Roberge, whose Washington-bred band has sold 2 million albums over its career, said Mr. Burdette “made bands like us feel welcome at a place we’d always dreamed of getting to. Sometimes when you get to a place you’ve always tried to play, they shut you down and you can really feel it. He represented the 9:30 Club with such a good vibe, they could not have chosen a better person to be a part of the history of that place.”
Joshua Burdette weighed 10 pounds at his birth Sept. 4, 1976. Growing up in Kensington, he was urged by his father, a Methodist minister and family counselor, not to use his physical might to bully others.
“He grew up in an environment that taught him the way the world gets along best,” Robert Burdette, his father, told the Diamondback newspaper at the University of Maryland. “At home, at school, at church . . . he was taught that [his size] was extra responsibility, not more privilege.”
There were times, he said, when other boys tested him, tried to lure him into fights, even got in a few punches. He said he would grab hold of the offending boy until school security arrived.
Mr. Burdette once said he “made a lot of choices that set me aside from general society.” They began with tattoos at 12 or 13, followed by piercings once he entered the University of Maryland. He graduated in 1998 as part of the university honors program. He told the Diamondback that he earned extra cash by “basically just sitting out on the front porch of these frat parties in College Park” in case security was needed.
Working at the 9:30 Club, he said, was not glamorous. His job was to check IDs (he said he confiscated more than 500 fake ones), take tickets and collaborate with the security personnel of the big-name bands. He also hauled trash and performed other physical labor.
In Washington, a city where people often wield their clout in unpleasant ways, Mr. Burdette was often called on to defuse situations where the entitled wanted to get inside the 9:30 Club when all the tickets were sold and the building was at capacity. “If you know my boss well enough,” he calmly advised, “give him a call.”
There was ample opportunity for corruption. At major draws such as Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead, he said, he could have made more cash in bribes in a weekend than he made all year.
“And everything gets offered,” he told The Post. “I had one show where I had a limo of 11 strippers show up. I was told that I could do whatever I wanted with them if I let them into the show.”
He said he did not give in to temptation.
For years, Mr. Burdette lived with his grandmother in Kensington and relished what he regarded as a suburban haven of front lawns and children on bicycles. He played video games to take the edge off after work.
The hobby that most intrigued him was tattooing, and he spent hundreds of hours getting images of dragons gunned into his arms, chest and back. He chose the image because he was born in the year of the dragon, according to the Chinese zodiac.
None of the monsters had eyes, he told the Diamondback, because of something he read once in a Chinese legend. Giving them eyes would allow them to awaken and leave.
“I apply that concept to tattoos,” he wrote on his Web site years ago, “and I plan to make arrangements to have the eyes added to my dragons when I die so that they can be free again. I don’t know if anything will happen, but I think that it is a beautiful concept.”