Tag Archives: matt suhar

A Year Without Matt

mattLast year was such a train wreck losing Matt Suhar and Sam Larkin, part of my brain departed with them. Reading this account in the news, one year later, that his death was probably a hit and run is a small consolation in understanding the mystery and tragedy around his death.

Matt, was my USA manager in waiting, if anything ever broke in America the way we musicians pursuing the music business imagine or wish it could, Matt would have been steering the ship and I would live below deck composing/ writing/ performing.

 

Over the years all I needed was a break and we almost had one with Ani Di Franco after she saw me at SXSW in 1991. Matt coincidentally was at the same show and introduced himself after Ani gave me a bear hug and said she was blown away. Her words echoed in my head and I hoped maybe one day she might take me on the road.

The biggest act of  generosity an established artist could do for a smaller one is to share their audience: take them on the road for a tour or two. Elvis Costello did that for Ron Sexsmith in the 90s and it’s more than 50% of the reason people discovered and praised Ron and things snowballed from there. Natalie Merchant did it for Tracy Chapman and then Fast Car was added to the radio.

Usually managers and agents control who is the opening act and often it misses the mark because they’re business people doing favours for each other. There is nothing as powerful as the headliner choosing someone to open the show and supporting them. Even walking out and doing a song with them.

After SXSW in 1991 Matt started bringing me to Chicago. I bet I played 30 shows there. The first time he set up 5 performances in a week at different venues each night. He was a anyone-can-do-anything-if-they’re-determined type of guy.

I got to know Ani a wee bit too through telephone messages and one night at Metalworks Recording Studio in 1994 or so. But things went sour after I drove to Milwaukee to do a show Matt set up. I tried to honour all the gigs Matt generated because that’s sorta the name of the game. But sometimes some destinations are pointless and it feels humiliating and that particular Milwaukee show should be the Wikepedia entry for pointless stupid shows. I drove 13 hours from Toronto, got to the gig, no posters advertising who was playing, the piano missing three notes, the bartender told me he didn’t know who was playing that night, three 40 ish women sitting at the bar celebrating a birthday who were more interested Phil Collins than Wrench Tuttle.

I was familiar with bad luck but thought by now I had become smarter at how not to end up in such  rotten situations. I wanted to cry on someone’s shoulder and looking at my address book “A” for Ani jumped out at me in my downer Milwaukee world. I left her a message about this fabulous gig and asked her to consider taking me on the road someday. I knew naturally a million people ask you for favours when your career has taken off, and I never asked before but based on our previous exchanges (which were funny and enjoyable) I thought she would commiserate and even laugh about it with me/ at me. Bad move Bob.

The next day she left three messages on my answering machine making it clear we were no longer friends, it was hard to listen to. Thanks be to the gods of music management that Matt listened to it as well later when I got to his coach house in Chicago. With his eye brows raised to the roof and then laughing about it and making fun of me and her and him until we fell off the couch.

 

An artist needs a business partner that believes in their writing (and who sends occasional emails of confidence).

…not sure but get this my little canadian hero
i was playing IF I KNEW on guitar and susan was on the computer
and said, WHAT IS THAT SONG
i said, Bobby Wiseman and she just said, WOW uh huh
you got the goods mang

Tantrum Management & Touring
Matt Suhar
Robert Cornelius 7 *Baldwin Brothers * The Godfathers
Sign Of The Fox *Javelinas * Divebar * The Siderunners
Kevin Tihista *Red Pop Fury * Frisbie * Colin Gilmore
Kevin Flynn & The Avondale Ramblers * Bob Wiseman
Musikanto * Fitz & The Celts * Flame Shark

 

Screeched In: Chicago Style

2013-06-15 11.00.46One of the best parts about putting a one and a half year old to sleep is when they are too pooped to remain conscious and they try to sit up but tumble head first into your noggin and the impact that would otherwise make them cry in the daytime only makes them giggle now.

