Josh on the Little Pieces of the Puzzle (By Danny Harris)

Josh Burdette

Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. In September, he launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. Every day, People’s District presents a different Washingtonian sharing his or her insights on everything from Go Go music to homelessness to fashion to politics. You can read his previous columns here.

“I was technically born in D.C., at Sibley Hospital, but I grew up in Kensington, Maryland and have lived there all my life. While Maryland is home, D.C. is home, too. D.C. has always been a big part of my life. As a kid, I came down to the museums. As I got older, I started going to the 9:30 Club, in the old location at 930 F Street Northwest, to see shows. My first show at the club was Shudder to Think. I don’t know exactly when it was, but probably sometime in high school. My sister was dating a guy who took us down to the show. From then on, I went to shows at 9:30 whenever I could. This was a really unique place. I had been to see the 80’s and early 90’s hair bands at Merriweather Post Pavilion and the Cap Center, but this place was simply hundreds of sweaty, dirty people going crazy. It was a nice change of pace and there was something about it that just spoke to me. I knew that when I was old enough, I wanted to get a job here.

“When I started at the University of Maryland, my parents gave me a hard time about getting a job. In the student newspaper, there was an ad looking for campus security staff with the words ‘size or experience a plus.’ I had no experience whatsoever, but I went in and got hired because I was big. I’ve always been bigger than everyone else. When you are the biggest guy around, you can either be a bully or go in the opposite direction and develop a slow fuse. I made a conscious decision as a young person to not abuse my size. Hurting someone is the last thing that I want to do. It turned out this was a good mindset for this work. Remember, we are not bouncers, we are door staff here.

“Just before I turned 21, I was coming down to 9:30 for shows all of the time and started talking to everyone. I made a good of impressions on people. I helped break up a couple of fights when I wasn’t even working. One time, I had my septum jewelry ripped out and was bleeding all over the bathroom and wouldn’t let anyone else clean it up. I went and asked for more paper towels so I could clean it up myself. That stuck in their heads. I was technically hired before I turned 21, but I think that’s just because they wanted to shut me up so I would stop asking them for a job! Three days after my 21st birthday, I worked my first show. That was over 12 years ago.

“This place is a family and we have a lot of love for each other. This is the antithesis of a chain. The 9:30 Club is in the walls and the stage, it’s in the people who work here and those who come to listen to the music. It’s a unique environment built on 30 years of history. There is no way to replicate that. After 12 years, I am honored to be able to work here and help people have a good time. If I see people leaving happy, that is a reward for me. It’s a little thing, but if you make one person’s night a little bit better then maybe the next day they go and do something great. It is the little pieces of the puzzle that all add up to something cool. I think that is what this place is all about.

“You know, this city is so divisive with politics, race, sexuality, and religion. All of that goes away when people come in here and the lights go down and the music comes up. Everyone has a good time together. That’s what this city is about, that togetherness with the goal of having a good time. Maybe the next day everything goes back to how it was, but for those few hours in the house that I help take care of, we create a spot where something amazing happens every night. That is pretty cool.

“One last thing, I always tell people that if they want to talk to me, just come and say, ‘Hi.’ A lot of the time, people see me here and get intimidated, but I am not going to bite your head off. Don’t be afraid to come up and say hi to me or the other people here. We are people, too.”

The 9:30 Club is located at 815 V Street NW.

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