Bright Broadway bulbs spell out "Tin Roof" to the left of the stage and to the right, more lights dance out the rest: "A Live Music Joint." The venue's stage, with its 48-star American flag mural, is front and center before a modest dance floor between it and a row of high tops and wooden booths. The bar's at the back. Decorating the walls is an assortment of barnyard junk and the kind of knickknacks American Pickers like to sniff out: old painted signs, vintage bicycles, dented hubcaps. It immediately feels like the Applebee's of venues, a music chain trying too hard to fit in, but Tin Roof's ambition to get to know the neighborhood is nobler than you'd first expect.
At Tin Roof, a Nashville-based chain of live music bars that holds the grand opening for its newest location on International Drive this week, once the music starts, the party never stops. That's the mission and the vision. A typical night hosts one band from 10 p.m. to close performing a diverse set that lasts between three and four hours straight – with no breaks.
"You go into any place in Nashville and every musician just plays," says William Hodges, Tin Roof's regional manager. "They just keep playing. It never brings the energy level down. They never have that lull where a patron can be like, 'Let's go check out the next place.' The way we do it, they're like, 'Man, this place is fun. The music just keeps going and going.'"
What sets Tin Roof apart from other touristy venue chains like House of Blues is that instead of targeting trending bands for these marathon sets, they focus on highlighting superior local acts – this one has filled their calendar with 90 percent Florida-based bands they've discovered in the area. If a band does well on its local Tin Roof stage, it can potentially book dates at Tin Roof's other 13 locations or eventually become part of Tin Roof's national band roster, joining acts like the headliners of the grand opening event, Indiana-based husband-wife duo David and Whitney, and performing regularly as a Tin Roof artist.
Central Florida country band Hayfire will warm the stage for David and Whitney at the grand opening (performing from 5-8:30 p.m.) as one of the early local acts to catch the ear of Tin Roof's booking and event manager, Katie Rose. Hodges says they've already booked Hayfire for additional dates, and they've similarly forged a bond with acoustic guitarist Bryan Malpass (performing 2-4 p.m.), whom Hodges discovered at Downtown Disney and says has "the voice of a golden angel." While Rose and Hodges are exploring the scene on their own – Hodges hopes popular ska band Beebs and Her Money Makers will play Tin Roof once the band is available – bands are encouraged to submit their electronic press kits for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org. Unlike most venues, artists are paid a fixed amount, regardless of ticket sales.
On the night I visited, another Tin Roof national artist, Who Is BC, performed as a one-man band, cycling through pop hits like Spin Doctors' "Two Princes," TLC's "Waterfalls" and Sublime's "What I Got" to big applause from an enthusiastic tourist crowd on a Thursday night. Hodges says to expect live music every night, with cover charges mostly on the weekends only. On Fridays and Saturdays, Tin Roof books bands performing top 40, top 40 country and popular alternative rock to create a rousing party environment that exists somewhere between a hit DJ dance night and the rush of that genuine jukebox epiphany: "They're playing my song." Their calendar currently features jazz, acoustic rock and pop, so just because the chain came from Nashville, don't expect every night to be a CMT re-run.
"That's kind of a common misconception about Tin Roof. We're not all country, rock," Hodges says. "Everybody says country – yes, we're based out of Nashville, Tennessee, right off Music Row, it is the Country Music Capital, but we love music. It's not country; it's not rock; it's all types of music."