There is a myth about the vein of life, a pipeline of energy that runs through the earth and surfaces in certain places. In those places, people feel connected to something much larger than themselves. It’s also said that in these places we can find people who embody that energy to give us the sense that we have known them our whole lives. They seem to glow and radiate that life force. Josh Burdette, the well-known night manager of the 9:30 Club and one of the most recognizable and beloved faces in Washington’s nightlife, was one of those people.
While his tattoos, piercings, and sheer size made Josh an intimidating figure, his love of music was only matched by his love for music fans. Every person who walked into the 9:30 Club was his guest, and he saw to it that the environment remained safe so that his guests and artists could enjoy themselves. He was known as the thoughtful, centered, and wise spirit of the D.C. music scene.
This reputation is what caused such a shock to ripple through Washington and across the country as musicians and music lovers everywhere mourned Josh’s passing in September 2013.
In a public statement, Seth Hurwitz, owner of the 9:30 Club, described Josh “as 9:30 as 9:30 gets.” To all who saw, met, and knew him, he was the soul of 9:30 for the 16 years he worked there.
Frank Turner memorialized the intense love that he and so many people felt for Josh in a tribute song, Song for Josh. In lieu of properly recording the track in a studio, Turner recorded the song live at the 9:30 Club in June of 2014. It’s rare to have the chance to say goodbye to someone in the space in which that friendship developed and where that person’s spirit remains. It’s easy to imagine Josh there at the 9:30 Club, listening, nodding, and thanking his friend for such a touching and heart-felt salute.
The song, which was featured on Turner's latest album, Positive Songs For Negative People, was released as a limited 7" single, with all proceeds going toward the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention. Currently, the 7" is only available to buy at shows during Turner's current tour, but he tweeted that once the tour is done, the remaining copies will be available to purchase online somewhere. The October 2015 performance is prominently featured in the second episode of Live at 9:30.
Song for Josh painfully and acutely reflects the heartbreaking question that everyone impacted by suicide asks in the aftermath of this inconceivable loss: “Why didn't you call? My phone's always on. Why didn't you call? Before you got gone.” And then it continues to explain the guilt in raw and helpless tones captured in lines like, “And I can't say for certain what I would have done. But I can't do anything now that you're gone. And it kills me to think that for a second you felt alone.”
Josh's passing left many questions but what is certain is that he is remembered, loved, and revered, and always will be as long as the 9:30 Club stands and continues to provide a home for artists and fans to come together to celebrate the power of music. It’s impossible to walk in there and not feel his presence.
Some people are larger than life, and they leave their mark long after they’re gone.
-Christa Avampato: Associate Producer