There’s a pocket of Miami’s music scene that is alive and kicking but usually flies under the radar, overshadowed by the loud and flashier parts of our city. Maybe it’s because many of the live shows are put on in backyards due to the lack of appropriate venues in the area. It could also be that when you Google “bands from Kendall,” the first things to pop up are mariachi bands for hire (I’m not even kidding) and that one girl from that insufferable family that I refuse to keep up with.
As secluded as it may be from the rest of Miami, there’s still a lot of talent within the confines of Kendall and unincorporated Dade, most of which is unfortunately unheard of. Thankfully, a lot of these bands are hopping over to “where it’s at” and making themselves known, evidenced by this year’s Best Band of Miami recipients—but more on them later.
In the spirit of what I’m calling Kendall Krismas, I’m gifting you the top ten bands I’m digging that are involved with that neck of the woods. There’s honestly no way a list could encompass the entirety of what the area has to offer, but we’ll just have to try, won’t we?
10. Cannibal Kids
The first two bands on this list are sort of the adopted children of Kendall. While they hail from Homestead, Cannibal Kids have managed to integrate themselves into the music scene of their northern neighbors. They also play like they’re constantly surrounded by an oceanic wonderland instead of farm fields, with their beachy, surf-rock vibes. When onstage, they wear tropical clothes more suited for Key West. Cannibal Kids comprises Damian Guti on vocals and rhythm guitar, Dustin Diaz on lead guitar, Jordon Hernandez on bass, and Luke Faulkingham on drums.
9. Above the Skyline
The second adopted child from Homestead is a group extremely proud of its diversity, both as individuals and as musicians. Their differences have allowed them to experiment with a variety of genres, which has helped the band keep its music stylistically fresh. While the shows closest to Above the Skyline come from Kendall, this group is one of several on this list that have made the jump over to the visible side of the music scene thanks to their business savvy and smart booking. Above the Skyline comprises vocalist and keyboardist Zach Wood, guitarist Eric Green, and drummer Chloe Santiago.
8. Kill the Television
I have to be honest about this group: I only learned about them while working on this piece. It's probably not the best thing to do, adding a band you are practically unfamiliar with to a list like this. But the fact they made it on here is a testament to how totally freakin’ worth it they are to discover. The band's recorded work alone was enough to make me fall head-over-heels. It's probably the grungiest, roughest, most lo-fi music on this whole list—for which I am always a complete sucker. Kill the Television comprises Tony Crespo on vocals, Paco Villafane on bass, and Mike Ceballos on drums.
7. Purple Sun
Purple Sun is probably one of the bands on this list with the wildest and most flamboyant frontman: AJ Ruiz. It makes sense how lively his onstage persona can get, given he is a theater major at Florida International University. As much as Ruiz doesn’t hold himself back as a singer, the band as a whole can be the same way with its musical style. The group tends to experiment with a little bit of everything, from funk to psychedelic. Ruiz’s vocals and antics are backed by fellow bandmates Jake Lara on guitar, Nicholas Garcia on drums, and Xadrien Gonzalez on bass.
6. Palette Town
Palette Town's sound is a very polished and precise take on alternative pop/rock. The vocals are a lovely alternation of male and female voices between guitarist/vocalist Sylvano Umbac and vocalist/drummer Daniella Chamorro. It's always rad to see a female drummer, so the fact she can play and sing as well as she does at the same time just blows my mind. Palette Town is additionally made up of bassist Christian DeSalle and guitarist Fredrik Baliwis.
Originally known as Astronauts, this group’s take on indie rock has all the expected danceable grooves and bright guitar melodies with a little bit of pizzazz. The band has maintained its out-of-this-world stage personas and the members usually don astronaut helmets while onstage. These days, the group is going through its Ziggy Stardust stage of style, amplifying the flashiness times 100. This is another group with the drummer, Christian “Yoda” Rivero, taking on part of the lead vocals, which is just pure sorcery to me. Additional members of AstroMaps include guitarist/bassist/vocalist Andres Echeverri, keyboardist/singer Diego Martinez, and guitarist/vocalist Craig Hidalgo.
4. Wilkes Oswald
The fact that I can include these guys in this list brings me joy. I say this because I hadn’t heard from them for some time and feared the worst. Thankfully, a band trip to California shook things up for the group and they're now working on new stuff. Made up of guitarist/singer Leonardo Bernardi, bassist Freddy Flores, guitarist/vocalist Shaun Rodriguez, and drummer Enrique Hidalgo, this band is the kind that continues to surprise me by proving over and over again just how good local music can be. They’re really nice and goofy to boot, plus they expertly pulled off creating their own psychedelic version of “Happy Birthday.”
3. Long Shore Drift
This is probably the youngest group on this list, their ages ranging from 13 to 17. It’s also probably the one with the most related individuals, with two pairs of siblings that are cousins to each other. You might be thinking to yourself, aw, how cute, but let me stop you right there. This isn't a band fueled by gimmicks. The group's level of skill and quality is better than not only most musicians their own age, but a whole heck of a lot of adults. They have an inexplicable sense of maturity in their music that can somehow be pulled off with a classroom vibe. LSD is made up of singer/guitarist Carli Acosta, guitarist/vocalist Nicole Arevalo, bassist Ammar Hassan, synth player Caitlin Acosta and drummer Michael Arevalo.
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2. Sigh Kicks
If there ever was an embodiment of the philosophy of “dale” (beside Pitbull), these guys would be it. Comprising vocalist/guitarist Kris Alvarez, bassists Jean “Doodles” Dominguez, drummer Matthew “Cougar” Borroto, and synth player/guitarist Sebastian “Sebs” Hidalgo, all these guys want to do is get you to the dance floor with their retro tropical indie vibes. Given this band's overflowing talent and the opportunities they've been given — like opening for Hundred Waters at the late Grand Central — there’s no excuse why you shouldn’t love this group.
It’s easy to just automatically place this group at the top. They did win this year’s Best Band title after all. But I honestly can’t think of another group more deserving of the number one slot than SunGhosts. Comprising singer/guitarist Nikolas Balseiro, bassist Jared Steingold, guitarist Arminio Rivero, and drummer Luis Estopinan, the progress this band has made since I first met them at the Vagabond is a feat worth acknowledging. The group has consistently put out fabulous, sun-drenched, indie-surf tunes and has always maintained a high energy on and off the stage. It is SunGhosts' hard work and friendship that makes them extra special, as one can never fail to see the teamwork and love for what they do ooze out of each song.