Remembering “That Guy”

Scholarship Honors Pillar of D.C. Music Scene

A first-time concertgoer at D.C.’s 9:30 Club would likely have had two thoughts when seeing the tattooed, pierced, 6-foot-4, 300-pound frame of Josh Burdette ’98, the iconic venue’s manager and crew chief: First, “I better not make any trouble.” Then: “If there is any trouble, I’m glad he’ll be around to deal with it.”

In a city known for its monuments, Burdette was the sentinel of V Street. With metal tusks protruding from his nose, and earlobes stretched with huge gauges, he was widely known as “That Guy” and the club’s guardian angel.

A psychology graduate, Burdette died last fall and is being remembered at Maryland with a new scholarship fund. Since he was part of Student Entertainment Events (SEE) as a student and often helped the programming board as an alumnus, the scholarship in his honor will support a SEE student leader in financial need. So far, about $30,000 has been raised.

Weighing more than 10 pounds at birth, Josh was often told that his physical size came with responsibilities, says his father, Robert Burdette ’70.

“He learned it well,” he says. “He was a person who would look out for other people. … He was compassionate.”

Josh also was willing to wink at the imposing image that greeted D.C. fans at the venue since 1997. On his Facebook page, entitled “That Guy at the 9:30 Club,” his love for the Muppets’ “Rainbow Connection”—“probably my favorite song of all”—would be just above articles about Goth punk songs.

“Everybody got the real Josh,” says Eric Lichtfuss ’02, a close friend who knew Burdette at Maryland and worked with him at the 9:30 Club. “He liked to challenge people’s perceptions but do it in a gentle way.”

His job could be difficult and unpredictable—for example, Burdette’s father says one of the worst fights his son ever broke up was between a dentist and a physician. But Lichtfuss says Josh found it rewarding to be in charge of keeping people safe and making sure they had a good time.

“He was someone who exuded so much of himself … that you really ceased to see the exterior,” he says.

Robert Burdette, who was a longtime chaplain at Maryland and taught family studies courses, said the university is an appropriate place for Josh to be memorialized.

“We’re a Terrapin family,” he says. “It was part of who he was, to be a Terrapin.”


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