The Tin Roof has the look of a vintage punk club — the closest thing to a basement venue in a city devoid of basements. It's grungy, it's windowless, and all are welcome — that goes for the crowd and musicians alike. But while it may look like a punk club, the sounds emanating from the stage are as eclectic as any venue in town.
And who are the fellas monitoring that sound? Todd Brown and Mike Grimm.
These two experienced engineers have plenty on their plates, so divvying up the schedule is essential. Says Brown, "We flip-flop our schedules, and we're in concert and communicating so there's always going to be somebody that's trustworthy at the helm of Tin Roof."
Brown is the punk-rock aficionado, having played in punk bands since he was a preteen. When he moved to Charleston in 2000, he ventured out, searching for his scene. He found it at the Oasis on James Island.
Though he had little experience in sound engineering at the time, Brown somehow found his way behind the mixer. "I was the sound guy for all these bands, and I didn't know what the hell I was doing," laughs Brown.
Even so, he did have a unique perspective. "I'd been on both sides of that microphone, so I basically knew what was required."
Brown spent four years at the Oasis before taking his talents on the road, touring with local metal bands and running sound at venues all over the Southeast. The only problem was his van was too small to hold all his equipment, so each gig required two trips. "At the Oasis when you live a mile away it's no big deal. But when you're in Summerville or Columbia, it's kind of a pain in the ass. But we did it." That's right, two trips from Charleston to Columbia. And some gigs he'd even start loading in the day before.
Things have changed quite a bit since then. Now, Brown owns a live sound company, Target Panic Productions, and runs a recording and rehearsal space called Return to Zero.
At night, he can probably be found running sound at Tin Roof if he's not playing out with his band Voorhees. "I do all the national punk rock," says Brown. "[Owner Erin Tyler] entrusts me to do the national punk-rock bands that are gonna sell 300 tickets. And that's a pretty big responsibility."
But no matter the size of the crowd or the name of the band, Brown's mentality never changes. "I have a responsibility as a soundman to give people what they paid for," says Brown. "And to take care of [the performers] so their show is better, so their experience is better. I know what it feels like to not have a good show because you couldn't hear yourself. And I don't ever want to do gigs like that again. So no one in my care will have to worry about that."
The same can be said when Grimm is running the show. A soundboard veteran of over 15 years, Grimm spends his days giving guitar lessons at Encore Music and, like Brown, he's a gigging musician, playing in various wedding bands and cover bands throughout the area.
Together, they refurbished the sound system exactly to their liking. "We made it where it was simple and concise," says Brown. "Consistency is hard when you work at a venue. You want people to come and say, 'I already know the experience I'm gonna have when I come in here.'"
That consistency and a propensity for treating everyone as equals, "That's what the Tin Roof means to me," says Brown. "It's Alice in Wonderland meets the Ramones."