Face it, this is a recording-company town. When bands sit down to play, they're more likely to be laying tracks for a CD or mugging for a television camera than working a late-night crowd. Live music is less likely to waft through smoke-filled rooms in Miami than it is to bounce off scorching pavement at festivals designed for labels to show off artists to massive crowds of Latin-music consumers. Lucky for us this live-music-limbo has one very audible benefit: the mariachis, Los Mora Arraiga. Four brothers and four sisters between the ages of 21 and 35, the youthful mariachis from Monterrey have offered an updated take on the traditional Mexican sound for the past twelve years. The family has recorded with heavyweights such as opera singer Placido Domingo and singer-songwriter Shakira; shared the stage with acts as diverse as salsa legend Celia Cruz and Mexican experimental rockers Café Tacuba; and have been featured on television shows from Sabado Gigante to Sesame Street. All this fame and fortune does not keep Los Mora Arraiga out of earshot for the humble folk, however. The siblings regale the locals at festivals, theme parks, Native American reservations, resorts, condominium associations, and cruise ships. Suited up in leopard print sombreros, tight psychedelic shirts, or sophisticated white suits, Levi, David, Tete, Judith, Al, Edith, Pepe, and Meredith each play at least seven instruments, sing, tap dance, and deliver what they call an "audiovisual extravaganza" you don't want to miss.

