Remembering a Vegas musician

On April 23, musician Tommy Marth died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was only 33, and with so much life ahead of him, I never thought to thank him for all he did for me personally, all he did for Vegas’ cultural atmosphere.

Tommy could do anything. In 2003, as arts editor for Las Vegas CityLife, I asked him to pen CD reviews. He was a natural-born writer. We got along well because we had similar taste in jazz. And we both thought his siblings’ indie-rock band, the Big Friendly Corporation (whom he often joined onstage), underrated.

Not many know this, but Tommy was a gifted fiction writer who attended a workshop I was teaching at UNLV. He submitted a short story that made me laugh and chilled me to the marrow, one of the few student pieces I’ve ever admired. I wrote him recommendation letters for graduate programs in creative writing, but when the Killers recruited him as their saxophone man, he followed that path. He would’ve been a published author, I’m sure.

The Killers turned to Tommy to help broaden their sound on their sophomore effort, Sam’s Town. You can hear him on the album’s second single, “Bones.” He also contributed horn parts to the Killers’ 2008 album Day & Age. The band could’ve had any sax player in the world; they chose the best.

Tommy was the finest sax player I’ve heard in Vegas. His jazz-ensemble jams at Freakin’ Frog were so much fun. His passion was jazz, and he blew it hard, fast, fiery. He backed up spoken-word/slam poet Harry Fagel. He performed on countless albums by Vegas bands, from Halloween Town to Red State Soundsystem. He played in posh Strip nightclubs. Tommy was our city’s Clarence Clemons. We loved hearing him blow his horn.

When booking entertainment at the Frog, Tommy almost always said yes. From book launches to performance poets to South African folksingers, Tommy was down for anything creative. When he directed live music in hotels, he lined up Vegas bands, giving many their first break. Tommy nurtured artists. By supporting me and others, he made a difference.

Tommy earned the nickname “Perfect Tommy” because he seemed to be so: handsome, smart, sensitive. But no one’s perfect, everyone has a dark side, and I’m saddened he let his demons get the upper hand. But I forgive him. I hope Tommy forgives me this late message: Thank you.

TERRESTRIAL NEWS: Free Comic Book Day is May 5. HellPop! art gallery and comics shop (107 E. Charleston Blvd., Suite 105, in the Arts Factory) is celebrating with gratis comics and live music by The Mapes, Fred Ward, E.O.N., My First Rodeo, The Ku, G.O.C. and Ian Gordon. Bring canned goods for raffle tickets. Festivities begin at noon.

Also at noon May 5, you’ll find me at Century Cinedome 12 theaters (851 S. Boulder Highway) in Henderson for the world premiere of Vegas rockumentary Strip Away the Years, which tells the story of the early rock scene and pioneering Sin City groups of the ’60s and ’70s.

Canadian post-grunge outfit The Veer Union invades Bunkhouse Saloon 9 p.m. May 6.

Starting May 17 with psyche-rockers Dr. Dog, Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan is running Boulevard Social Club, featuring live music every Thursday (save Aug. 2) at 9 p.m., $20.

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