José Luis Burgos is a barber at the Razor’s Edge in Miami Shores, where he has worked for eight years.

What is your greatest triumph?

1993 I left Cuba in a small boat, but soon the motor quit. So I started rowing. I rowed for hours -- through the night. I lost all my food and didn't have much water at all, but I kept rowing. Finally, after seven days, when my water was just about gone, I spotted a small island in the Bahamas. Soon I was spotted by an airplane, then picked up by the Coast Guard. That was the most dramatic thing ever to happen in my life

Nowadays the 210-acre enclave south of Fifth Street, which used to be a no man's land populated by graffiti and panhandlers, is indisputably Myles Chefetz's land. The Miami native has marked his territory with four of the most popular restaurants in Miami Beach -- Nemo, Big Pink, Shoji Sushi, and Prime One Twelve. When Chefetz, a former real estate attorney, opened Nemo, his first South Florida spot, in 1995, it shared space with a boarded-up crack house. The area has improved, but it seems nothing can deter his insatiable appetite for accomplishing what he set out to do. Not even Mother Nature. Even without power in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, his crew was still at it, slinging burgers off a grill set up on a Second Street sidewalk.

What is your greatest triumph?

That's a pretty general question. I mean, there are a lot of them. To be able to loan my family money when they need it. How about to be able to loan my family money when they need it -- without interest!

James "Jimbo" Luznar opened his joint on Virginia Key, Jimbo's, a half-century ago. And there's no better place on the water to take a toot.

What is your greatest triumph?

We used to be where the Herald building is, but then they said our boats would have to go. So we looked at Snapper Creek, Mart’ Park, then we ended up on Virginia Key. It stunk sometimes, and there were mosquitoes, snakes, coons, opossums, and iguanas. It cost us a lot of money to be there, but we stayed. They've been trying to get me out of there for a long time, but now everyone all over the world knows Jimbo.

Born in Homestead, Kevin Wynn is the producer and cohost of Downtown Dade, a TV talk show that covers the arts and culture and airs on the county's government access channel. He is also the coprogrammer, with Barron Sherer, of Cinema Vortex, a nonprofit organization devoted to screening unusual, significant, and neglected film and video works. And he's the creator of Public Domain Playhouse, a continuing series of screenings he curates with Sherer.

What is your greatest triumph?

My greatest triumph? I don’t do “triumph.” I’ve never had one. I can’t tell you how it feels to triumph, or what it looks, tastes or smells like. I wouldn’t know “triumph” if some guy ran over me with a TR4.

A native of New Jersey, Terri Weisbert has spent the past seven years behind the bar (and sometimes helping out on the floor) at Flanigan’s Seafood Bar and Grill in Coconut Grove. In 2005 Terri, who sported a lifetime’s worth of glossy coal-black hair that fell past her waist, had it chopped to a buzz and donated her long locks to make wigs for children undergoing chemotherapy. This year Terri organized and helped sponsor a 26-mile marathon for runners of differing abilities. One of those who completed the course was Terri’s twin sister, an able-bodied athlete.

What is your greatest triumph?

It's vain to call it a triumph, but I feel great when I forget about myself and get involved in causes for other people, even though it's them who help me. And of course every day I spend in Miami -- with our beautiful beaches, great weather, and wonderful assortment of people -- makes me a winner.

In the beer wasteland that is South Florida, Ray Rigazio owns an oasis: the Abbey Brewing Company. Since taking the helm in 1995, he has worked hard to make this microbrewery nothing like a typical South Beach bar. He rid the door of snobbery and, more important, the refrigerators of quotidian beers. In their place chills an eclectic selection of brews from around the world, including the hard-to-find La Fin du Monde. His own recipes are not brewed on the premises but by Key West and Ybor City brewing companies, and Rigazio's calorie-rich assortment of ales packs a punch. His Father Theodore's Imperial Stout won a gold medal at this year's Best Florida Beer Championships in Tampa, and his Belgian-style Brother Ban's Double snagged the silver.

What is your greatest triumph?

I think the greatest triumph I’ve achieved is bringing great crafted beer to South Florida. When I came here twelve years ago, the best beer you could get was maybe a common import. Now I see dozens and dozens of restaurants carrying great microbeers and hundreds of thousands of people drinking them.

