Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
What was it like to work with Miles Davis? "Working with Miles was outrageous, eccentric, and wonderful. He taught me how to play more by playing less. He also taught me to be myself and not a bullshit artist," says Sammy Figueroa, the percussionist whose 2005 debut album, And Sammy Walked In, was nominated for a Grammy. Figueroa was born in the Bronx and began drumming when he was a young boy after seeing a local drummer perform live. "I forgot who it was, but I caught the bug. I started imitating him," he says, "and my mother got tired of me constantly banging on tables, so she bought me some drums." His professional career began years later when he was eighteen, when he was invited to play percussion for bassist Bobby Valentin's band. Figueroa quickly earned a solid reputation and subsequently has worked with some of the biggest names in music, including Chet Baker, David Bowie, Marc Anthony, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion, as well as Miles Davis, with whom he toured for eight years all over the world. You can hear Figueroa's work on an assortment of pop hits, including Chic's "We are Family" and the Luther Vandross hit "The Night I Fell in Love." Throughout his career, Sammy has been a sideman to the greats, until he came to Miami, where he was embraced by the Van Dyke Café-centered jazz community and became the frontman of his own band, Sammy Figueroa and His Latin Explosion. Upstairs at the Van Dyke (846 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach) is where the Latin Explosion can often be found, and check out www.donwilner.com for more info about Sammy and his congas.
A native of New Jersey, Terri Weisbert has spent the past seven years behind the bar (and sometimes helping out on the floor) at Flanigans Seafood Bar and Grill in Coconut Grove. In 2005 Terri, who sported a lifetimes worth of glossy coal-black hair that fell past her waist, had it chopped to a buzz and donated her long locks to make wigs for children undergoing chemotherapy. This year Terri organized and helped sponsor a 26-mile marathon for runners of differing abilities. One of those who completed the course was Terris twin sister, an able-bodied athlete.
What is your greatest triumph?
It's vain to call it a triumph, but I feel great when I forget about myself and get involved in causes for other people, even though it's them who help me. And of course every day I spend in Miami -- with our beautiful beaches, great weather, and wonderful assortment of people -- makes me a winner.
On a humid Saturday night, the svelte bodies corralled behind velvet ropes on Washington Avenue wait like sheep. For a few hours every weekend, the doorman assumes the position of a god, saving a few wretched souls from the hell of mediocrity by permitting them entrance into Miami's nightlife heaven. The rest of the would-be clubgoers are deemed unworthy for their lack of money, designer clothes, affluence, or fake boobs, and they disappear into the gloomy fog of rejected revelers. But there is salvation for those tired of chi-chi clubs with pompous door attitudes and hollow patrons. The Aquabooty party does not subscribe to any of the beliefs from the SoBe bible of upturned noses. Far from the megaclubs and megaegos that dominate a few miles south, Aquabooty has found a homey haven in Glass at the Forge. Although most parties fizzle out like flat soda within a year's time, Aquabooty has kept the spirit of house music alive for five years strong, which is like 50 in party years. House-heads have Joe "Budious" Gray and Tomas Ceddia to thank for the infectious beats and topnotch guest DJs. Beyond the realm of promoting, Gray and Ceddia have been drilled in the day-to-day management of running a nightclub. "We've owned our own clubs, we've signed all the checks, we understand what it really takes to run a business, and that's been able to equate to what we do," explains Budious. In addition to business smarts, the Aquabooty boys' success can also be traced to their preference of intimate, low-key parties and smooth house music over massive commercial blowouts. "[Aquabooty] was never a commercial venture," says Ceddia. "We're not going to let anyone consume us so that we lose sight of who we are and lose our autonomy." Right on. Patrons partying it up at Aquabooty don't have to worry about traffic, lines, parking, or discrimination at the door. "If you're a high roller, there's a $5 valet," jokes Budious. In addition to a stress-free ambiance, the bootylicious duo books some of the hottest DJs in the industry. The roster of guest DJs includes Osunlade, DJ Harvey, Danny Krivit, Neil Aline, and Miguel Migs. "We're reaching that reputation where DJs want to play our party," beams Budious. The pair has found that the keys to success are based not on profit and marketability but keeping it real with good music and a welcoming vibe. "We book stuff we really love; we only work with people who are cool and who we connect with on a personal level," says Ceddia, who sums up the driving force behind five years of fond memories: "The love of music."
Magnum's unadorned concrete exterior walls hug a corner on the 79th Street Causeway and leave the impression of nothing more than a local dive. But like all diamonds in the rough, Magnum's bland façade is a stark contrast to its lush, romantic interior. The décor is red like painted lips that leave a trace of their kiss on a crystal goblet. Further accentuating the lusty theme is the pervading darkness that shrouds strangers in mystery as they sip their cocktails under a curtain of shadows. The dim atmosphere and piano player make Magnum seem as if it has been untouched by the outside world since Rat Packers ruled the bar scene. But alas, that isn't Bogart in the corner booth, sipping a gin and tonic. Revelers nostalgic for that old-school plush intimacy not found in today's ever-popular sports bars can step into the past through the back-door entrance, where clandestine conversations and stiff cocktails make vintage souls feel at home. Cool cats on a budget can enjoy $3 margaritas every Sunday after 5:00 p.m.
The reggae-ska trio Kayak Man has been rocking steady this year, opening for the U2 tribute band UV, competing in the Latin Funk Festival's Battle of the Bands, and offering weekly shows at I/O. The band's sound is fresh yet nostalgic, with influences ranging from old-school Bob Marley to Manu Chau. The bandmates have also been known to stroll Ocean Drive, humming Beach Boys songs when they thought nobody was listening. Kayak Man's playful music is accompanied by light, wistful lyrics about love, lust, and the challenges poor dishwashers face in scoring hot, high-maintenance girls in South Beach. The band, which hails from South America, hopes to release its first album this summer, a perfect accompaniment for those lazy days of sunning in the sand.
It's Thursday night, and outside Scully's Tavern a bevy of bearded, leather-clad bikers can be seen smoking cigarettes and knocking back brewskies as they admire the line of motorcycles surrounding the entrance. Some of the hogs sport as much bling as a tricked-out Chevy Monte Carlo, but most of them keep with the classic Harley look. Inside, burly dudes wrap their arms around their beer-swilling sweeties while singles eye-out potential hookups. A few scattered punk rockers can be found enjoying the classic rock tracks among the bandanas and mullets. Someone requests a salsa song and the crowd gets more hyped than it was for "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown." They may be bikers, but this is still Miami and there's no lack of representation for the Hispanic community. All of those pitchers of beer show their effect when the DJ drops 69 Boyz's "Let Me Ride That Donkey." The girls drop down like they're riding their bikes over a bumpy road while the guys hoot and holler. The shenanigans begin at 9:00 p.m. and there's never a cover, but always a good time.