Miami's Ten Best Underground Rock Venues of All Time
Music venues in South Florida have always come and gone with an alarming casualness.
Over the last 30-odd years, only one place, Churchill's Pub, has held the torch for Miami's savvy underground rock fans. Now that new owners have taken control, an era is coming to an end. And that's fine -- pub founder Dave Daniels' run in Little Haiti could not go on forever, and he deserves his retirement, just as one day you'll deserve yours.
But Churchill's hasn't been the only venue in South Florida that's catered to punk rockers, metalheads, jazz freaks, and assorted friends! Thinking back on all the great places with cramped stages, decent sound systems, and lax door policies, we here at Crossfade present Miami's ten best underground rock venues of all time.
See also: Miami's 20 Best Punks Bands of All Time
10. The Cameo
People like to forget that the Cameo Theater, built in 1936, was quite the dilapidated shithole on South Beach during the 1980s. For that matter, South Beach was also quite the dilapidated shithole, with its now-prized Art Deco architecture suffering from decades of neglect. Perhaps the largest of the venues that will be mentioned among our underground picks, the Cameo hosted punk rock luminaries like the Ramones, Black Flag, and D.O.A., as well as local acts, thanks to promoter Richard Shelter's hard work.
Jimmy Johnson via trashfever.com
9. Flynn's Ocean 71
Also part of the Miami Beach circuit was Flynn's Ocean 71 in the Normandy Isles area. Plenty of touring acts like Agent Orange, JFA, and Saccharine Trust performed there, not to mention Miami stalwarts like Charlie Pickett and Amazing Grace. Nowadays, the strip's a little friendlier, and in the former haunt's vicinity, there now resides a doggy spa, a pharmacy, and an immigration office.
See also: 50 Best Miami Bands of All Time
Once welcomed punks. Now a nudie joint.
8. Club 5922
This place was a little nightclub/gay bar in South Miami that one day decided to hand over its Sunday nights to the punk rock kids. The venue is now a gentleman's club and brass poles congest the stage where many bands in the 2000s did their thing. Among the most memorable Club 5922 moments were the bizarrely successful Punk vs. Drum 'n' Bass nights; dancing and rock 'n' roll excess under one sweaty, smoky roof. In between lap dances, you can still sort of feel that energy lingering about.
7. 27 Birds
Another Richard Shelter venture, this Coconut Grove club was a converted Big Daddy's Liquors similar to another repurposed BD's at the intersection of the Palmetto Expressway and NW 103rd Street, though that one was called the Blitz. Throughout the '80s, 27 Birds was ground zero for Miami fans eager to see what hid beneath the rocks. Just picture all the Grove's Eagles wannabes, strutting their stuff around town while the Eat's Chris Cottie forced them to buy his band's record. Oh, yes! That did happen! And he actually forced the Eagles to buy his record too!
6. Open Books & Records
Without the leap of faith that Leslie Wimmer and Ted Gottfried took when they opened Open Books & Records in Deerfield Beach, punk rock would've taken much longer to germinate in South Florida. It relocated to Fort Lauderdale and ended up in the 305, but its importance -- as a store, venue, record label, even event hotline -- to SoFla's underground music history is undeniable. The Open Books & Records 1982 compilation record, The Land That Time Forgot, is still regarded as the best regional sampler of South Florida's punk rock. And that's a fact.
This venue was basically an experiment from Frank "Rat Bastard" Falestra and Hal Spector. There was no liquor license. And yet they were somehow able to operate for enough time to thoroughly and audibly harass the nuns of Barry University, who lived across the street. Later relocated to North Miami, Club Banal lived on the edge and it eventually imploded, though not before giving many locals a chance to perform live and uncensored.
See also: Miami's Five Best Record Stores
The owner of this revered spot, Gaye Levine, was no stranger to music. A South Florida scene pioneer, she helmed the Musician's Exchange and numerous other music locales, in additon to being an accomplished jazz musician herself. In the mid '90s, Gaye took a risk with the punkers and Cheers was born. Originally a lesbian bar, a generation of punks and freaks ended up cutting their teeth there. The club closed and Levine passed in 2007 after a lengthy battle with cancer. But Cheers and its owner will always be remembered for their gung-ho, musical attitude.
3. Kaffe Krystal Night Club
This oddity in Kendall was a Colombian restaurant during the day and a not-so profitable Latin dance spot during the night. Flanked by a Wendy's and a strip mall, this was the last place where you'd expect hardcore to be thriving. But someone convinced someone to convince their parents to book shows at night. Thus, mosh pits were introduced to sleepy Kendall-town. Punctuated by youthful violence and vandalism, Kaffe Krystal's punk run was short but memorable.
See also: Miami's Ten Best Ska Bands of All Time
Ramones in-store 1989.
Photo by Rich Ulloa
2. Yesterday & Today Records
When Y&T inhabited its former location, a large spot at the Red Bird Shopping Center, this essential Miami record store was the destination for many fans to get the coolest music and hear the best local bands ply their trade. How many times did the Mavericks perform live at Yesterday & Today? There was even a legendary in-store from the Ramones. And then it moved across the street, next to a liquor store. But things got better somehow. How cathartic was it to see the Crumbs perform that one time with the One Eyed Kings' farfisa organ?
Will this continue?
1. Churchill's Hideaway Pub
The corner of NE Second Avenue and 55th Street will always be the spiritual home of South Florida's punk rock scene, even if the new owners turn Churchill's into a day spa. What could have been simply a great pub to watch the beautiful game (read: fútbol) was made better when punk rockers like Todd Jenkins, Malcom Tent, and Robert Price brought their collective weird within her sacred walls in the mid '80s. It's survived 35 years. May it last another three decades. Long live the Hideaway.
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