Day 83: Mojo’s

A representation of the various things to enjoy at Mojos courtesy of Mojos Day 83: Mojo’s
A representation of the various things to enjoy at Mojo’s courtesy of Mojo’s
[box size=”large” border=”full”]Why it’s awesome:  Good drink specials, talented musicians, and a piano rendition of “Ice, Ice Baby.”[/box]

Attending live musical performances is a common pastime of many Americans.  Whether it is reliving your 20’s by attending a Bon Jovi concert as they roll through your nearest stadium or sipping a Bud Light and listening to a local band in a dimly lit bar.  Millions of people flock to essentially any location where a person feels motivated to set up instruments and begin playing.   However, the typical musical performance has its downfalls.  For one, the audience members have no say in what transpires.   Additionally, the musicians tend to keep to themselves, the audience members have little opportunity to talk amongst themselves, and of course there are those pesky mosh pits!  However, there is a musical oasis where all of these problems have been resolved and you are left with a very entertaining and interactive evening of music.  Mojo’s Dueling Piano Bar in downtown Grand Rapids is this oasis.

A group enjoying their time at Mojos courtesy of MLive Day 83: Mojo’s
A group enjoying their time at Mojo’s, courtesy of MLive

Aside from the music, which sets it apart from other local establishments, Mojo’s is also a full service bar and restaurant offering a menu including appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and a number of pasta dishes.  The bar features 20 unique martinis, many bearing names appropriate for the setting: Piano Man, Music on the Beach, Sweet Caroline, etc.  A number of beers, bottled and on tap, as well as wines are also available if it suits your fancy.

Though it is called a dueling piano bar, the pianists at Mojo’s seemed to complement each other more than to be in competition.  The pianists took turns playing songs, while the other took the backseat, playing drums, harmonica, complementary piano riffs, or bass guitar.  This allowed each song to have a fuller sound as well as making sure each musician was involved in each song.  There was, however, an aspect of competition as each pianist would play songs based on suggestions (which were accompanied with a couple dollars as a token of gratitude).  This means that the pianist who received the most requests also received the most money.

A photo of the exterior courtesy of Mojos Day 83: Mojo’s
A photo of the exterior, courtesy of Mojo’s

The most fun and unique aspect of the dueling piano show was the fact that the audience was intricately involved.   Involvement manifested itself not only through audience members singing along and dialoguing with the pianists, but most profoundly through song suggestions.  The fact that the songs played by the pianists came mostly from audience requests ensures that no two shows are the same and the audience gets to hear their favorite songs.  This also guarantees an eclectic mix of music.  In a 45 minute span, songs ranged from rap (“Ice Ice Baby”), country (“Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy”), Johnny Cash, Prince, Bruno Mars, and a plethora of others.  No matter what your music taste, it is inevitable that you will find yourself singing along to at least a song or two.

The musicians truly are the stars of the show.  Each pianist is abundantly talented and competent with a number of instruments.   Not to mention the fact they seem to be an endless reservoir of songs, able to play at least parts of nearly any song suggested.  If they don’t know a particular song, they are quick to problem solve: either playing a different song by the same artist or simply improvising.  At one point, one of the pianists looked up the lyrics for “Ice Ice Baby” on his smart phone in an effort to be as precise as possible!

Also unique to the Mojo’s experience is the bantering that is allowed to occur between the musicians and the crowd.  Since the crowd is such an important part in deciding the route the show takes, it makes sense that they would be involved in a continuing conversation with the pianists.  Between songs, they strike up conversations with the crowd, heckling those who leave early.

If you wish to get lost in the crowd and listen to a repetitive set list, Mojo’s is not the place for you.  However, if you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, Mojo’s is likely the place for you:

  1. Do you like taking a more active role in your musical experience?
  2. Have you always longed to hear someone play “Sweet Caroline”? (Please note, they require several requests of “Sweet Caroline” before they play it, as they get a plethora of requests nightly)
  3. Do you like fabulous drink specials on Wednesdays and Thursdays?
  4. Do you enjoy watching talented musicians play whatever song you ask of them!?

If you answered yes, head on down to Mojo’s on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday.  Though Mojo’s is open from 5p.m. until 2a.m. each of these days, the show begins at 8p.m. Thursday-Friday and starts at 7p.m. on Saturday.

Also keep in mind that Mojo’s requires all patrons to be at least 21 years of age, which is good as the musicians can get a tad risque.  Also, there is a second floor that boasts a lounge, if that is the vibe that you are searching for. ~Chad Cramblet, Regional Director

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