Music fans took a big hit earlier this year when Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-Go, died in May. But the District’s homegrown sound lost another ardent figure on Monday.
Kevin Darby, owner of the CFE Event Center in Forestville, was found dead inside the shuttered club on Monday afternoon, according to police and friends. Officially, Prince George’s County police would only refer to the case as a death investigation until Maryland’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner makes a ruling on the cause of death.
But officials with knowledge of the case said privately that Mr. Darby died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Friends and local musicians who had played at CFE mourned the loss Tuesday.
“It’s a tragedy. He was a good guy. The club meant so much to what we do around here,” said rapper Calvin Henry, who goes by the stage name Killa Cal and performs with Rare Essence. “Every band in the game has played in there.”
News of Mr. Darby’s death quickly made the rounds via Twitter, with rappers including Fat Trel and local star Wale expressing disbelief.
“My prayers go out to my man Darby & the whole CFE family,” Wale wrote in a tweet Tuesday.
The embattled nightclub had been closed since September, when county officials — citing a new law meant to target clubs with a history of violence — shut it down for violations of its use-and-occupancy permit. Prior to its closure, CFE hosted regular concerts — including all-ages shows — that attracted thousands of go-go music fans each week. The club earned a spot on the police department’s radar for what officers described as regular of violent outbreaks, including fights, shootings and a fatal stabbing in 2010.
Mr. Darby, 52, also was facing tax-evasion charges filed in May that stemmed from the club’s operations. He had appeared in court as recently as Friday on those charges after being arrested last week for failure to appear in court for arraignment, according to Maryland court records.
But despite the troubles CFE faced, bands flocked to the club, mostly because of Mr. Darby’s reputation as a good businessman, friends said.
“Darby was the one you would see walking around the club constantly trying to solve problems,” said Michelle Blackwell, manager for What?! Band. “He was always the level head.”
Mr. Darby ran CFE with the help of his family, including his brother and children, and recently been telling friends that he planned to reopen the club, friends said.
“He took a lot of hits with the issues on the outside but he kept coming back and kept opening his doors,” Mr. Henry said. “He was an owner that had a hands-on relationship with a band. If you played in there, you could come in there anytime and watch the bands. That kept a lot of unity within the scene that we needed.”