Pyramid Scheme celebrates and looks back on a decade of success – Grand Valley Lanhorn
The Pyramid Scheme is a bar, concert hall and pinball game room brought together in one hot spot in the Heartside neighborhood in downtown Grand Rapids.
As The Pyramid Scheme was unable to celebrate its 10th anniversary in April 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions, the venue will now be raising a drink during their sell-out show on October 20 with performances by The Menzingers, The Dirty Nil. , and the worried.
With their cheers at 10 years old came a time of reflection for co-owner Tami VandenBerg.
She and her brother, Jeff VandenBerg, originally opened a neighborhood pub called The Something on Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids.
Both were very interested in live music, but Tami VandenBerg said the pub was a bit too small and the neighbors weren’t too keen on the idea.
She said as soon as the pub made a profit, they bought their current residence and the idea of The Pyramid Scheme was launched.
However, the building wasn’t as ready for the sibling duo as it was for it.
Before the two fixed it in 2011, the building housed a dance club in the 90s and early 2000s. It had been vacant for many years and was full of mold. On several occasions, the city wanted to demolish it.
“We had to bring some really serious people here to get rid of all this,” said Tami VandenBerg. “He was in really, really horrible condition. I understood why people wanted to shoot him, but the bones were good. It was all brick and cement, so we took it to the bone and rebuilt it as we wanted.
Despite this, the building’s long history before the dance club and The Pyramid Scheme is actually what made it perfect for the VandenBergs.
In 1926, the building was a car dealership and cars were parked on top of the building for display.
“What’s great is that they’ve reinforced the roof so intensely that we don’t have giant posts or barriers,” VandenBerg said. “Finding a building of this size where there are no support beams that would obstruct the view of people is next to impossible, so the fact that it is what it is is very beneficial to our business.
From now on, the place is open every day from 4:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.
The front bar is only open to people aged 21 and over. However, the concert hall is open based on the artist’s preference for the show. Most shows are 21 and over, but some are 18 and over or all ages.
VandenBerg said the venue does not focus on a specific musical genre. They attract artists from the regional and local scene.
“It’s kind of a fascinating chain,” VandenBerg said. “We’re trying to get the bigger acts… Anyone we think might be interested in playing, we’ll go after. Then, as we chase them, smaller bands, especially local bands but also tours around the country, chase us. So it’s a bit of a dance.
The Pyramid Scheme not only hosts musical artists, but also comedy shows, private parties, DJs, dance parties and political events.
VandenBerg said that for six or seven years the place has hosted “LadyFest,” a festival focused on people who identify as women. There is a musical component, panels and a variety show for the performances.
The West Michigan Cannabis Guild also rents the venue for its meetings and panels.
The venue also features works by local artists throughout the space, some of which are for sale.
“(My brother) Jeff is an amazing artist,” said VandenBerg. “He painted the mural on the side of our building and designed almost all of our shirts. Much of the artwork we have is his, along with many other local and national artists. We have always been very interested in art and music.
Another of The Pyramid Scheme’s biggest crowd generators is its collection of 24 pinball machines in the front bar.
“That’s all Jeff,” VandenBerg said. “He probably knows more about pinball than anyone in the state. I was told this is one of the best pinball collections that exist in one place… It attracts a lot of people and Jeff loves it.
The Pyramid Scheme hosts The Grand Rapids Pinball League which was started in 2012 by Rodney Minch and Jeff to provide individuals with the opportunity to play competitive pinball.
The league is open to everyone, regardless of skill level, and meets the first and third Wednesdays of each month. Tournaments are also organized monthly. Those interested in joining are encouraged to message the program’s Facebook page or email them at [email protected].
VandenBerg said that over the past 10 years, her focus on building a diverse and inclusive community is something she is most proud of.
“We’re always trying to get more diversity in terms of our performers, which is a challenge,” said VandenBerg. “When I opened this I immediately realized how few women there were on stage… and the same with different races. One of the things that I try to do and hope to do even better is really make sure everyone is represented on stage, including the LGBTQ community.
She said her main goal was for the staff and the stage to reflect the people in the crowd.
“We ask: ‘How do we make the scene as representative as possible of the community in general? ”, Said VandenBerg. “We have worked hard and I think we have done a good job, but I think we can still do better.”
VandenBerg said guests have expressed their love for the inclusiveness of the venue.
“I think people really appreciate her privacy and the music we cultivate,” said VandenBerg. “I hear a lot that people say this is one of the only places they feel more welcome because we are very openly progressive… we work extremely hard to make our staff very diverse so that people come. and see people who are like them and then they feel more at home.
She said she is proud to have created this atmosphere and to have a helping hand in the music community of Grand Rapids.
“I’m really proud to be a part of building the music scene,” said VandenBerg. “For me, I don’t want to be in a city where there isn’t good music. We are lucky for a city of this size whose caliber of musicians is quite remarkable. I want to keep doing all I can to cultivate this.
VandenBerg said that due to COVID-19, the location may have expanded to outdoor seating, and she hopes that will become permanent. She also said the venue is looking to coordinate with a food truck in the future.
Tickets and show guidelines can be viewed and purchased on the program’s website.