At The Roasting Room, the art is a performance.
Musicians, lyricists, singers, songwriters and composers deliver emotion that is almost palpable. From high-energy fervor to laid-back, smooth performances that go down like a great glass of wine, the art of The Roasting Room is found in its intimate setting, and the music-makers are its wondrous guitar-wielding creators.
Josh Cooke and Jordan Ross have been booking an incredible array of artists—from local faves like Jevon Daly and Martin Lesch (and Jordan Ross, of course), to Grammy-winning songwriters, such as Nashville country rock singer-songwriter Bonnie Bishop (who’s written songs for Bonnie Raitt, as well as the TV hit show “Nashville”) and John Driskell Hopkins (songwriter and founding member of the Zac Brown Band).
“We have seen Grammy Award-winning singer- songwriters” Josh said.
Josh and Jordan are not just booking bands at The Roasting Room, they’re recording them. Every live performance is recorded in multi-track form, which can then be sent to the artist for a future live album.
Settling into the 75-seat room is like visiting someone’s home and watching a private performance in their living room, but with better acoustics, thanks to Isaac Smith, local musician and sound engineer at The Roasting Room. Cozy and comfortable—and often unnerving—one is bound to make eye contact with the musicians, who connect with audiences in a way very different from most other coastal South Carolina venues, which include outdoor festivals, waterside restaurants and bustling bars.
“Performing on [The Roasting Room] stage, you have the sense of absolute attention, which for most artists is the pinnacle of their career. You write music in your bedroom for nobody in particular, but then you can go out and play it for 75 people that are sitting there, hanging on the words you’re saying,” Jordan explained. “To perform in a place like that is really rare and very hard to find. “
“There’s no more than 20 rooms like that in the U.S.,” Josh added. “That’s probably exaggerating. It’s probably more like a dozen.”
“Listening rooms” are venues dedicated specifically to music listening, usually with a superior sound system and often the ability to record. Success stories abound from the unassuming and iconic Bluebird Café, a 90-seat listening room in downtown Nashville. Acoustic music is the Bluebird’s signature style, and upcoming artists have been launched from their stage to become celebrities. Eddie’s Attic, another popular listening room birthed in the Atlanta area, highlights both aspiring and accomplished songwriters. Jordan and Josh have similar aspirations for The Roasting Room.
“I pray for the day when we’re able to see Darius Rucker or John Mellencamp—the people that have a presence in this area, but have made it to the big leagues—to play the room for something that people can afford,” Jordan said.
These lofty aspirations may only be possible through community support; through people with a passion for music that translates into monetary backing. Some call these people fans, but in Bluffton, they’re called friends. Josh and Jordan are looking for a few special friends—individuals and businesses who have a passion for music as an art form, and share the desire to see it flourish in the Lowcountry.
While tickets generate somewhat of an income for the artists, it takes a community effort to thrive.
“It’s a testament to the town,” Jordan said. “The more you support The Roasting Room, the cooler
it is going to be, the more awesome we can make it.”
It’s the audience drawn to these acoustic performances that help steer Josh and Jordan to a place of success. The audience drives change—like the switch from 10-seat tables to eight- and four-seaters.
“It’s more of a hobby for us than a business,” Josh revealed. “We’re doing it because we share a love for music. Our jobs payithe bills. But we want to see this work whether it makes money or not. We feel like it’s important to have somewhere that highlights music as an art in that form.”