ST. LOUIS BLUES AND SOUL SHOWCASE FEATURING RENEE SMITH AND BIG MIKE AGUIRRE & THE BLU CITY ALL STARS
Date: Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023
Genre: Blues / Soul
With her powerful voice and dynamic stage presence, Renee Smith has earned the nickname “Queen of St. Louis Soul” on both sides of the Mississippi. Born in St. Louis and raised in East St. Louis, Renee began singing at age 12 in the Mount Zion Baptist Church. Drawing on her background in gospel music and her years of experience performing blues, soul and jazz in concerts, clubs and festivals, Renee makes every performance an exciting event where she and her audience forge a heartfelt connection.
Renee has opened shows for national recording artists including Jerry Butler, Little Milton, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Shirley Brown. She has performed at the Apollo Theater in New York City, and on ABC-TV’s Good Morning America. In 1999, Renee also took American-style blues and soul to the Far East for a six-month residency in Singapore.
In St. Louis, Renee has performed at the St. Louis Blues Heritage Festival, the Big Muddy Blues & Roots Festival, Oliver Sain’s popular Soul Reunion concerts, and at other venues including the Casino Queen, BB’s Jazz Blues and Soups, Fast Eddie’s Bon-Air and Jackie Smith’s Louisiana Cafe. Football fans also may recognize her for singing the national anthem for the St. Louis Rams professional football team on two occasions.
In 2001, Renee released a Christmas-themed CD-EP, Around the Tree, and she is currently working on a full-length CD release for 2003.
St. Louis, Missouri…East Side…music of the night by adults, for adults. Hips swaying, glances stolen, whispers heard… THAT’S the blues world that Big Mike Aguirre (let’s call him a-Gear’-ee) came of age in, surrounded by the St. Louis blues masters who were generations his senior. It all occurred in the low-lit, earthy and subtly dangerous clubs of the East and North sides of St. Louis.
Week in and week out, in small, smoky, noisy, dimly lit clubs in and around East St. Louis, and Wellston, Jennings and Pine Lawn on the north side, where two or three swaying sweaty bodies invariably and impossibly fit between the “band on the stand” and the drinks in hand, he soaked up and savored the mystical relationship between musicians and members of the audience that thrives when no separation, physical or otherwise, exists between the two.
In time, Mike caught the eye and ears of booking managers and owners of premier St. Louis blues-driven venues, including BB’s Jazz Blues & Soups, Beale on Broadway & the Broadway Oyster Bar, which provided the opportunity to frequently share the stage and test his ears with preeminent St. Louis and national artists.
Soon, thanks to religiously attending jam sessions and the generosity of other musicians who let him sit in on sets week in and week out, Mike found himself well acquainted with an entire city full of musicians and performers not only dedicated to the living blues, soul, jazz, R&B tradition, but to each other. Not content to form a single band to compete with so many other bands in town, Mike’s ambition was to include as many St. Louis’ musicians in his musical journey as possible.
Big Mike Aguirre paid his respects and his dues, and now finds himself sporting the shoes of those masters, and deservedly so as he has absorbed those early lessons and channeled them through his own soul becoming one of the premier blues and soul artists working in St. Louis today.
The sound of St. Louis Blues, ultimately, is that of space. Spaces between notes, spaces consciously left open for the other other musicians on stage; the true essence of the St. Louis scene is that of camaraderie and collaboration. On any given night, dozens of musicians live, work and play together, and that’s exactly what Mike did, putting the time in onstage to develop on-stage chemistry with as many musicians in possible.
In 2010, “Big Mike” founded the Blu City All Stars, a project through which he, as a bandleader, could assemble and feature an incredible array of talented St. Louis musicians on stage who never previously shared the same stage. The CD/DVD “Live at BB’s Jazz Blues & Soups,” filmed and recorded in 2010, captures both the phenomenal musicianship and illuminating song selection showcased by the band.
In 2014, Big Mike began a Sunday residency at the Beale on Broadway, in the heart of St. Louis’ blues district. This lineup features lush 3 part-harmonies and a repertoire that comes full circle; back to the soul-drenched rhythm and blues that dominated the juke boxes in Big Mike’s younger years. Acclaimed as a powerhouse locally-based vocalist and bandleader, Big Mike has lately focused on exporting the spirit of St. Louis soul and blues far and wide. Since November of 2016, he has completed four successful tours of Caribbean Island, including the inaugural Rendezvous Blues and Folk Festival at the magical Dune Preserve on Anguilla.
Big Mike Aguirre has represented St. Louis at numerous local, regional and international music festivals, including the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Bevridingdag (Liberation Day) Festival in the Netherlands. From the concrete jungle of East St. Louis to the beaches of Anguilla, his passion for music and the shared human condition continues to unlock new experiences and relationships around the world. And some folks don’t believe in magic…