Is Columbia Getting a Music Farm?

Signs Point to Yes: Tin Roof and Charleston’s Music Farm Plan to Bring Mid-Sized Venue to the Vista
By Patrick Wall
Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Whatever Free Times wants, Free Times gets, apparently. In last week’s cover story, we identified 24 things that we thought could improve Columbia. Among them was a mid-sized concert venue that could attract the types of acts that dot the calendars of regional clubs like Chapel Hill’s Cat’s Cradle and Charleston’s Music Farm.

Well, we might be able to cross one of those off our list: According to documents submitted to the city’s Design/Development Review Commission, Vista bar Tin Roof hopes to renovate the vacant warehouse next to it on Senate Street into a concert hall and beer garden. The proposal is a joint venture between Tin Roof and the team behind Charleston’s Music Farm.

(Actually, the proposed beer garden would knock out two of our wish-list wants. Score!)

The venue would be called The Music Farm at Tin Roof. It would boast an estimated capacity of between 1,200 and 1,500, says Trae Judy of Music Farm Productions, which owns The Music Farm in Charleston. At its biggest estimate, the estimated capacity is almost twice as large as Charleston’s Music Farm; even at its smallest estimate, it’d still be larger than Asheville’s Orange Peel, which has a capacity of about 1,100.

The Music Farm would handle the music booking.

The plan’s contingent on committee approval; because Tin Roof is in the city’s City Center Degisn/Development District, the expansion must meet certain guidelines and stay within certain restrictions. But city staff’s comments in the evaluation sheet don’t seem to express any significant qualms about the plan. The D/DRC approved the proposed plan on Thursday. Construction will start after the new year.

Tin Roof currently hosts live music, typically on weekends, and typically singer-songwriters and bar bands on the small-time Southeastern circuit. But it’s set up temporary stages in its parking lot to host concerts by larger, typically country-leaning acts like Dierks Bentley and Darius Rucker.

The new space would fill a large gap in Columbia’s music scene, which currently lacks a mid-sized venue for touring acts too large for New Brookland Tavern but not large enough for the Township Auditorium or Colonial Life Arena. Many of those acts bypass Columbia for towns like Charleston, Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Asheville and Athens because those cities have the venues to accommodate them. While several medium-sized rooms live on in the long-term memories of scenesters — Elbow Room, Headliners, Senate Park, Huger Street Concert Hall — Columbia’s been without a medium-sized room that consistently books live music since Five Points Pub closed in May.

Too, bringing in an established name like the Music Farm helps establish instant credibility with booking agents, as the Music Farm has ready access to big-name performers. Any act wanting to play Charleston’s Music Farm, an 800-capacity room, could be routed two hours west to the Music Farm’s bigger sister venue.

Judy, who works for the Charleston-based Music Farm but lives in Columbia, says he hopes for the new venue to be open by the summer.

A version of this story first appeared at

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