There are music venues, and there’s The Burl.
Opened in July 2016 by Cannon Armstrong, Jomo Thompson and Seth Bertram, The Burl, at 375 Thompson Road, first was a practice space for their band, Chopper Brown. In 2014, the trio decided to work toward making the space a full-fledged music club after the redevelopment of the nearby James Pepper campus began to take shape.
Approaching a year since opening its doors, The Burl has become one of the top music destinations in Lexington.
It occupies a long, narrow old oil and fuel distribution hub built by Texaco in 1928, and it has a character all its own, with a wooden interior lending to some of the best acoustics in town. The venue’s insignia, a tree and its roots circled by a two-headed serpent, is etched into a stained-glass window behind the stage. Sun-drenched porches run along The Burl’s outside, leading to a fire pit and a massive mural of a train speeding down a set of railroad tracks with the saying, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
Bar manager Edgar Purdom, who joined the team in May 2016, said The Burl’s first event was a trio of comedians, including “liberal redneck” Trae Crowder, on July 14, 2016. The venue had to call in private catering for the show, and it didn’t yet have its liquor license, so Purdom and others involved consider a July 21, 2016 show with Blackfoot Gypsies and Other Brothers to be the room’s first official show. To celebrate the anniversary, the Gypsies will return to The Burl on July 22.
The Burl isn’t slowing down, with plans to renovate the storage units next to its parking lot with a full bar and retro arcade games, including Centipede, Pac-Man and others. Purdom expects the project to be complete by fall, with video game-themed drinks and other quirks that he hopes will help to attract a new audience. The Burl’s owners also plan to restore its green room for artists, with new beds, showers and a laundry room in its goal of providing the most hospitable experience for bands.
“In the bands I’ve toured with, if I knew I could do laundry, get a shower and a good night’s sleep and be taken care of, I’d jump at the chance,” said Purdom, who has performed with several bands, including Sunday Valley and The Legendary Shack Shakers.
The owners also hope to host more large-scale events in The Burl’s parking lot — the first one was the Beaux Arts Ball in April — and there are more weekly series similar to this summer’s Lex Brunch and Summer of Sundy. The venue hosts music six nights a week along with other events, including yoga and service-industry nights.
I see the potential in every room. You just have to find the right staff and the people that share the vision to make it happen. The people that own and work at The Burl share that vision of having one of the greatest music venues to ever exist.
“We want to make sure that everybody knows that they’re welcome while at the same time letting our neighbors know that we respect them and we’re proud to be a part of their community.”
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of something like this,” Purdom said. “I’ve always worked in bars that have mattered to me. I see the potential in every room, you just have to find the right staff and the people that share the vision to make it happen. The people that own and work at The Burl share that vision of having one of the greatest music venues to ever exist.”
Matt Wickstrom: @wickstromwrites