Josh Burdette, the face of the 9:30 Club, has died

September 2, 2013

This post has been updated.

Josh Burdette, the 9:30 Club's manager and perhaps the most recognizable presence in all of Washington nightlife, has died. He was 36.

Obituary: Josh Burdette, 9:30 Club security head, dies at 36

The face of the 9:30 Club, Josh Burdette, has died. (Sora Devore/For The Washington Post)
The face of the 9:30 Club, Josh Burdette, has died. (Sora Devore/For The Washington Post)

With his large ear gauges, facial piercings, tattooed forearms and imposing physique, Burdette was not someone a fake ID-holder ever wanted to encounter. A fixture at the club since 1997, the man known as "Big Josh" or "That Guy at the 9:30 Club" resisted being called a bouncer. "A bouncer is looking to bounce people. It's a reactive way of doing things," Burdette told The Post's Chris Richards in 2006. "We're the face of the club, and we have to do our best to be as friendly, polite and accessible as we can. Some of us look big and scary, but we're just people, too. We're just working our jobs."

Burdette told Richards that his degree in psychology from the University of Maryland helped him keep order at the club. "You learn the behaviors of people doing something wrong. They're looking around a lot, making sure they're not being watched. I spend a lot of time at the front door watching the crowd come in, so I know who's in here," Burdette said. "What keeps me doing this after getting kicked in the head, fought, spit on, is seeing people leave the club with a smile on their face. I know that's a trite thing to say, but my job is to make sure people have fun."


Burdette was an avid D.C. sports fan. In 2010, his face appeared on a national broadcast of a Capitals game at Verizon Center. (In 2009, I was seated next to Burdette at Verizon Center when Sergei Fedorov's Game 7 playoff goal sent us both into orbit, along with the sold-out arena. The man knew how to bear-hug.)

The Maryland chief medical examiner's office ruled Burdette's death a suicide.

9:30 Club co-owner Seth Hurwitz issued the following statement:

"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."

Musicians and 9:30 Club regulars reacted to news of Burdette's death on Twitter:

 

 

A previous version of this post said Burdette was 35 at the time of his death.

Alex Baldinger is editor of the Going Out Guide blog, which covers food, drink, arts, music, events and other curiosities in the D.C. area. He is forever in search of a great sandwich.
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