Best Band To Break Up, Recombine, And Multiply In The Past Twelve Months

Grupo Nostalgia

Get ready for a little Cuban chemistry with Grupo Nostalgia. The Latin jam ensemble that won New Times's award for Best Latin Band in 1996 and 1998 has completely transformed itself. The nucleus remains bassist and band director Omar Hernandez. Circling around him for the past few years have been conguero Eduardo Rodriguez, guitarist and singer-songwriter Heriberto Rey, and dazzling pianist Michel Diaz. Long-time frontman and scalawag Luis Bofil split from the group, as did portly percussionist Eddy "Conga" Jimenez. Despite these losses the effervescent crew doubled in size. Café Nostalgia owner Pepe Horta's swell new digs on Miami Beach served as a catalyst to permanently bind the band with old friends who sat in frequently during the Little Havana days. Mellow bassist Mandy Gonzalez, reedlike flautist Mercedes Aval, and vibrant vocalist Viviana Pintado, all of whom used to drop in after gigs with Albita, are now fixtures on the more expansive stage. Saxophonist Juan "Petaca" Silveira and vocalist-percussionist Angel Arce, one of the "Patuti Twins," defected to the group from Manolín's outfit on the Cuban salsero's first trip to Miami. The biggest change of all was brought about by the two new singers. Dashing Nelson Trebejo, formerly with Orchestra Reve, whips the crowd into a frenzy while the sweet-faced newcomer Monica Sierra croons ballads full of soul. Grupo Nostalgia proves the rule: The more dramatic the chemical transformation, the hotter the reaction.
One by one 50 musical acts -- that's right, more than 4 dozen -- alighted Tobacco Road's upstairs stage from 9:30 p.m. until past 3:30 a.m. for this starry-eyed, six-hour extravaganza. The show's loving creator was Jeff Rollason, musical son of former Miami City Manager Frank Rollason. Once known as the Space Cowboy, Rollason shines on with a simpler moniker: Jeff. His three parades in 1999 will go down in Miami's local rock history, perhaps, as a trio of shooting asteroids near the end of the first millennium. With a cosmic magnetism few possess, Jeff attracted almost everyone in town who fancies himself or herself a rocker. Not only did he convince them to show up, but to limit themselves to just one song (with a few exceptions). Onetime Holy Terror frontman Rob Elba, perhaps conscientiously, preferred to fill most of his precious moments yappin' between the clappin', reinforcing the notion that although rock and roll will never die, it is tough for even the most persistent souls to make a living at it. Happy to see so many old friends in the room, Elba nevertheless lamented, "How many of us have really made serious money doing this? I mean serious money?" No one listening above the din offered any names. "Either we all really suck," Elba continued, "or life is not fair." One comrade in guitars yelled, "Those two possibilities are not mutually exclusive!" In sum 'twas a memorable night in a roomful of wistful, whimsical musicians, without whom the live rock scene in Miami would fade to dark like a white dwarf burning out over the dark side of the moon.
Musicians around town often complain that Miami's reputation as little more than an international playground makes it difficult for them to play styles that depart from the tourist-oriented mainstream. It's certainly true in the local jazz scene, a genre that has a tough time, commercially speaking, almost anywhere in America. All of which makes Steve Malagodi's long-running The Modern School of Modern Jazz and More such a treasure. This two-hour smorgasbord of avant-garde artists following their muses (wherever they may take them) isn't just a great radio show by Miami standards; it's a great radio show, period. In fact you'll be hard-pressed to find many of the jazz staples regularly programmed here -- from seminal Art Ensemble of Chicago cuts to the latest from Ken Vandermark -- on the FM dial anywhere else in the nation. Sure the witching-hour time slot (Saturdays from midnight to 2:00 a.m.) isn't always convenient, but it does foster the illusion that you've stumbled across some wonderful radio secret, perhaps being broadcast from an offshore ship straight into your living room.
With WDNA-FM's Steve Radzi laying his Reggae Beat to rest after nearly twenty years, the Caribbean radio crown safely belongs to Clint O'Neil, who has provided the tropical soundtrack of choice for night owls since 1979. Aside from those gravel-voiced Bob Marley-show IDs (recorded back in the late Seventies, when Marley frequently dropped by the studio for some hangtime with O'Neil), what raises this program above the Jamaican-centered competition on several local pirate stations is its unabashed variety. Tuesday through Friday from 1:00 to 5:00 a.m., and Saturday from 1:00 to 7:00 a.m., you'll hear the latest dancehall out of Kingston, but O'Neil is just as likely to launch into a set of vintage roots reggae -- not to mention soca, calypso, or any of the other island music that gives this late-night treasure its apt name.
Delia's arrival in Miami one year ago is the stuff of fairy tales. Once upon a time on a tropical island, there was a lovely young woman with a voice like a precious instrument. She sang so beautifully that in 1991 she won the prestigious OTI prize for Latin music, awarded by Ibero-American Television. But the island's evil dictator did not like her winning song, "Si Todos Saben de Ti," about a man whose bad deeds everyone knows. After barring her from radio and television, the dictator banished her to Belize. Like magic, a cousin from Florida found her there, singing and tending bar in an obscure hotel. Being a kind man with a considerable fortune made in construction, he brought Delia, her family, and her band to Miami. He bought a nightclub on Miami Beach, so the group would have a place to play. Now Delia's versatile voice enchants audiences in venues all over town. She belts out salsa and Cuban country at her cousin's club, the Mojito Room. She gives thanks to her saint, Babalu Aye, at the Fontainebleau's Club Tropigala. And she serenades quiet romantics with trova and feeling at the Coral Way club Radical. Her technical virtuosity and easygoing stage manner ensure her listeners get an earful of happily ever after.
After watching Trick Daddy's last album, www.thug.com, go gold, and seeing his leering mug plastered all over MTV, the Box, and BET, it's safe to say Miami's hip-hop scene has definitely found life after Luke. Not that Trick Daddy himself sounds too happy about his newfound fame and fortune: On his most recent release, Book of Thugs, when he's not snapping at so-called friends and lovers looking for a free ride on his coattails, he's railing at America at large for its unwillingness to see members of the black community as anything beyond subhuman, no matter how high on the socioeconomic ladder they may climb. He's not exactly breaking any new ground here (no less than three of the album's songs feature the word 'ho in the title), but as long as he keeps setting his gripes and fierce tales of ghetto-ology to these infectiously head-nodding grooves and post-bass beats, we're more than happy to stifle any wishes for a kinder, gentler Trick Daddy.
Among the warehouses just west of Biscayne Boulevard and north of the Design District lives birdman (a.k.a. Sean Gould). Since graduating in 1987 from Clemson University with an English degree, the six-foot-four blond-haired Gould has been honing the art of what he calls "urban pioneering." What this amounts to: moving into a blighted or barren city landscape and launching a homegrown rock club. The latest incarnation is the musical compound he now inhabits at 6720 NE Fourth Ave. He calls it birdneststudio. Since December 1999 Gould has been manning the mixing board and playing MC during live recording sessions of local rock bands at the warehouse. Birdneststudio is at once a recording facility, a rehearsal space, a live venue, and a home. Gould got the impresario bug while working with old-school production and engineering legend Tom Dowd, whom he met during a 1995 recording project in Miami. With area rock venues in short supply, birdman's base of operations keeps the embers of local talent smoldering.
In a city of conga players, bell clangers, and maracas shakers, Brazilian percussionist Claudio Silva stands apart. The largest country in Latin America, Brazil also boasts the greatest number of percussion instruments, from the Amazonian rattle to the booming surdo of the samba schools. Silva dominates them all. The versatile musician got his start at the age of twelve, playing Afro-Brazilian folk music in his native Rio de Janeiro. Since then he has been an important figure on the Brazilian bossa nova and jazz scene in the United States, recording with heavyweights such as Bob Moses, David Byrne, John Zorn, and Gil Santos. He lends his talented hands to Miami musicians Angela Patua and Orlando Landinho when not touring with his own jazz ensemble, named for the famous Brazilian tamborim player Esgoleba. Silva came to the United States in 1978, playing regularly in clubs like the Blue Note in New York City and Café Brasil in New Orleans before settling permanently in Miami in 1994. His accomplishments in jazz have not taken him away from the more popular traditions. He founded the first samba school in the United States in New York City's Lower East Side and this past April debuted with a new samba band, So Samba, at the Carna Bay Brazilian festival at Bayfront Park.
Once again Rat Bastard's cacophonous collective Laundry Room Squelchers are tops in Miami noise. Not that there aren't other noise artists doing notable things, such as Monotract, which performed to a packed house with Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore at the Knitting Factory in New York City. But no one wants to destroy rock and roll more than Rat Bastard and his pack of merry Squelchers. And this year the crew has done wonders to bring its special brand of musical deconstruction to the public. Not only do the Squelchers continue to hold court at Churchill's Hideaway every Thursday night (where Rat has produced noise under one moniker or another for nearly a decade and a half), but they also released a new disc, Drunker Than Pollard. Named in tribute to Guided by Voices frontman and Bastard buddy Robert Pollard, the CD-ROM album is a subtle 36 hours (that's right, a day and a half) of noise. If that weren't enough, Rat showcases some of the strangest sounds ever broadcast from midnight to 2:00 a.m. each Sunday during eyeQradio.com's Laundry Room show. The generous Bastard wanted to share his "music" firsthand with the rest of the nation, so recently the Squelchers (all six guitarists and a percussionist) embarked on a two-week tour, clearing bars and shattering eardrums coast to coast.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®