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Matthew Suhar, 'Bright Light' of Chicago Music Scene, Dies Mysteriously

By Darryl Holliday | March 20, 2013 6:26am | Updated on March 20, 2013 10:31am

CHICAGO — Musicians are mourning the mysterious death of local manager Matthew Suhar, who earlier this month fell out of a moving taxi a block from his home on the Northwest Side.

It's not clear how Suhar fell out of the vehicle early March 9. He died Saturday at Illinois Masonic Medical Center, and his death has been ruled an accident by the Cook County Medical Examiner.

The cab driver, who called 911, left the scene near the corner of Kimball and Berteau avenues before police arrived.

According to police, the 46-year-old was found lying in the street and bleeding from his head when paramedics arrived. A police source said cops are investigating his death and that witnesses said it appeared Suhar jumped from the moving cab.

Called a "bright light" of the Midwestern music scene, Suhar ran Tantrum Management, which lists more than a dozen bands on its website. He was Chicago folk rock singer Michael McDermott's manager for four years before the two split in 2011.

"He had talked about going to Los Angeles, but he stayed in Chicago," McDermott said Tuesday night. "He really did epitomize the blue-collar work ethic here."

Suhar's wife, Susan, described her husband of nearly 10 years as "magnetic."

"He was always on the go and could not sit still," she said. "He was adventurous; he wasn't afraid to experience anything — and our kids are exactly like that."

On Twitter, friends and associates recalled their encounters with the "charismatic" Suhar.

"Matt Suhar, you will be missed," read one tweet. "The musical landscape of the midwest will never be the same. Thanks for countless memories, my friend."

"So sad to learn of Matt Suhar's passing this a.m. If you ever attended Chicago's Finest Hour at Hideout, that was one of his creations. #RIP," read another.

Tim Tuten, co-owner of The Hideout in Bucktown, said Suhar was a "performer's promoter" who championed acts big and small of any genre and made sure they got paid.

The monthly Chicago's Finest Hour show took place on and off at the music venue for much of The Hideout's yearlong history. The event featured four 15-minute acts, and each act had to cover one song by someone else.

The lineups often featured disparate acts like folk singers alongside heavy-metal bands.

"That's what Matt Suhar was about," Tuten said. "He was always trying to bring different groups of people together." 

On a songwriter web page, Suhar listed career highlights, including singing lead for the Blind Venetians and working with Ray Davies of the Kinks. Suhar helped organize an Urge Overkill reunion and appeared in videos by Liz Phair and Jesus Lizard.

The band KaiserCartel's song "Stella" is about Suhar's 9-year-old daughter and the family's life.

At his Irving Park home, which doubled as Suhar's office, his wife talked of how the couple first met.

"Oh my God, he was a ball of life and energy. When I first met him I had noticed him walk into a party. ... I noticed him as an immediate ray of light, the whole energy of the party changed."

"That’s who he was with anyone that met him," she said.

Canadian musician and film composer Bob Wiseman recalled Suhar bringing him to Chicago in the early 1990s and booking club appearances for him.

"He also tried to convince me to go on crazy talk shows that are filmed in Chicago just because he had access to some and thought all publicity is good publicity," Wiseman wrote on his blog.

Wiseman said Suhar told him “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.”

Wiseman said the day of Suhar's death "should become a holiday."

"No music allowed to be played," wrote Wiseman.