Mansion
BEST VENUE FOR LIVE MUSIC Mansion 1235 Washington Avenue

Miami Beach

305-532-1525

www.mansionmiami.com After Level was purchased by the Opium Group, renovated, and renamed Mansion, this linchpin of South Beach nightlife has become the place for excited celebrity-seekers thanks to the many models and hip-hop stars it draws. It also has frustrated those gawkers with its strict velvet-rope policy. Lost in the commotion is the fact that it is a superior music venue, capable of holding 2500 people throughout its two floors and four rooms. Since its March 2004 opening, Mansion has hosted an amazing concert by hip-hop band the Roots; a raucous performance by hard rock supergroup Velvet Revolver; and Hip-Hop Fridays, an occasional concert series co-promoted by Empire Events and featuring old-school rap legends Big Daddy Kane, the Jungle Brothers, and Black Sheep. With a mixture of plush seating and standing areas and an excellent lighting and sound system, Mansion is a seeming contradiction -- a snooty SoBe club and a great place to see live bands.

BEST CONCERT OF THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS Kraftwerk at the Jackie Gleason Theater It's no secret that South Florida usually gets short shrift from major touring acts, but November was a grand exception. In an amazing turn of good luck, the granddaddy of electronic/synth acts, Kraftwerk, chose the Jackie Gleason Theater for one of only five extremely rare U.S. shows; the only one east of the Rockies. The preshow electricity was already palpable when competing man-machine uniformed clones arrived to take their seats, but it really took off when the lights dimmed to reveal the technology-happy gang from Düsseldorf. Although promoting its latest release, 2003's Tour de France Soundtracks, Kraftwerk also rewarded the audience with a hits-filled show that lasted well over two hours. The instruments now are laptops. The sound was magnificent, with no distortion noticeable. Though the music was loud enough to cause temporary hearing loss, you couldn't tell until it was quiet and somebody tried to speak to you. High-definition videos were projected behind the band, adding to the already hypnotic feel of the performance. There were even some robots onstage, but it was fairly evident from the expression on the band members' faces that they still take live performances seriously and enjoy them organically.

BEST CONCERT SERIES Latin Funk Festival Two years ago Easton Bravo Productions, a partnership between Lizzie Easton and Tanya Bravo, launched Latin Funk Festival, an ongoing showcase that takes place in New York and Miami. Save for the occasional headlining act (Spanish salsa star Lucrecia headlined a Sunday on the Mile event March 6 in Coral Gables), these sporadic promotions feature innovative up-and-coming bands from both cities. While hot groups such as Suenalo Sound System and the Spam Allstars aren't wanting for exposure here, the Latin Funk Festival is all about context. By bringing the cream of Miami's crop together under one roof for a single theme night, Latin Funk Festival highlights what many Miamians should know of but often overlook: the depth and brilliance of the city's bubbling Latin scene.

BEST LOCAL ALBUM OF THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS Our Endless Numbered Days Iron & Wine

www.ironandwine.com There's considerable paradox in the fact that a folk poet such as Sam Beam could emerge from the land of Art Deco, Miami Vice, and Modelpalooza. Beam, known as Iron & Wine, sings of stories that take place far, in spirit if not geography, from South Beach's ostentation. His gentle voice drifts toward the pastoral terrain of Homestead and the rural parts of South Florida, and the nooks and crannies within Coral Gables and Hialeah that, on an uneventful summer day, can at least seem like the South. Beam's lyrics would be without effect if not for his skill with acoustic melodies that, like so much folk music, strike a chord both melancholy and hopeful, clear-eyed and utopian.

BEST LOCAL BAND/MuSICian OF ALL TIME Jaco Pastorius Jaco, they called him. In jazz circles it's a show of respect to call a musician by his first name. "Jaco" universally refers to the greatest bass player the world has ever heard. He completely revolutionized not just the bass, or even jazz, but also the entire musical landscape. In the liner notes to the 2000 reissue of Jaco's eponymous debut, guitar virtuoso Pat Metheny wrote, "Jaco used his own experiences filtered through an almost unbelievable originality, informed by a musicianship as audacious as it was expansive, to manifest into sound, through improvisation, a musical reality that illuminated his individuality. Besides all that, he simply played his ass off -- in a way that was totally unprecedented on his instrument, or on ANY instrument." Jaco was known to have a prodigious ego. He wouldn't hesitate to introduce himself by saying, "I'm Jaco Pastorius, the greatest bass player in the universe." That was how he introduced himself to Earth, Wind & Fire after a show. "The hell of it," said one musician, "is that he's right." In the end, his life took a turn, and it was not uncommon for the man who invented the fretless bass to be walking the streets drunk, even pawning his instrument to pay for alcohol. He met his death after an altercation with a bouncer. His music lives on.

