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20 Monroe Live

March 15, 2018

  • 11 Ottawa Avenue NW
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49503
  • (844) 678-5483
  • Website

I grew up in the 80’s & 90’s and when I say I watched a lot of MTV, I don’t mean I watched a lot of Teen Mom.  MTV was still actually Music Television then.  I used to sit in my living with my VCR remote in hand hoping to record my favorite videos but only if I could recognize them before the little graphic in the corner of the screen that identified it.

I was kind of in to hair bands in those days.  I’m still a huge fan of Bon Jovi.  I’ll be one of those guys still going to concerts (as long as Richie is part of the group) when those guys are in their 80’s and barely able to stand up.

The one guy that wasn’t a hair band that always made me click the record button was Weird Al Yankovic.  I loved his parodies.  I would wear out the cassettes in my Walkman listening to the Even Worse.

Fortunately, I never really matured and when the CD age entered, I wore out CD’s in my Discman instead.  Off the Deep End, The Food Album, Alapalooza, Bad Hair Day…..I think I bought second copies of some of these because I listened to them so much they scratched or broke.

Surprisingly, I have never seen Weird Al in concert.  I’ve had opportunities but they always involved me going alone.  My appreciation of parody was not one that was shared by many of my friends.

This past winter, Laughfest announced Weird Al would be a performer during their comedy festival.  I clicked on Facebook that I was interested and that popped it up in one of my friend’s feed from back home in Illinois.  He asked if I was serious about going and said he’d drive up here and join me if I was.

I figured it was time I finally saw Weird Al, so I bought two tickets for the show.

Weird Al is not really a sell out an arena kind of guy anymore.  The shows typically take place in smaller in venues.  In the past, he has performed at DeVos Performance Hall when playing in West Michigan, but there’s a new small venue in town and this would be my first chance to see a show there.

20 Monroe Live is on the corner of Fulton Street and Ottawa Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids.  It was built in the parking lot of The B.O.B. and opened in early 2017.  The 2,600 seat venue quickly became a go-to place for shows that would feel empty in Van Andel Arena across the street.

The entrance is set back off of the corner and behind steps that are utilized as an exit after events.  The line when we showed up was wrapped back around The B.O.B.  There were guys in line checking ID’s and putting on wristbands for alcohol.  In front of the building, security was doing a quick scan with hand held wands just before the ticket takers at the entrance to the lobby.

This show was sold-out, but the ticket office is outside of the building on the Ottawa Avenue side.

Just inside the door is a small lobby where the artist sets up shop to hock their merchandise.  There’s also a bar and a popcorn stand.  I grabbed a drink out here not realizing there are bars inside the venue as well.  They have both domestic and craft beer on tap and in cans.  There’s also cocktail chances, non-alcoholic options and “Traditional Bottled Water” which my buddy and I laughed at all night.  What is the difference between bottled water and “traditional” bottled water.

I got a Goose Island IPA which set me back $11 for a glass.  I guess it’s a pretty typical price but I milked that beer as long as I could.  There wasn’t a second beer as much as I would have liked to enjoy another one.

The entrance into the concert hall is near the back of the lobby.  It’s just a set of three double doors that leads into a big, open room.

There is balcony with permanent seating that wraps around three sides of the room.  There is a middle staircase in the back of the room that leads up there.  The upstairs is also where the restrooms are.  There are none on the main level.

I found out once I got to where our seats are that there are two bars located in the venue.  They have the same drink options that the bar in the lobby has.  There is a bar on either side of the seating area.

Our seats were near the back on the left side of the stage.  I gotta talk about the seats here because these were the most comfortable seats I’ve ever sat in at a concert venue and especially considering they were essentially folding chairs hooked together.  The seats were a rubber mesh that really formed around the back and the butt.  They were wider than typical folding chairs too.  My buddy and I are both bigger guys (although he is getting much smaller) and we were able to sit comfortably in the chairs….that’s not something that happens at concert venues very often.

The venue is pretty small so even though we were in the back, we still felt pretty close to the stage.

The first act was a comedian I had completely forgotten about.  Emo Phillips did a little over a half hour set to get the crowd warmed up.  I haven’t heard the name Emo Phillips in years and it wasn’t until he started his set that I remembered who he was.  The falsetto tone and fidgety brought it back pretty quickly.  His self-deprecating humor was quite funny.  I wouldn’t have ever bought a ticket to see just him, but his act was good and I might change my mind about that now.

There was a twenty minute intermission between Phillips and the main event.  It seemed odd they still had to set the stage when the opening act was a comedian, but whatever.

So….I finally got my chance to see Weird Al.   Yup.

When I bough the tickets I didn’t make it past the Weird Al Yankovic part of the e-mail.  I needed to keep going and read the title of the tour.

The official name of this tour is “The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour.”  That’s actually a pretty good name for the tour if you know what you’re getting in to before you buy tickets.  I did not do enough research.

This show is all the songs you skipped over on the albums.  It’s all the original songs that were on B-Sides or buried deep on the album.  He joked a couple of times about these songs being on the end of albums because they were long and he didn’t want listeners to turn the album off.

Imagine, going to a Beatles show and only hearing songs they never put on albums.  The hardcore fans are going to love it.  The fans showing up to hear the radio played songs are just going to try to stay awake.  That’s kind of how this show was.  We were sitting next to people who were in to every. single. song.  They wore wacky Hawaiian shirts and knew every word.  We also sat around some families who brought their kids that just kept waiting for him to play Eat It!

Last week, Weird Al released The Hamilton Polka….and he talked about it on stage and got me really excited.  Two things I really like.  Hamilton and Weird Al.  Then, he said we’d have to go to the next tour because they haven’t rehearsed it yet and went in to some song I’ve never heard of.

At the end, he finally played some of his radio play songs….kind of.  It was a medley of some of his most popular songs re imagined as if they were in a jazz club.  It was a cool medley but….would have liked to have heard those songs as they were originally recorded.

We stuck around for the encore because by this time, I had looked up the set list for this tour and realized what we were seeing.  20 Monroe Live actually had pretty solid WiFi so I was able to find some previous reviews of the show and all of them ended with The Saga Begins.  This is the one parody he played as it was originally recorded.

Overall, I like Weird Al enough that I enjoyed the show despite not knowing the songs.  This tour is meant to be an intimate engagement with Al sitting on a stool the whole time playing his accordion.  There are no costumes.  No video screens.  No parodies. Just Weird Al Yankovic playing his original songs for a throng of die hards.

As for the venue, 20 Monroe Live is great.  I had no idea what to expect for a concert here.  I’ve been inside the venue for other events, but loved this as a small concert venue.  The place is spacious yet intimate and every seat has a great view of the stage


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