The Law of "Chicken Fried" was proven true once again on a recent Thursday night at Tin Roof Baltimore.
For the non-scientific community, the law states: To stir up a crowd of rock and country fans, play the popular Zac Brown Band song, "Chicken Fried," and watch the mood change instantaneously. With its rollicking tempo and earworm chorus ("You know I like my chicken fried and cold beer on a Friday night ..."), many find it irresistible, especially in a bar setting.
On the small Tin Roof stage on Thursday, the local quartet Sly 45 performed a competent cover version that turned a crowd of roughly 30 — which had been more interested in college football highlights and their smartphones — into a small chorus of head-boppers and karaoke singers.
"Chicken Fried" had an unintended effect as well: It showed the potential of Tin Roof as a laid back but viable live music venue-bar hybrid in Power Plant Live.
The space — which opened in late May after last housing the nice but ill-fit Kettle Hill restaurant — had plenty of room for diners, bar patrons and those looking to dance. The sound system was clear and crisp, but not dominant enough to stifle conversation. Like Fells Point standards Waterfront Hotel and Cat's Eye Pub, Tin Roof feels more like a bar than a venue, but there's just enough emphasis on music to feel like a mini-concert.
The night's slowness was not unexpected. My bartender, who said she only worked on Thursdays, said the last week of August typically means less foot traffic because people are either squeezing in last-minute vacations or headed back to school. (On our way to Power Plant Live, my Uber driver said the same thing about his lack of pickups.) But the bartender said Thursdays have been busy for the most part, and she'd heard weekends were typically packed. I told her I could see the appeal.
"Yeah, it's just changing the locals' idea of what a bar at Power Plant can be," she replied.
She was right, despite the fact that Tin Roof, like other Power Plant tenants, is a chain. (It has a dozen other locations across the country.) It is also the most easygoing bar in Power Plant Live. A large part of that has to do with decor, which is, to borrow a phrase from Hooters, delightfully tacky. With its wood paneling and random wall art (from an American flag to Neil Young's "Harvest" album cover, and even an oversized Sunbeam Bread sign), the design attitude is "anything goes." Christmas lights hang overhead, as a bucket of Jenga pieces sits on the bartop. Stickers and beer cans line the walls.
Speaking of beer, Tin Roof has a dozen taps and no surprises. In terms of craft beer, Goose Island 312 and Shock Top are as close as you'll find, besides the two local Heavy Seas options (Gold and Loose Cannon, the latter of which cost me $6 for 16 ounces in a plastic cup). Bud Light and Angry Orchard were accounted for, as were Sam Adams and Yuengling. A National Bohemian tallboy was $3.
The bartender said they didn't have a formal cocktail menu, which made more sense the longer I stayed. Tin Roof isn't that place, and it would probably feel strange if it tried to be. Instead, it's a bar to hear a solid live band as you watch a game or play your own (there are two sets of cornhole and a shuffleboard on the outdoor patio, along with plenty of seating).
After midnight, a couple of Orioles fans entered and took seats at the bar after a night at Camden Yards. They ordered some Pinnacle Raspberry bombs, an indication that their night was not winding down. The man asked if they had missed the band.
"They're just taking a short break," the bartender replied. "They're playing until last call."
There was still time to hear "Chicken Fried" one more time.