In the elegant ambiance of the Blackwater Lounge in downtown Duluth, the dulcet tones and laid-back vibe of Maxi Childs and her fellow musicians seem right at home as a throwback to clubs of yesteryear. Maxi herself looks as if she could have stepped off the walls of one the elegantly gowned and coiffed women in one of the club’s deco mural paintings.
The Trio performs at Blackwater four nights a week (Wednesday-Saturday) from 7 to 10 pm. Maxi is the lead singer of the group, joined by Steve Netzel on bass and vocals. Their varied set list includes jazz, light pop, and a delightful mix of standards from the golden age.
Rotating members of the trio include pianist Tom Cawcutt on piano on Wednesdays; John Heino, pianist on Thursdays; Peter Knutson on guitar on Fridays; and Darin Bergsven guitarist on Saturdays. The trio expands for some evenings to include drummer Jeff Peabody and trombonist Tim Stratioti.
Steve Netzel started playing bass in a band with friends the summer between his 6th and 7th grade years and has been in one band or another ever since. “When I heard that Brian Flaherty was opening the Blackwater Lounge in 2009, I approached him about us performing there. He agreed that we could give it a try to see if it worked on both sides. We started with one night a week, added a second, a third night, and now a fourth. It has been great!”
Maxi Childs has also been a musician since she was a child. “I started out with the Duluth Accordionaires and sang in high school. I also had a group at one time called ‘Maxi and the Rusty Pickups,’” she says with a laugh. “Steve and I both have a real affection for the old
standards, so it seemed like a natural for us to perform together,” she explains.
For Maxi, a big part of the gig at Blackwater is meeting wonderful people, many of whom become return patrons. “We have had couples who got engaged here and then now come back for their anniversary every year. And we meet the coolest people from all over the world–people who are here in town for business who then come back to see us when they come back to Duluth.”
Steve agrees that the people make the job a joy. “It is an absolutely wonderful gig. How many musicians get four nights a week, 200 nights a year at the same place? And how many jobs are there out there where people clap for you?”
With their set list of over 200 songs, patrons are likely to hear something new every time they stop by. “We love requests. And with the Internet, we can find lyrics and songs easily,” says Steve.
The Trio does occasionally perform for weddings or other events locally, but it is their home at Blackwater that has fit as a perfect niche for both the Trio and the Lounge management.
Maxi adds, “I can’t say enough what a joy it is to be able to do what you love to do and to entertain people at the same time. We feel very lucky.” For more information, visit blackwaterlounge.com or
follow the Maxi Childs Trio on Facebook.