We Love Music: R.I.P., That Guy at the 9:30 Club

Regulars of the music scene in Washington, DC, awoke to shock Monday morning — an important face among them was among them no longer.

Josh Burdette, popularly known as “That Guy at the 9:30 Club,” passed away of unknown causes, apparently sometime late Sunday night. A spokesman for the 9:30 Club confirmed his death in a posting on the club’s website forum at 7:13am Monday morning.

For many attending concerts at the 9:30 Club, Burdette was an integral part of the experience. The man’s imposing figure and his many tattoos and piercings made him impossible to miss. But instead of being scary or weird, Burdette was simply nice.

In 2006, Burdette explained his attitude toward his work to Chris Richards of The Washington Post:

“It’s really a customer service job. We’re the face of the club, and we have to do our best to be as friendly, polite and accessible as we can. It’s not an us-versus-them mentality here — we want to avoid that antagonism. If you need our help, ask us. Some of us look big and scary, but we’re just people, too. We’re just working our jobs. Then on the rare occasion when we have to do something more on the security end of things, we’ve already established that we’re there to help.”

Personally, I saw him stop to answer many a question or just say hello to passerby, even when he was clearly in a hurry and doing a zillion things before a show. I personally thanked him for his good work one day in 2006 when he stopped into Adams Morgan for a beer.

We Love DC staffers shared a few memories this morning:

Tom: The best story he ever told me about this recent Phish show, that he’d had to get a guy down from the fence at Merriweather. “Sir,” he said, “You need to get down and go out the regular way.” The concertgoer was unrepentant. “Whatever, man, you can’t cage me like an animal, I’m free like a bird.” Josh, chuckling, said, “Sir, a bird is an animal.” Gobsmacked, the guy said, “Whatever man, you’re not a scientist.”

Seeing Josh working a show always made me feel safer for being there. He had a preternatural way of knowing where the problems might start, and defusing them before they turned bad.

Josh was, in so many ways, the heart of 9:30 Club, and I’ll miss him.

Fedward: Around 2000 or so, I had a late night craving (or maybe I just hadn’t eaten dinner) and walked from my Columbia Heights apartment to Ben’s Chili Bowl. As I ate my chili half smoke and order of chili cheese fries, the table next to me filled with 9:30 Club staff. Minding my own business (reading the City Paper, I think), I realized someone was talking to me. I looked up. “You got my Wiz? You got my Cheez Wiz?” I lacked context so I just blinked at him. “What’s it from?” “Oh! Blues Brothers.” He smiled and laughed. Man. Now I want some chili cheese fries.

Rachel: Going to the 9:30 Club for me is always a special treat. Whenever I get tickets to a show there I look at it as a special occasion. One of my favorite things about celebrating such a special occasion is the familiarity of my surroundings each time I step foot onto the corner of V and 9th Streets NW. Josh was a part of what I had come to known as the “9:30 Club experience.” His presence will be missed.

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We hope to update this post when we learn more about how he passed away. But please share your remembrances of the big guy below so that we can all know him a little better.

Mickey

Mickey reviews music shows. He loves a good new wave song, new or old — call it new wave, next wave, now wave. Mickey also enjoys guitar-driven punk and synth-wave new romanticism. The new wave lies in the vast space between. Follow him on Twitter, as he hops around town and talks about music.

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8 thoughts on “We Love Music: R.I.P., That Guy at the 9:30 Club

  1. I just remember how much he loved being a part of the music. I was at U Street Music Hall watching the Company Band, and there was Josh, just having a great time, not working, not watching the crowd, just watching the band kill it onstage, and he loved every minute of it.

  2. I was asked to perform stand-up comedy at the 9:30 Club on Election Night 2004 for a bunch of Kerry campaign workers and other Rock The Vote types. No one was really listening, which wasn’t exactly a surprise. After I got offstage, and I gathered my stuff as prepared to head home, this large, tattooed, pierced guy with ginormous earlobe expanders looked me up and down and said “You did good!” I didn’t expect anyone to say something like that to me, but he did and I will always remember those kind words from the least likely guy in the room.

  3. Josh was an amazing young man. Smart and thoughtful. I loved talking to him. He was a rock star in his own way.

  4. Josh was always quick with a smile, a story and a hug. One of my favorite memories of Josh, and there were many, was when he came to the hotel to pick up George Clinton and myself. This was before George took out all the hair so GC had his own unique style just like Josh. We rode back to the club in an open bedded Jeep and at every traffic light other drivers weren’t really sure to to stare at more … George or Josh!

  5. Of all the classic archetypes, the one I admire most is the gentle giant. Powerful and imposing, seemingly invulnerable, he is peaceful at heart, and sees his purpose as serving as a guardian to the vulnerable. Josh Burdette was just such a figure. Josh could be compared to Ferdinand, if the metaphor of the flower in the field were taken to be the music and art in the scene. He loved music, it’s what drew him into his calling. Acting as a guardian for other music fans at a show was likely seen by him as a bonus, a fringe benefit of being there at the heart of it all. He kept the peace so that everyone could enjoy the show, but it was probably just as much so that he could enjoy the show. I’ve worked with a lot of really great security people in scene, I’ve even had to break up a fight or two myself (despite being completely unsuited to the task). Many security people I’ve worked with could rightfully boast that they could always win a fight. Josh could speak of the victories he’d won without needing to fight. Yesterday we found out that our giant was not invulnerable, and our hearts are heavy. Josh, my wish is that your passing from this life was as gentle as your nature. Love and respect.

  6. I always saw Josh at shows all over the DC area as well as at 930 Club, but one memory stands out to me.
    I was at HFSTIVAL one year (I think Third Eye Blind was in the middle of another horrid set), and I turn to my right and I see the imposing, almost scary guy from 930 Club standing there by himself, drinking a YOO-HOO!
    So of course I had to go say hello, and I met Josh formally at that moment. He was such a laid back and nice guy.
    Can’t believe that such a gentle giant like him is gone now.
    RIP Josh. YOU were an institution.

  7. I never met the man, nor attended any concerts in the DC area, but your comments have moved me. I have always thought of bouncers as a sort of animated fence, an obstacle to be navigated and forgotten; the fact that you can remember him so fondly says heaps about him as a man and as a worker.

    It seems that he as found his own kind of immortality in your hearts. No matter how flowery the epitaph on stone, the greatest epitaph is the one carved in the hearts of people one has touched. Obviously, Josh has left a monument in you.

    Peace and reassurance to you all.

    Can you believe I’m weeping for the loss of a man I’ve never met and never would have?