Best of Miami®

Best Of 2000


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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Punk-Rock History Lesson

"I gave you Quaaludes/I held your cock/We spoke in diphthongs/ Clubnite!" Update the drug of choice in this bitter early Eighties anthem from West Palm Beach punkettes Sheer Smegma, and it's clear some things haven't changed in South Florida's nightclub scene. "Clubnite" is just one of dozens of singles released by Floridian punk outfits in the darkest days of the Reagan era, artifacts from a time when looking weird and sounding weirder were solid bets for getting your ass kicked, rather than being a good musical career move. Some mysterious soul over at the La Republica Libertariano de Florida label (don't bother looking for a phone number) has thoughtfully gathered up twenty of these forgotten obscurities, blown the dust from their grooves, and lovingly pressed them up as a bootleg album under the appropriate moniker Killed by Florida. Appropriate because, with the notable exception of the Eat and the Trash Monkeys (whose members can still be found haunting the stage at Churchill's) and Charlie Pickett (last spotted practicing -- ahem -- law), most of the bands compiled here literally have been destroyed by their home state, their members missing in action. But boy did they know how to kick up a racket. Whether you hear the Front's "Immigration Report" as a finely nuanced satire on the Mariel boatlift or as puerile thrashing; whether you hear the Essential's "Turn Off Your Radio" as a trenchant critique of blandness on the FM dial or as an anguished cry for a skilled mental-health professional, it's hard not to want to throw on a battered leather jacket and hit the pit -- at least for old time's sake.

Best Rock Vocalist (Female)

A South Florida native who rocks, singer/songwriter DeNisco has been playing guitar since childhood and performing professionally for thirteen years. Now living in Dania Beach, she's a regular on Miami-Dade stages. Riding the wake of her first CD, 1995's On My Way (which garnered two Billboard songwriting awards for the ditties "I Belong with You" and "Mystic Tune"), she's now pushing her latest release, Winds of a Dream. A six-song disc she simply calls "pop-orientated acoustic rock," it's a perfect platform for her to showcase a clear, touching, sometimes raspy voice. You can catch DeNisco performing in local clubs about four times a week. Sometimes it's just her and a guitar. Other times she's with her full band. No matter who she's with, you won't be able to resist the rock or the voice.

Best Rock Vocalist (Male)

No other Miami frontman can carry you through a tune like Endo's Gil Bitton. First, understand the jet-fueled rock Endo belts out lands somewhere between Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit. Second, realize Bitton puts everything he has into a performance, prowling the stage and gesticulating to each break-neck beat, delving deep into his diaphragm for a sound that pushes the band's already aggressive music to a new-found intensity. After a set he's spent -- drenched in sweat and exhausted. Bitton's energetic presence and distinct voice have helped Endo create a bit of a stir around the country. Late last year New York's Concrete Management began to represent the group (in addition to famed clients Ministry and Pantera). Impressed as well were the folks at the very-selective South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, who invited the band to perform this past March. Judging by the recent release of Endo's second album, the rousing Evolve, featuring Bitton's searing vocals, who knows what the future will bring?

Best Venue For Live Music

This welcoming second-floor rabbit warren of rooms located in the heart of downtown Miami was ahead of the pack in the area's renaissance. In fact it's still way ahead of everyone else. Opened in the late Nineties by David Haskin, the Wallflower was strictly art based at first, with the occasional cultural gathering. The art exhibitions -- sculpture, paintings, and what-have-you displayed and dispersed throughout the various spaces -- continue. But as a music-listening venue, the Wallflower began to bloom in early 1999 when Flash, former funkfinder at Lincoln Road's defunct Funktional Funk, assumed the programming and managing reins. Since then the place, so desolate and deserted from the outside at night, has come alive inside every weekend showcasing a who's who of talent in several genres. Spoken word events occur on a monthly basis. Workshops devoted to holistic health are plentiful too. But it's the performances by nearly every local band active in Miami -- Sixo, Swivel Stick, the Square Egg, Mantra, and the Gabe Dixon Band, to name a few -- that really draw crowds. The six-buck cover buys entry into an all-ages show, sans alcohol. Coffee, tea, juices, and healthy snacks are served. Smoking is allowed -- in one room. Music aficionados can purchase CDs on the premises or settle on the comfy furniture, watching or listening from almost anywhere. Just about the entire gallery is wired for video and sound. And the sounds, well, they're the best reason of all to be there.

Best Local Rock Band

Forget everything you've heard about Lynyrd Skynyrd's snarling Floridian frontman dying in a fiery 1977 plane crash. He's alive and well, just as pissed off as ever about the sorely maligned Southern Man, and presently heading up local outfit the Holy Rollin' Hellfires. That Dixie-steeped flavor of old is still there, complete with stinging, barbed-wirelike guitar work and a country blues sense of twang. But it's been accelerated, dragged through the punk-rock blender, and come out the other end angrily distorted. Of course as anyone who's seen the Hellfires perform live can tell you, it's best not to spend too much time analyzing the group's sonic spin on white-trash harmonics. Instead stand back. Way back. Lead singer Billy McKelvy has some novel ideas about breaking down that fourth wall, and his impassioned growling, howling, and frantic arm-flailing isn't always safely confined to the stage. Rock and roll may have become a spent cultural force in Miami, but the sight of its death throes can be an impressive thing to behold.

Best Concert Series

Music by the light of the moon -- an intoxicating combination. Certainly something that's gone on forever and a day. But on a regular basis in Miami? Apparently not. That is until 1995, when Barnacle State Historic Site park manager Terry Coulliette and friends dreamed up the idea for the Barnacle Under Moonlight concert series. The idea: Once a month, on or near the full moon (except during July and August), host a concert on the expansive back lawn of the charming Vernacular-style house built on five acres of waterfront property in 1891 by Coconut Grove pioneer Ralph Middleton Munroe. A serene setting, which calls for relaxed sounds. Various acts have been in the folk or blues vein, such as Ukrainian bandurist Yarko, local pair Outta d'Blues, and eclectic acoustic duo Tammerlin. A Celtic thing happens in honor of St. Patrick's Day, and the Top Brass Quintet plays Christmas carols in December. Florida songster Grant Livingston, the first musician ever to perform there, now traditionally closes the series each year. Listeners are invited to lounge on blankets or chairs, have a picnic, and frolic in the grass as long as they fork over five bucks (kids under age ten get in free) and leave their pets at home. Another thing they can't bring along: booze. But that's okay. The moonlight, music, and atmosphere are more than enough to make them drunk.


Best Punk-Rock History Lesson: Killed by Florida


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