Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
As the Opium Group expanded to national locales in New York and Las Vegas, the last thing we expected was a new addition to its Miami Beach portfolio. But 2008 brought exactly that with the introduction of Louis at the Gansevoort South Hotel. And while most beach hotel lounges are slickly integrated into the lobby or pool, Louis takes guests completely out of the Gansevoort to a place where 18th-century French aristocracy meets contemporary urban hipster. And it's topped off with a dwarf in full Napoleon regalia walking around the space. It's dark and cavernous, with touches of hot pink and regal wallpaper. The door policy is just as hollow as its sister clubs, but for some reason the payoff seems greater when you gain access. Yes, everyone is gorgeous, and bottle service will get you noticed, but if you're content with hanging out at one of the two expansive bars or cheering on whatever DJ is spinning, your pathetic normalcy is quickly forgotten.
Almost three years ago, ¡Mayday! released its self-titled debut solo album to serious Internet buzz and positive critical reception. On the strength of that disc's breakout single, "Groundhog Day," which featured Cee-Lo singing the hook, it seemed like ¡Mayday! was ready for national play. But after a couple of years on the grind, founding members Plex Luthor and Bernbiz decided to switch things up and get back on their hometown's radar. As such, they've ditched their earlier, sampler-heavy sound in favor of a more organic, live band approach. They've added four new members, including battle champ MC Wrekonize. The new equation has proven to be alchemy — Luthor, Bernbiz, and company have stepped up their live game, laying down a soulful hip-hop funk with an electric energy. We've heard that at an occasional residency at Jazid, their live jams have inspired people to disrobe. You'll have to see for yourself.
Playing live around town for less than a year, the shadowy character known as Panic Bomber has already developed some minor lore. Legend has it that once upon a time, Richard Haig was a local rock musician who got fed up with the grind of being hustled offstage in time for the night's main event — a DJ. So he turned to dance music himself, supposedly in an act of defiance that's explained, sort of, in a treatise on his website. Whatever. The music he makes, regardless of the reasoning behind it, is slick and dance-friendly. It works up to a funky electro-house groove that's rough enough around the edges to belie its creator's rock roots. And unable to fully relinquish a band's spectacle of performance, Haig has devised a pretty sweet light-up costume. Look out for him at a more discerning — hmmm, some would say "hip" — dance club near you.
To call these guys simply a "rock band" would be woefully leaving out a large chunk of their musical stew. Disco, soul, funk, and a large dose of the Purple One all figure into the sound. Still, it rocks. And though they broke up for a minute a couple of years ago, it didn't last long, and ever since then, they've been stepping up their game, touring and appearing at industry requisite events such as CMJ and South by Southwest. Around here, though, the band remains one of the most universally loved live acts, creating an instant dance party within the first few bars. Here's further proof they're in tune with the cultural Zeitgeist: Not only did they put their recent full-length, Rational Geographic Vol. 1, up for free download on their website, but also they somehow got Blair Waldorf herself — Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester — to record a cover of their song "Birthday." For real. OMG!
Is Poison the Well a surprise pick? No, but it's time to give credit where it is long overdue. Frontman Jeffrey Moreira reps Hialeah (hard), and the rest of the members hail from towns across South Florida. Poison the Well sprang from the same fabled anything-goes, late-'90s South Florida hardcore/punk scene as fellow success stories Shai Hulud and New Found Glory. PTW has reached the same cult level of underground/overground success (even releasing one disc on a major, Atlantic). But unlike its peers, the band never switched its original home base. No, Poison the Well deserves props for relentlessly touring the world, playing to frothing American and European crowds, and then returning home to joltingly sunny South Florida. What's more, PTW puts the same level of balls-to-the-wall energy into its decidedly more intimate hometown gigs, playing for rabid longtime fans at places such as Churchill's Pub. Further, the band has continued a path of out-there musical innovation, melding its hardcore roots into spaced-out, experimental workouts that play as well on a home stereo as at a show. The band's latest album, The Tropic Rot, was released digitally this past May through Ferret Music. The physical release is this summer, and it comes an impressive ten years after the group's debut full-length, The Opposite of December. Happy anniversary, guys.
Here in Miami, there's certainly no lack of talented Latin crooners. Still, the young balladeer known as Jean stands above the rest. This Puerto Rican-raised popster, who's also the younger brother of Latin superstar Luis Fonsi, has been building a solid and loyal following through a unique take on Latin R&B. What makes Jean exceptional is his natural knack for mixing Spanish, English, and even Spanglish (some might say Miami's unofficial language) with homebrewed beats from the finest urban Latin producers in the city. And though Jean has remained a local phenomenon for the past few years, that might soon change with the release of his sophomore album, Out the Box, which is beginning to get airplay on Latin radio.