Update, Sept. 6: Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the state medical examiner's office, confirmed on Friday morning that the manner of Josh Burdette's death was suicide.
Concert venues are about the live music experience, but then again, they're not. We were reminded of this on Monday when 9:30 Club spokeswoman Audrey Fix Schaefer confirmed the Washington venue's manager and "face of the Club" Josh Burdette had died on Sunday. He was 36.
Judging from the immediate and emotional outpouring on social media, the death of Burdette -- the affable manager/head of security with the large ear plugs and heavily inked forearms who had been a 9:30 fixture since 1997 -- is a substantial loss for the club, the East Coast music scene and beyond.
As news of Burdette's death spread, notable musicians — including Ryan Adams, G. Love, Public Enemy member Chuck D, Husker Du's Bob Mould, Frank Turner, alt-rock band Garbage and Jason Isbell — publicly expressed their condolences on Twitter.
Baltimore music fans have mourned the loss of Burdette as well. On Tuesday morning, 28-year-old Jess Pfohl of Timonium emailed Midnight Sun about the news.
"Over the years I developed a nice friendship with him between seeing him at 9:30 and Merriweather [Post Pavilion], and I am sure I am not the only one around these parts who did," Pfohl wrote. She included a photo (above) of herself with Burdette outside of the 9:30 Club in 2010.
The time and cause of death are still being investigated, but ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington reports Burdette was found dead in his Kensington home early Sunday night. WJLA also reports "authorities are investigating the death as a possible suicide."
9:30 Club co-owner Seth Hurwitz released the following statement Monday afternoon:
"Josh was one of the wisest people you would ever meet. When you talked to him, you hoped you would be lucky enough to retain some of that wisdom, but you had to make the effort as he never forced it on you. But every word he spoke was from one of the kindest, most thoughtful and well-centered folks you could hope to have in your life.And then there was the fantastic joke that people that didn't know him fell for every time. Here was this scary looking dude that was a complete contradiction of his appearance. I think everyone felt a little ashamed and learned from that.We were all so proud to have him as our ambassador to the world. He was as 9:30 as 9:30 gets.I'm pretty good at moving on but this one's gonna be tough. There will be no getting over it, sorry."
In the Washington Post's obituary, writer Alex Baldinger called Burdette "perhaps the most recognizable presence in all of Washington nightlife." Chris Richards, a pop music critic for the Post, interviewed Burdette in 2006, and came away with quotes that seemed to capture Burdette's level-headed spirit. When asked about bouncing horror stories, Burdette replied: "I could tell you about the biggest brawl I've ever been in, but that's the exception, not the rule. I like to focus on the positive."
Update, Sept. 7: A scholarship fund at the University of Maryland, College Park has been set up in honor of Burdette, according to an e-mail from Schaefer. Money will be awarded to a student participating in the school's Student Entertainment Enterprises program (SEE). Schaefer wrote:
Contributions may be made to a scholarship fund established in Josh’s memory at the University of Maryland College Park. The scholarship will be awarded to a deserving student from the Student Entertainment Enterprises (SEE) program. While at UMCP, Josh participated in the SEE program and served as the president for several years. Upon graduation, Josh continued as a mentor to other students in the SEE program.
Donations can be made through PayPal using the e-mail email@example.com.
Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this story.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun