I remember the first time Josh Burdette put big black “X”s on my hands. It was my first concert. I was barely 12. I vividly recall being awed by his imposing figure, and my father instructing me not to do anything stupid, “or you’ll have to deal with That Guy.” Look up “bouncer” in the dictionary and there ought to be a picture of a person looking just like him – massive gauges, a face full of metal, tattoos shooting out of both ends of a double XL t-shirt.
Burdette despised the term “bouncer”, and instead embraced the label “That Guy” – That Guy being the man who, for 16 years, until his passing on September 1st, was both head of security and the unforgettable face of Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club.
Anyone who has attended a show there – or been lucky enough, as I have, to perform there (and I use the term “perform” in loose reference to the maniacal, sexually ambiguous onstage gyrations of my air guitar alias Fender Splendor) – has been greeted at once with the gracious, measured patience of Burdette and the rest of 9:30′s staff. Patience which I’m sure none of our drunken asses deserved. Feel like coating the stage in booze and confetti? Wanna jump off a speaker and break your ankle? How about just marching around in tighty-whiteys with the Number of the Beast Sharpied on your crotch while you strum along to Dio? Since USAG’s first DC appearance in 2007, including an unforgettable National Finals in ’09, they’ve been willing to indulge our twisted rockstar fantasies. Christ, they even put cupcakes in the green room.
DC’s a small town, and while I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Josh on a personal level, in the days since his passing, numerous friends of mine have passed along stories of his unrelenting kindness. In texts and pictures, they paint an image of a gentle giant; a person eager to be a sounding board for everyday frustration and a big, comfy shoulder to cry on. Our booze-fueled night lives are filled with half-remembered concerts and temporary acquaintances. And so this local legend, and his incomparable staff, whom we at USAG hold in the highest regard, are owed a tribute. Thank you Josh, and thank you to everyone at 9:30 Club, for turning our fake performances into real memories.
– Paul “Fender Splendor” Alexander