There’s an important event going on at the Ottobar today, and you should go—not just for the bands and the DJs and the cool raffle prizes. You should go because the all-day fundraiser is for the family of Tom Malenski, a truly wonderful human being who was murdered a couple weeks ago.
Even if you didn’t know Tom, you should still go. Why? Because Tom didn’t just look out for people at the Ottobar, where he worked security; he also looked out for his family, which needs help during this difficult time. You should go because the community is grieving, and it’s important to support each other. And you should go because if it were a fundraiser for your family, Tom would have been there. Even if he didn’t know you. That’s just the kind of guy he was.
If you don’t know what happened, I’ll give you the brief version so that you aren’t distracted by the details of his death. Tom was at the Ottobar, but he wasn’t working on the night he was killed—he was just there to see the show. Late in the evening, after the show was over, he helped a coworker remove someone from the club. As they were walking back, they were ambushed. Tom didn’t survive his injuries. There are more details about the attack out there—and about the guy who was arrested and then confessed to the crime—but that’s not really the point. It isn’t about how he died; it’s about who he was. And he was a really amazing guy.
The last time I saw Tom, he was trying to convince me to come back to work at the Ottobar. (I worked there on and off for several years; Tom was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met.) I told him I wasn’t sure yet if I was going to move back to Baltimore from D.C. He said that I would always be part of the Ottobar family no matter what. “That’s a big part of why I stick around,” he said. “I mean yeah, people make more money other places I guess, and I have some stress about money, but you can’t put a price on family. The people in my life are what keep me going.”
More often than not, Tom was the one who kept other people going. He would do anything to help a friend, drop everything to lend an ear. I once wrote Tom a message to thank him for cheering me up when I was having a particularly bad night. “I’m really happy I could make you feel better,” he wrote in his reply. “I mean it when I say that my friends are my family.”
Tom used to write lengthy Facebook posts—about life, about philosophy, about struggling to stay positive during tough times. When other people write about stuff like that on social media, I tend to find it kind of annoying. But for some reason, Tom’s posts were truly inspiring. Tom was just so fucking genuine about everything. He was positive, but never preachy or saccharine. He wasn’t posting his thoughts to look cool or get attention or impress anyone. He was just a really insightful guy who wore his heart on his sleeve. “I got no filter between my heart, brain, and mouth so whatever im feeling or going through will most certainly come out on Facebook,” he once wrote in a message to me.
Here’s a post he wrote a couple years ago that’s sadly fitting now:
“I just want my friends to know that I love you all with everything I got and would do everything I ever could to keep you all safe even if it meant my life. There is no difference to me between friends and family cause your all family to me. just had to get that off my chest cause it hurts like fuck when someone thats a major part of your life isnt here anymore and you cant tell them that anymore.”
I’ve offered up a couple of my personal stories about Tom only because I want to give you a sense of who he was. But Tom and I weren’t super close. (That’s the thing: Tom just had a huge impact on people. That’s why so many people are so affected by this tragedy.) There are a lot of people who knew Tom far better than I did, with better, more illustrative stories. Those are the stories you should hear at the Ottobar today. Those are the people who need your support.
And I’m not trying to be a total bummer. The event today is a celebration, not a funeral. The first show starts at 3:30 with performances by Rodney Henry, Ole Blue Eyes and Swarm the North, with DJs and raffles in between. Later, the “loud show” kicks off at 10 p.m., with Pig Destroyer, Asthma Castle, Triac, and Passage Between.
The raffle prizes are pretty awesome: gift certificates to lots of Baltimore restaurants and stores, as well as acupuncture and tattoo sessions; tickets to movies and shows (King Diamond, Cock Sparrer, Mastodon, Pentagram, Maryland Death Fest, and more); vinyl records (from Relapse and Touch and Go, among others); gift baskets; and lots of booze.
All the proceeds from everything go to Tom’s family. Give as much as you can, and have as much fun as possible—because as cliché as it sounds, that’s what Tom would have wanted.