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.
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.