Big Mike & the Blu City All Stars

St. Louis Blues, Memphis Soul, New Orleans Funk

Michael Aguirre, known onstage as “Big Mike” these last 19 years, is a singer, guitarist and bandleader based in St. Louis, USA. In addition to performing regularly in St. Louis, Big Mike focuses his energy on sharing the unparalleled spirit of St. Louis live music around the globe.

While not normally mentioned in the same breath with vaunted music cities such as New York, Chicago, Nashville, Austin and Los Angeles, St. Louis, in all it’s midwestern cost-of-living splendor, is alive with creative energy — especially live music, featured in dozens of venues scattered around the city like so many pearls, 7 days a week, Now 37 and a veteran of thousands of performances, Big Mike has carved out a unique place for himself in the city’s musical lineage.

Born and raised East Side of the Mississippi River, Big Mike was irresistibly drawn to the sounds of blues, soul and r&b performed in the neighboring city of East St. Louis. There, in the shadow of the Arch, well away from the prime entertainment districts of downtown St. Louis, and well away from familiar suburban surroundings, he discovered a style of blues, r&b and soul music owned and operated almost exclusively by supremely talented and experienced African American musicians and performers who personified a living link to St. Louis’ proud and storied musical history, served up in cozy neighborhood lounges in which the performers and audiences, often only a few feet apart, shared an unforgettably soul-stirring connection.

Put another way, the so-called “blues” music heard regularly on FM radio was noticeably absent in the clubs. No one had heard of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, or the legions of disciples they created, and no one missed them. The bands, fronted by consummate male and female vocalists and larger than life entertainers, mastered the art of collective interplay with fellow musicians and audience members… and boy did they party!

Fresh out of high school in 1999, and fully equipped with a respect for his elders, a courteous tongue, and a stout heart, Big Mike soon found himself working steadily on stage under the tutelage of his idols. Most importantly, he found himself immersed in a community and culture he might never have interacted so intimately with were it not for the universal connecting power of music. For years, in countless hole-in-the-wall clubs dotting the surrounding communities of St. Louis, Big Mike paid his dues and honed his chops as a guitar-slinging sideman backing local, regional, and national touring acts, all the while learning invaluable life lessons from all he encountered.

 

Before long, Big Mike was sharing the stage with performers all over St. Louis, and developing his own commanding stage presence and vocal abilities in addition to his abilities on guitar. As a tribute to the musical environment he was raised in, and as a mechanism to develop onstage chemistry with an entire city of talented musicians, he created the Blu City All Stars, As the clubs in the old stomping grounds inevitably closed and the Old Guard dwindled in numbers over the years, Big Mike kept the flame alive as a bandleader,, creating opportunities for a rotating cast of musicians and showcasing the breadth and depth of talent within the musical community that took him in.

These days, Big Mike is known for bringing an unbridled intensity to his performances, although he is quick to emphasize it is but an emulation of the greatness of his forebears. At the heart of his musical approach are the core lessons learned from his early experiences, namely the importance of collective ensemble-based playing and deeply expressive singing that fertilizes and facilitates the direct connection between members of the audience and members of the band. Big Mike’s style is unapologetically eclectic, fusing original material and deeply influential material steeped in the spirit of his predecessors.

Big Mike & the Blu City All Stars are one of the few bands in St. Louis regularly entrusted with headlining slots at festivals and premier music venues in town, and has performed at prestigious international music festivals including the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Bevrijdingsdag “Liberation Day” Festival in the Netherlands. In recent years, Big Mike has developed as loyal following in the US, British Virgin Islands, and surrounding Caribbean Islands.

In addition to performing full-time in and around St. Louis, Big Mike and the Blu City All Stars are focused on expanding their following at the national and international level as well as creating and releasing new music and multi-media content. His eagerly-anticipated debut studio album is nearing a Spring 2019 release and soon the band will be traveling outside of St. Louis regularly to share the Spirit of St. Louis music with the world.

 

 

 

Photographer: Jillian Temple

Musician: Michael "Big Mike" Aguirre

Venue: Broadway Oyster Bar, St. Louis, MO 2017