BEST RECORDING STUDIO The Hit Factory Criteria 1755 NE 149th Street

North Miami-Dade

305-947-5611 The digital revolution has enabled aspiring and professional musicians alike to churn out monster hits from their bedrooms. The technology is to a point where even novices can manipulate music to sound just as they think it should. But how does one replace recording in the same spot where James Brown spread his mojo? Where Stevie Wonder's voice reverberated with a groove forever etched into the walls? With almost 50 years of history, this studio has recorded some of the most legendary musicians: the Eagles, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, and even hip-hop heavyweights such as Dr. Dre and the 2 Live Crew. Those and many more have manufactured hits in one of the six world-class rooms. Progress may dictate that analog go the way of the dinosaurs, but many musicians will argue that digital recording is a façade, a tool to create the illusion of authenticity in the music. Sure it's cheaper, but at what cost to the soul?

BEST LOCAL POP BAND Humbert "Pop" could very well be taken as a dig, along the lines of the title of "Miami's own Britney Spears," which wouldn't exactly be a compliment. So for all those who claim Miami has "the worst music scene ever, dude," hey, at least this city isn't known for churning out Ryan Cabreras or Hilary Duffs. Instead Miami seems to be brimming with homegrown rock bands possessed of pop sensibilities, groups aiming to inspire a dance party rather than a mosh pit. At the top of Miami's pop-rock A-list is Humbert (named after the character in Nabokov's Lolita). The Pixies-meets-Beach Boys foursome -- bassist Tony Landa, guitarist/keyboardist Fernando Coipel, drummer Cesar Lavin, and guitarist Rimsky -- boasts an irresistible mix of current rock and classic pop, blending orchestrated pieces with Mediterranean flavors, straight-ahead rock, and quiet pop. Teenage girls may make good lust objects in Russian novels, but they don't often make good music. Lucky for us, the men of Humbert do.

Readers´ Choice: The Waterford Landing

BEST LOCAL RAP RELEASE OF THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS

"Let's Go"

BEST LOCAL RAP RELEASE OF THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS "Let's Go" Trick Daddy Of all the hits that were either recorded in Miami or made by Miami artists, one track deserves to be singled out. Released in advance of his gold LP Thug Matrimony: Married to the Streets, Trick Daddy's "Let's Go" became a sporting anthem so huge that you could hear it on any given Sunday throughout the NFL season. The Philadelphia Eagles played the song as they ran out onto the field during Super Bowl XXXIX -- right before the New England Patriots handed them a can of whup-ass. Aside from that dubious honor, Trick Daddy played it cool on this one, rattling off lines alongside Twista that build up to Lil Jon shouting the chorus. And newcomers Unusual Suspects made ample use of a furious Ozzy "Crazy Train" Osbourne sample, turning "Let's Go" into the noisy, clanging ear ringer that made clubs get crunk.

BEST LOCAL RAP ARTIST/GROUP Garcia "Some people label me a thug in an effort to prejudge/Not trying to be something I'm not," raps Garcia on "None of Dem." But he's no backpacker, and his solid debut album Anti-Social is packed with raw and uncompromising tracks: On the title number, one of the best cuts, producer Nick Fury samples the eerie climactic theme from the cautionary drug film Requiem for a Dream to full effect. A thoughtful young MC from Kendall, Garcia has been working Miami nightspots with his longtime crew Crazy Hood Productions for years, from big joints such as Mansion to dank rock emporiums such as Churchill's. Though Anti-Social was released last year, it's only now that hip-hop fans around the nation are hearing Garcia's album above the din of the culo crunk that dominates this city and learning about this complex, noteworthy artist.

BEST LOCAL ROCK BAND The Brand www.myspace.com/thebrandmusic Great rock bands -- at least until they blow up nationally -- are like community leaders. They not only grab the spotlight for themselves, but they also help to shine it on an entire movement. The Brand is well on its way to meeting that goal. Last year the trio launched Plaid Fridays, a monthly showcase featuring top local rock bands at the now-defunct Diamond Lounge in Hialeah, and then successfully moved the night over to Churchill's. The group suspended the events in order to tour around the South and promote the debut album Grenadine, an inspired mix of pop-punk and indie-rock. Only time will tell if The Brand will become big, but their high standing in Miami is assured.

Readers´ Choice: Little Atlas

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®