Shawn ‘Gus’ Vitale, 9:30 Club’s Longtime Sound Engineer, Passes

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Shawn ‘Gus’ Vitale at the 9:30 Club (Photo: Pete Duvall)

Shawn “Gus” Vitale, the lead sound engineer at Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club for nearly 30 years, and a widely beloved figure in the local music community and beyond, passed away May 11.

‘He is on the Mount Rushmore of 9:30.’ Never met anyone that didn’t love Gus,” said Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P. and owner of the 9:30 Cub said in a statement.

Vitale was born and raised in Forestville, Maryland and played drums for a number of acts including Out of Hand Wilson Band and The Crankamatics. Prior to working at the 9:30 Club, Vitale ran Gusssound, his own sound company and did audio for a number of local venues including D.C. Space, 15 Minutes and Ft. Reno, the free outdoor summer concert series where many D.C. acts got their start.

In addition to mixing national acts, including everyone from Adele, Sonic Youth and Fugazi to Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, The Roots and Chuck Brown, Vitale also did sound for many low-paying one-offs like NORML’s Fourth of July smoke-ins and Positive Force’s anti-Gulf War protest in Lafayette Park,

Tributes to Gus poured in from across the D.C. music community, including from Danny Ingram of  Dot Dash and Strange Boutique, the Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser, Brendan Canty of the Messthetics and Fugazi; and artist and community activist Robin Bell,

“Everyone keeps mentioning that Gus made everyone feel welcome and taken care of – staff, touring crew, artists alike. I would say it went even further than that,” said Angie Chamberland, GM of the 9:30 Club and Assistant Production Manager of I.M.P. ”Gus brought a forthcoming, open nature to his leadership style that radiated with authenticity in a way that seemed easy, but few have mastered the way he did. In an industry that has had a long way to go to provide an equitable, safe workplace for certain demographics, Gus (and Ed Stack) were well ahead of the curve – just show up and do the job, and that was all that was needed to get his respect and opportunity. For many of us, it sealed the deal on wanting to work here in the first place. 

Vitale’s family asks that those who want to donate in his name give to the I.M.P. Family Fund.