´Tis the Season for Broadway

An entertainment shows special promise when it inspires treatment in multiple media. The Light in the Piazza glows with romance hot enough to have moved it from the printed page to one of Broadway's brightest lights of recent years (six Tony Awards in 2005), with a delightful stop in movie theaters back in 1962. The fairly simple tale of a woman, her daughter, and the Italian hottie the daughter falls for began in 1960 as a novella by Elizabeth Spencer. Americans in Italy, romance between a young tourist and a handsome Florence native, mom's involvement -- nothing so promising in that. But cue up the music -- by Adam Guettel (who also scored with Floyd Collins) -- and promises are kept. Dreamy, lush, elegant, and similar adjectives are often applied to Guettel's sound. The show is at 8:00 tonight and scheduled to run through October 1 at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets range from $20 to $66. Call 305-949-6722, or visit www.miamipac.org and www.piazzaontour.com.
Sept. 26-Oct. 1

'Cause This Is Thriller, Thriller Night

Ubiquitous historian Paul George has an unorthodox Halloween ritual. His birthday falls on the somewhat foreboding day, and instead of handing out fun-size candies to children, every year George finds himself leading a group of Miami macabres around the city cemetery, pointing out the final resting places of some of our town’s best and brightest pioneers. William Burdine, Julia Tuttle, and Miami's first mayor, John Reilly, all have spots in the jam-packed burial ground. Tonight from 8:00 to 10:00, the always-entertaining George will lead the Ghosts of Miami City Cemetery Night Walking Tour, wandering through the boneyard in a bad neighborhood with flashlights and a motley crew of the costumed and curious. The tour costs $22, and advance reservations are highly recommended.

Those who prefer to enjoy their chills and thrills in relative comfort should reserve a spot on the Ghosts of Mystery, Mayhem, and Vice Crime Coach Tour. George will call out the stops from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Saturday, October 28, showing off Al Capone’s legendary Palm Island house and the step where immensely talented designer Gianni Versace was gunned down, among other spooky places. The coach tour costs $39. Call 305-375-1621, or visit www.hmsf.org.
Fri., Oct. 27; Sat., Oct. 28
For nearly a decade, the giants of electronic dance music, a cold-blooded cadre mostly from northern Europe, lumbered across the earth. Tiësto, Paul van Dyk, Paul Oakenfold, Seb Fontaine, Judge Jules, and Fatboy Slim dominated small suburban dance floors and Ibizan caverns with crafty disco assembled from chest-rattling bass lines and sampled treasures from earlier civilizations.

Suddenly, in 2006, like dinosaurs shuddering in the freezing contrail of a passing comet, the time of the superstar DJs ended. Today the big boys are gasping for space as overpaid nightclub hosts, while small, furry mammals named Busdriver, Ellen Allien, and Otto von Schirach have sprung forth to occupy their musical niche in the ecosystem.

The sad thing — one of the sad things — about the superstar DJs' looming extinction is that they didn't begin with Brontosaurus brains. IDM, or intelligent dance music, is the obviously and deliberately limiting terminology for electronica that isn't stupid. The expression dates back to a description of Coil's 1991 album The Snow, which set the IQ bar pretty high, and the artists who followed in the last decade of the century — the Orb, Autechre, Future Sound of London — kept apace.

By 2000, European electronic dance music evolved into dozens of microgenres from the various species of house music, techno, and EBM. Pioneering DJs such as Oakenfold and Fatboy Slim found they could press their popular discs and also attract respectable concert attendance numbers through careful marketing of their riveting live sets, which blended their own compositions with remixes of other artists' tracks. Meanwhile in the States, dance music factions were essentially limited to house and trance, a situation that continues today.

And why shouldn't it? Americans almost always muck up the nuance in the cultures we import, and dance music has proven no exception. While European DJs cultivated a humbly anonymous aesthetic, Americans reinvented the DJ as turntable-toting rock star. Thus today we enjoy the Crystal Method's relentless efforts to brand its members' faces on maximum party records, such as the cleverly named Tweekend and Legion of Boom. And this year, both the Crystal Method and tagger-along LCD Soundsystem produced 45-minute "workout mixes" in association with Nike.

But it is now clear that the DJ craze is on the wane in the United States. The huge throngs that once welcomed van Dyk, Carl Cox, and the ubiquitous Oakenfold have dried up, at least in the smaller major cities. Once people in places like Dallas and Atlanta figured out the headliner would show up at 3:00 a.m., play a twenty-minute set, and split, it was all over, and from then on, guys like that were forced to retreat to tried-and-true markets such as Miami, New York, and San Francisco for hosting duties at superclubs.

And the superstar DJ system never encouraged a farm team system, where beginners could earn their nightclub stripes in small markets and move up to larger ones. That role fell to the DJ music on MySpace and YouTube. But that system is far from perfect, or even viable. How many Optimo or Bugz in the Attic remixes by suburban Tulsa kids can anyone make it through?

Still, there were some outstanding offerings on the better sportswear floor of the dance music department store, and several of those were even from America.

Steve Lawler's Lights Out 3 (as well as the import Viva) reached our shores early in 2006, and the two-disc set featured some of the stalwart British producer's most symphonic work to date.

