On a damp Friday evening, I found myself heading to the north side of our fair city in search of Renie’s Lounge and the promise of live jazz/blues.
With the faded awning announcing that I had found the establishment, I parked the car and headed to the front door of what looked, to all outward appearances to be a typical dive bar. With a wry smile, I opened the door and walked in.
Change It Up Charlie were getting everything situated on the small stage, in preparation for their first set. So, I grabbed a cold beverage and found a seat right at the front of the stage, notebook at the ready.
The band, comprised of Holly Schmitt (vocals), Thom Reed (bass/vocals), “Peppermint” Bob Hamilton (guitar), Alan stull (sax) and Brandon Pettiford (drums), bills themselves as “outlaw lounge.” And, they didn’t disappoint with three sets that included a mix of standards, contemporary covers and originals.
Ed. – with 44 songs spread over three sets, we’ll touch on their originals and some select highlights from throughout the evening.
In the first set, the slapping of Reed’s upright bass announced the opening groove of Bad Things. The tune featured Schmitt’s sultry vocals juxtaposed beautifully with Stull’s subtle fills with his saxophone.
Arranged by Stull and Hamilton, Black Coffee had a smoky groove, with the band playing slow and sexy throughout the number.
With a wink and a nod, Schmitt’s banter setup Mr. Right Now, which featured 1950’s “secret agent man” sounding guitar work from Hamilton.
As Schmitt stepped away from the stage, the guys launched into the instrumental Andalusia. The Link Wray-esque guitar work by Hamilton paired nicely with the surf rock drumming of Pettiford.
Later in the set, the slow burner, Martyr Blues, featured Schmitt’s gravelly vocals adding gravitas to the tempo. Mind Your Own Business had Schmitt walking through the crowd, singing over patron’s shoulders to accentuate the lyrics, with Reed joining in on the chorus.
Schmitt announced the end of the first set with the words, “Let’s have some fun!” The band then launched into their original, Bring it When I Call.
They opened their second set with a tribute to the late Chris Cornell, with a sultry rendition of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun.
Their original, Ex Lover, had a slower pace that featured emotive vocal work from Schmitt. At the end of the piece, as Schmitt was telling the story of the first song she sang in front of a crowd at the age of five, Hamilton riffed the opening strains of Kenny Rogers’ “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille.”
With Schmitt once again walking through the crowd, the band serenaded the audience with the traditional Baby Wants a Diamond. Following this, she pulled out a bullhorn for some of the vocal parts of After Your Gone/Who’s Crying Now? This gave the song a vintage 1940’s radio feel.
High Hopes, another original that was slow and sexy, had Hamilton surprising this writer by throwing a subtle Beatles riff into the mix. I’m not too sure that most in the crowd caught it.
With just the guys on stage for the next number, they launched into the midtempo groove of Bb Boogie. Each of the guys were showcased throughout the song. It was a remarkable display of the musicianship of the band.
With Fool for You carrying a smoky groove, the band closed the set with a superstitious version of the traditional Put a Lid on it. The jazzy, midtempo pace had Schmitt and Reed trading vocals throughout the tune.
Their third set was half-as-long as the first two, winding the evening down in a wonderful way.
Sultry vocals and excellent musical chops are the hallmark of Change It Up Charlie. They are very much a band worth experiencing live, and made one feel as though you were transported back in time to a smoky jazz club from the days of yore.
- All of me
- Bad Things *
- Liquor Store
- Call Me at the House of the Rising Sun
- Black Coffee
- It’s Alright with Me
- Right now *
- New cover of Adele
- Dancing with Myself
- Please Don’t let me be Misunderstood
- Andalusia *
- Have You Ever Seen the Rain
- James Infirmary
- Martyr Blues *
- Casting My Spell on You
- Mind Your Own Business
- Bring it When I Call
- Black Hole Sun
- Mammas Broken Heart
- Sweet Home Chicago
- Ex Lover *
- Baby Wants a Diamond
- How Sweet It Is
- After Your Gone/Who’s Crying Now
- High Hopes *
- Something Going in My Room
- Heard it Through the Grapevine
- Bb Boogie *
- Hot to Trot *
- Everybody Knows
- Pour Some Sugar on Me
- Hound Dog
- Put a Lid on It
- Let’s Do It
- Under My Thumb
- Worth Fighting For *
- She Bop
- Cold, Cold Heart
- Too Hot to Sleep *
- Goody Goody
- The Way
* denotes an original
Change It Up Charlie – Bad Things