smells wafted across the crowd from shared smokes and hands waved in the air in celebration of a shared experience. The audience’s joy when they heard the most recent songs, like “In This Love” and “Sound of the Sea,” was matched only by their laughter when the band’s mascot Cocoa “the tour dog” appeared on stage. Fan tattoos attributed to the rescued Australian Shepherd can be seen on the band’s Facebook page. The tattoos are perhaps one of the most obvious examples of the devotion and warmth that Woodruff (and Cocoa) have garnered throughout their career. As honest love cycles between artist and audience, you are filled with a hope for the future. A knowledge that no matter what your past contains, you can help create a beautiful world.