Trance music pioneer Brian Transeau, better known as BT, has been an amazingly prolific composer for years, and most of the songs he plays are originals, not remixes or compilations. His late-year release, This Binary Universe, continued the Marylander's exploration into mathematical and philosophical themes via the harmonically named (and sounding) "The Internal Locus" and "The Antikythera Mechanism." Plus BT dedicates the disc to his beloved pet dog, which died this year. All of this might seem precious, save for BT's long record of sincerity sans new-age ickiness. (BT is on tour right now with another IDM forefather, Thomas Dolby, who dropped his first record in years in December, The Sole Inhabitant, a collection of live performances and new material.)

"Burma," a trickily looped onslaught of deep progressive breaks from Australia's Lostep, leant itself to creative remixing by everyone from Sasha to Galaxy Girl, but the track was great on its own (as was the rest of the duo's cohesive album Because We Can). Perhaps a little Outback isolation is just what dance music needs.

Hybrid's I Choose Noise offered a good array of Mike Truman and Chris Healings's vast collection of regular collaborators, including Peter Hook, Judie Tzuke, and Quivver (John Graham). Strangely the atmospheric, dark tracks on I Choose Noise did not include "Space Manoeuvres Part 3," a Hybrid live set staple and one of the year's best Internet-disseminated singles. This remarkable, haunting number contains an overlay of Kiefer Sutherland (in character from Dark City) speaking the "First there was darkness ..." lines.

The Knife — Norwegian siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer — made much of their unwillingness to show their faces or become conventional pop stars, but they shook up CMJ with a live performance that is already legend. For all its lyrical anguish, their Silent Shout, whose every track is worthwhile, came close to the outright synth-pop of Depeche Mode's Speak and Spell.

The Knife robbed the slightly superior Sissy — singer Johanne Williams and audio landscaper David Trusz — of some of the bouquets that Sissy's female-fueled reinvention of trip-hop album All Under deserved. Why single "In the Dark" was not a huge crossover hit as well as a dance-floor smash was difficult to explain, but All Under's remaining tracks of furious distortion ("Anyone but You" and "Can't Save You") were just as captivating.

And then there's London nightclub-derived label Fabric, which almost by itself salvaged a pretty bad year for dance music. Fabric's voluminous (several discs per month) numbered output, even duds like the unlistenable Fabric 26 and Fabric 27 records, put forth a strong case that the Londoners are the collectivist label of record for every DJ and remix theorist on the planet. Fabric 29, featuring Tiefschwarz, was a hardy techno discovery, and Fabric 24, though a part of today's often overzealous re-release movement, argued eloquently that the overlooked Rob da Bank deserves a place on jammy/groovy house playlists.

Finally, Christian IDM: Who'd have thought of it? Dark Globe had always evoked a Kayak-ish cult of mysticism through its majestic orchestrations, but with this year's Nostalgia for the Future, the band picked up the lushness and pace with a Lawlerish turn in tunes, and, quite surprisingly, gave some shouts out to the Lord.

So don't despair. The state of electronica always depends on perception. Any song by Kraak & Smaak, whose Boogie Angst was an inconsistent mix of funk hooks plus bass, is still better than anything Sheryl Crow or Evanescence could come up with. Hearing a track by DJ Shadow on your car satellite radio isn't going to make you pull over and puke the way one by the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus will.

And in one last hopeful hurrah for 2006, Tom Ellard, founder of the Severed Heads and perhaps as influential in the genre's genesis as Cabaret Voltaire and John Balance, recently re-emerged with a body of new work. His soundtrack and animations grace the Australian Film Commission's The Illustrated Family Doctor, and slowly but surely he is posting remixed and remastered Severed Heads classics to YouTube, along with some new compositions. So hang in there, smarty pantses.

The hip-hop scene on South Beach has a bum rap. When crowds of rap-loving revelers flock to our sandy shores on holiday weekends, the po-po comes out with riot gear at the ready. Hooligans wearing throwbacks (that should have been thrown back) and half-dressed hoochies in dusty threads aren’t encouraged at any self-respecting club. Enter Michael Madd, he of the hilarious, rambling weekly e-mail blasts and star-studded local events. Madd is one of the hosts of Miami L.I.V.E., a classy midweekly dinner party at Santo that has been attracting throngs of athletes, model types, and rhyme-spitting luminaries. Stars like Trina, Slim Thug, Trick Daddy, Fabolous, and Rick Ross have graced the stage. The event showcases both established and up-and-coming acts, so fans can expect amazing performances every week. Dress to impress and boogie with the ballers tonight at 9:00 p.m. Admission is free but limited. Call 786-317-7088, or e-mail shiningstarspr@gmail.com for reservations.
Wednesdays, 2006

Best Of Miami®