Miami's Ten Best Live Music Venues
Legend has it that Ponce de León discovered Florida while searching for "the Fountain of Youth." Historians know, however, this is just a poor translation of "good tunes and a $6 PBR & Jameson combo."
In any case, ever since April 2, 1513, Miami has been a hothouse for new musical strains and a must-visit spot for the day's most discerning bands.
Join us on a quest for sonic bliss and immortality as we visit our ten favorite places to catch live music in Miami.
How many times has this happened to you? You're sitting on the couch at home, listening to some new indie band, and you start fantasizing about feeling up that bearded lead singer.
Well, you're in luck. Just move your personal-space-violating tush down to Bardot's stagefront sofas where you'll be sitting well within reaching distance of the best young bands to pass through Miami.
After the concerts, Bardot turns into a bottle service club where go-getters will pay a pretty penny to sit where you've just sat with no one to touch but each other.
OK, the tickets can be a little pricey. But you always get your money's worth. The sound is impeccable, every seat's got a great view of the stage, and it's the best room in the city for classical music. Plus, it's fun to get fancy at the Arsht with a loved one and finally find out what goes on in that weirdly shaped building.
Cynics will say it is not a coincidence that the building looks like a rumpled pile of underwear tossed into a corner. But music fans know that passionate performance spaces simply beget passionate performances. The Roots, great Broadway musicals, and not one but two nights of Yanni? If that doesn't put your date in the mood, there's always a free, unending ride on the adjacent MetroMover awaiting you.
8. The Stage
The stage itself at The Stage isn't all that big. That's why it's not unusual to see band members standing in the crowd. This Midtown venue's concerts are eclectically programmed -- funk bands, St. Vincent, and soul mystic Cody Chesnutt have all washed their hands in the same busted backstage sink. But most of the time, whatever's playing at The Stage is good dancing music. Well, not in an EDM way, but in a rose-in-the-teeth, hands-on-a-sultry-stranger's-hips way. There are also multiple bars, plenty of cushions to plop down on, and an outdoor area with a decent view of The Stage's stage and those sultry dancing strangers.
Did you know that the MetroMover has a stop along the Mediterranean coast? Well, it doesn't. But it does stop near the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. And inside, this grand old theater looks a lot like a European coastal courtyard.
The programming includes ballet and opera. But the Gusman's got live music too. And this year marks the inaugural summer season of the DWNTWN Miami Concert Series, featuring shows by City of God, Eric Hutchinson, The Wailers, and Grupo Treo. Oh, and the shows are free. So you can even go and just use the bathrooms, if you want. They are really nice.
Shift your chairs this way 'cause it's time for a concert! Move them over there and we'll have a reading with weird video projections! Arrange the seats around a table and the place becomes a vegan waffle diner!
Sweat Records is anything and everything Miami's cultural community needs it to be. Aside from being the city's best record store and vegan café, it also regularly puts on great concerts and comedy shows in the back of the shop.
And yes, this Little Haiti hangout's anniversary party, Sweatstock, has become the local indie scene's annual high point. But Sweat Records is a year-round home for low-to-the-ground acoustic tours, avant-garde oddities, and local heroes returning home. If it's a show at Sweat, it's a pretty sure bet.
5. The Vagabond
What's the raddest part of a night at The Vagabond? When the DJ set ends and the live band is about to go on. The records have prepped you for that spark you can only get from live music.
The club itself is also pretty rad, a tucked away nook whose door policy keeps out only whatever has been giving you a hard time that week. Inside, it's you, the music and a really handsome crowd looking for fun without pretense. You can go for the bands. But know that most people kick it at this 14th Street spot because they trust the programmers and they'll give just about anything a shot.
You'll have to keep an eye on the schedule to spot the live bands versus the DJs. But when you do spot one, it's usually a sign that things are going to be pretty good. An audiophile's paradise, the Pickle wasn't just built for freaking on the dance floor. It was also built for freaking out to great music.
Most of the bands you'll see here are likely to be dance-y in some capacity. Sometimes, though, that just means you can nod your head and aren't immediately dismissive of nighttime sunglasses.
This midsized Downtown Miami venue is just big enough to pull some great national acts. But it's also small enough to feel as though you're seeing them at a secret show.
From month to month, there's a pretty good mix of established acts like Sleigh Bells, A$AP Rocky, Sebadoh, and the Black Lips. And maybe because the place is still kinda new, there's almost this feeling of throwing a party when someone's parents are away. Good thing they left the multiple bars stocked and they have awesome furniture that hides stains.
The sound system is great. There's a weird light board that flips out behind the bands. And there are usually some pretty decent drink specials. Oh, and the back patio would be one of the better bars in Miami, even without the rock club attached to it.
Sadly, not everyone can be Taylor Swift. So for the bands that can't fill the American Airlines Arena, there's the Fillmore. Without too many options between LeBron's place and Grand Central, we get an embarrassment of bold-name bands -- Wilco, Bon Iver and Jane's Addiction -- playing a smaller-than-usual venue. Luckily, it's also a legendary Miami Beach theater that was once home to Jackie Gleason and other TV greats.
One of the coolest things about the Fillmore is that it's split into three sections: a seated area in the back, the pit in the front, and a standing area in the middle. Older folks can stay in the back while sweaty drink spillers can bumrush the stage and rational people who don't think they are getting older can chill in the middle.
The floor is sloped down toward the stage, so the freakishly tall are stymied in their quest to ruin concerts for the short people, who've already got it hard enough. Also, the outdoor smoking section is a great place to meet fellow fans, if you don't mind yellow teeth. And really, what are yellow teeth but a pitstop on the way to gold teeth?
Every small town has some 95-year-old guy who swears the key to his longevity is a daily pack of Marlboro Reds, a fifth of Old Crow, a dozen boiled eggs, and a good old-fashioned punch to the face. In our small town, that old man is named Churchill. And if you can't afford shots from the doctor, then shots from the bar will have to do.
Yes, this Little Haiti pub has a weekly jazz night and a pretty great curry to eat during morning soccer matches. But it's also hosted just about every great local punk, rock, hardcore, and metal band in the history of live Miami music.
Churchill's is also home to a really annoying pillar that blocks the center of the stage. Although, it probably does something important like keeping the roof from falling in. Not that anyone would really notice if it did.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.