Tuesday, September 3, 2013

DC's Heart is Heavy

We learned yesterday about the untimely passing of Josh Burdette.

Josh, as has been mentioned in several stories already, a DC landmark, icon, legend. When you can be referred to as "That Guy from the 9:30 club" and everyone immediately knows who you're talking about, I think it is safe to say you are a recognizable figure.

He was not, as he was quick to tell you, a bouncer. Yes, he was big, and yes he cut an imposing presence, and yes he COULD move you if he had to, but it was the last thing he wanted to do. He was much more of a host at the club and he wanted you to have a good time, and leave that night with good memories of that show. I saw give people that "look" (if you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about), and a potential situation was diffused. To be clear, that look wasn't one of intimidation so much, as one of "think about that before you do that". The message was usually received.

As a frequent photographer of bands in clubs, I love shooting there, if for no other reason than Josh made it a great place to work. He set the rules upfront clearly (no flash - 3 songs and you're out), but was super accommodating to those of us running around the stage, and actually looked out for us - making sure we didn't get clocked by an errant crowd surfer or particularly rowdy show goer. He didn't see us as a nuisance, but rather another patron who he wanted to make sure had a good time.

Through a few mutual friends, I was lucky enough to get to know Josh a little bit more in the last few years. If I was photographing a show, attending one as a patron, or ran into him somewhere else, we would usually end up just talking for while. About most anything - music, friends, family, life in general. They were always great conversations, friendly, and left me in a great mood. He had that ability to make you feel calm in a storm, and show you a positive side of a story.

 As anyone who knew him will testify, to know Josh was to love him. He was the living embodiment of "Gentle Giant"- The only thing bigger than his physical self was his heart. He was quick to help out a friend in need anyway he could. There are countless stories being shared on facebook, twitter, and face to face amongst friends of Josh's about how he had a very positive and personal impact on their lives. Whether it was being an ear, a shoulder, a baby sitter, helping to build a swing set, you name it, he was there. He was also Uncle Josh to a lot of kids.

One story I'll share that was typical of how good a guy he was: I was shooting The Gaslight Anthem at the 9:30 last December. I was waiting by stage left to go into the photo pit whenever the band took the stage. Next to me were a father and son from Texas who were huge Gaslight Anthem fans. They had been a bunch of shows on this tour. Josh noticed this kid, who was probably 9 or 10, and noticed that he did not have earplugs. Josh goes and grabs some new plugs for the kid, and his own personal ear protection, and offers both to the kid, with a little explanation about how he needs to protect his hearing and that he could use either the plugs or Josh's earmuff style ear protection, but he really should wear something. The kid took the earplugs, and thanked Josh and gave him a smile -which of course caused Josh to flash his own big smile. He had 100 other things he needed to do, but he made the time to help this kid out. It was perfect. Made me smile for the rest of the night.

My sincerest thoughts to his family, the 9:30 family, and all those who held him close.

Rest In Peace. I am going to miss the hell out of you, Josh. I already do.


ps - Special thanks to Erica Bruce for the use of the image of Josh. The List......