This vaguely reminds me of meeting Wesley Willis in Chicago on NYE in 1997 when the beautiful Matt Suhar brought me and my band The Binder Specialists to perform along with Steve Wynn. Suddenly Matt pointed ahead.  “Wesley Willis is here!! Bobby you gotta meet him”. And I did. Wesley Willis’s way of greeting someone he liked was to head butt them. “Hellooooooo Bob Wisemaaaaaaaaaan” he said just before smashing my forehead with his.

 

Matt Suhar

Matt Suhar died yesterday March 16th. It should become a holiday. No music allowed to be played.

He drove to Austin Texas in 1992 to attend SXSW and wanted to meet me (I was playing a place called the velvet something or other) because his old band, The Blind Venetians, used to cover  a song of mine “Older Brother”. He brought me to Chicago a few months later setting up 6 performances just in Chicago and the beginning of our ever since relationship with him booking & managing. It was understood wordlessly if my ship ever came in he would be at the helm.

He brought me back to tour the midwest 7 times. One time in Chicago he took my band-mates sightseeing. Took us to the John Hancock observatory (or was it the Sears tower?) and informed the staff in his impromptu way that we were Canadian filmmakers just checking out the observatory for a future film-shoot, “it’s okay  you can waive the admission fee they’re just researching”. His demeanor suggested if they played their cards right there might be a cameo in it for them. We happily enjoyed the view and the many trips in his unlocked station wagon to Jim’s grill (Amitabul). As a gift we brought him one time to Canada to come along as we toured several cities in British Columbia. He was astonished and nurtured by the trip. *As much as he was everything people have written (*Facebook – fans of suhar), he was also someone in love with discovery, new places and new customs.

One time Matt brought Jay Bennett to my solo show, introduced us, nice enough guy… just prior to him being in Wilco. A few years later I was touring with Ron Sexsmith in a large moving festival that include Sheryl Crow, Tragically Hip, Wilco Ron & Van Allen Belt. Jay recognized me and the next thing you know Wilco invited me to sit in each night on a song and play a solo. Matt at work again.

Been in some remarkable performing situations over the years –  played on Letterman, on Johnny Carson, acted with Meryl Streep in the final scene of Postcards From The Edge. Sometimes journalists will ask what was the most nervous gig you ever did? There is only one answer. Matt asked me to play “Here Comes The Bride” at his wedding – on accordion. I agreed not realizing the pressure. You can ordinarily make a mistake or too when it is your set but suddenly then and there among the families and special couple – the severity of the situation hit me.  It’s his wedding and I am not a wedding musician. I am possibly going to ruin his wedding. Fortunately the wedding gods did not want to remember a tritone version and it all went right, nascent credentials intact.

Matt told me to have kids because when your wife is pregnant  “it’s amazing you’re going to love that woman like you never knew what love is”.  He also tried to convince me to go on crazy talk shows that are filmed in Chicago just because he knew some producers and he thought all publicity is good publicity. “You just wear a t-shirt that says Bob Wiseman on it and whatever you talk about doesn’t matter because you’re Bob Wiseman musician and millions of people find out about ya” He brought us to Chicago one time to play NYE in the 90s opening for Dream Syndicate and Wesley Willis was there who later head butted me, his way of saying he liked me. When I was down 13 years ago after a relationship break-up, Matt drove up and hung out with me for a few days. Like he drove from Chicago to Toronto.

He showed me Kim Chee and Wrigley field and Specimen Products.  Made me buy a cb radio from radio shack to keep up with the Drovers when we toured with them as the opener. Of course he couldn’t resist taking the handset and spontaneously inventing codes that annoyed nearby truckers who threatened him if he didn’t get off the air.   Edie Brickell told me years ago when she met Bob Dylan he gave her advice about being in this business – find a good friend or two and keep them close. That was saint Matt Suhar for me.

Farewell beautiful man. If your children should ever become interested in climbing the unnaturally steep mountain that is a livelihood through music there will be a long line of your mates vying to help lift their amplifiers or change their guitar strings.

click here to see the Blind Venetians cover of Older Brother

matt blind