On the Rocks Bar
Photo by Keara O'Neil
Do you like to drink cheap beer in the company of serious drinkers who don't give two shits about ambiance, South Beach glitz, cleanliness, or really anything except drinking? On the Rocks is your bar. Three beers, five bucks, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. daily. Enough said.
All it takes is one song. One single song can make or break a mood, pack or empty a dance floor, ignite or extinguish a vibe. Just one tune can send a middle-age mother of two heading straight to the stripper pole, fool a white girl into thinking she be backing it up like Beyoncé do, inspire some dude to publicly perform the funky chicken and think he's actually cool, and make a gay man shed his shirt in a fit of nellyness. Few understand the strange, random, and mysterious power music wields over mankind better than DJs, because gauging which track will do what to whom is their craft. And around these parts, Jody McDonald is considered a master, Miami's number one man behind the music. "If you're spinning in a club, that's different, but when you're doing events and corporate gigs, it's not about you as a DJ," quips McDonald, "it's about what the client wants." Since beginning more than twenty years ago, McDonald has spun the soundtrack for everything from trendy fashion shows, decadent dance clubs, classical museum openings, and the pregame tent at the Orange Bowl, to infamous celebrity weddings. "They can range in music from Arabic lounge to contemporary hip-hop; you just have to be prepared." When McDonald DJed Mets catcher Mike Piazza's nuptials last summer, he made sure to pack an extra twelve-inch or two lest the newlywed change his tune at the last minute. And when he was invited to perform for sober former-Creed frontman Scott Stapp's wedding at Vizcaya this past February, McDonald left Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville" at home. Because as any good DJ will tell you, one song is all it takes.
Skybar at the Shore Club
It's difficult to believe this posh spot is still jumping with glitterati after notorious hip-hop producer Marion "Suge" Knight was shot in the leg while chilling at the Red Room during last year's Video Music Awards revelry. After all, who wants to get capped when you're dropping $500 on a bottle of Patrón? But the Suge incident seems to have added a dose of notoriety to South Beach's most exclusive VIP room. Of course, the service and the attitude at the Red Room are as pretentious as the eclectic décor, noted Sheri Mischon, a 24-year-old New York-born Jewish princess who attended Skybar's star-studded New Year's Eve soiree that included John Stamos, Molly Sims, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Vin Diesel, and perennial Red Room guest Lil' Jon. Of course, you need a strong stomach to withstand the onslaught of dull, beautiful people preoccupied with posing in front of others. But what else would you expect from a tr?ès chic snob bar? Now excuse us -- we just saw Lindsay Lohan and Mischa Barton walk through the door.
Ted's Hideaway
Photo by Chelsea Olson
When the precocious, self-absorbed, ridiculously good-looking boys and girls who earn their living posing for catalogues and strutting the catwalk want a place where they can get down and dirty, they scamper to Ted's Hideaway, the institutional dive bar between Collins and Washington. After all, Ted's offers a nice respite from the glittery, Top 40 hip-hop-infused SoBe club scene where the models get to mingle with the local surf rats and other colorful characters who troll the blocks south of Fifth. Don't believe us? Check out Ted's on Tuesday nights before Tommy Pooch's Hotel Astor party or on Thursday nights on the way to Snatch. You'll be surprised by how many faces represented by Wilhelmina, Next, and Elite are playing pool and rocking the jukebox at Ted's.
In Miami's small but burgeoning wine bar scene, newcomer Stop Miami is a cut above. While other vino joints may have more selection or sex appeal, Stop Miami is the most eclectic, laid-back, and friendly spot to sip a Pinot Grigio and nibble on Serrano ham. Cozily ensconced in a former gas station on the edge of Wynwood and the Design District, the little bar spills onto the sidewalk with tables and chairs. Everyone seems to know one another here, and the vibe is warm. Bottles are moderately priced from $12 for a 2003 Shale Ridge Syrah from Monterey, California, to $31 for a 2004 Insoglio de Cinghiale red blend from Bibbona, Italy. Wine by the glass is $4 and up. Tapas and montaditos such as Spanish egg tortilla and boquerones in vinaigrette range from $2 to $10. Happy hour features $3 sangrias and wine and beer specials, but there are plenty of other reasons to visit, including free winetastings Fridays and live music most nights. If you want to avoid the $9 corkage fee, try a beer from the more-than-adequate selection of bottles for $4 and $5; then take your bottle of wine to go. Stop Miami is open Tuesday through Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., and Sundays from 6:00 p.m. to midnight.
Café Nostalgia's return to Miami Beach this year brought Havana and Calle Ocho a bit closer to the land of sea and sand. The club turned a much-loved back-door Spanish tavern into a cozy cabaret with a Latin speakeasy flair. Decorated with old music photographs and a modern video screen, it's the only place on the Beach to effectively capture the essence of Cuba's past and present. That is also evident onstage, where audiences can find a healthy diet of traditional son and salsa during the early hours and a descarga creativa (literally a creative discharge) as Latin artists drop their tourist getups and jam to their own fusion beat later into the night.
It took people in Miami a long time to figure out what people in California caught a clue about (courtesy of a strict state law) a decade ago: You can dance, talk, and generally party longer and harder in smoke-free environments. Also you don't have to leave your glam nighttime wear outside on the porch owing to the ground-in tobacco stench. There is no law in Florida generally or Miami-Dade County that specifically prohibits lighting up at a nightclub (though it is verboten where food is served). People just seem to be smoking less, burning holes in pashminas less, exhaling all over the person next to them on the dance floor less.
Let's make something clear right off the bat, people. "Madhouse is a party, not a place," says event organizer Marlon Whiteman, one of the members of the Trini South Boyz party syndicate. The confusion arose back when the Key Biscayne establishment Bayside Hut was known as Madfish House. At night the party promoters would remove fish so that the glowing red sign worked as a beacon for legions of Caribbean partiers. Among the island immigrant ranks, Madhouse became a must every Friday night. Famously decadent events took place, including many of the best-attended Miami Carnaval parties, bigtime reggae concerts featuring the likes of Elephant Man and Capleton, and last year's notorious Fourth of July Wet Fete, in which revelers were soaked with fire hoses, water guns, and water balloons. Then the organizers of the popular weekly bash came across some drama that led to relocation issues. "We went to Bongos first, and we spent three weeks there before we realized we had to move again. To put hype on it, I came up with the idea of taking the party on the road. So right now we're in Fort Lauderdale at Club Ole Ole," Whiteman explains. "But Madhouse has always been a Miami-based promotion. We on the road right now; we're enjoying it for the moment. But you never know what tomorrow might bring," the charming party-thrower quips. Madhouse's local base has dwindled somewhat in the face of the daunting trek to Broward, and the party is destined to return to Miami-Dade in the near future. Although Marlon Whiteman remains coy about the party's prospective destinations, he admits his ideal venue is one that combines indoor heat with outdoorsy space. "That venue in Key Biscayne was like our first child, and your first will always be your favorite. Unless the child messes up as he gets older and becomes a crackhead or something," he laughs. "But still, your love for that one will always be the strongest. In the parties we throwing now, the vibe isn't how it used to be," he confesses. For now, reggae revelers will continue to venture north for their weekly fix. But we light a candle and hope Madhouse will come home soon, to the Miami bay where it's meant to be.
Fret not thyselves, reggae fanatics. Even though Mixx 96 has been down recently, the station is destined to make a return to the airwaves soon. You haven't heard his familiar voice recently, but Leighton P. Walsh, the DJ better known as Walshy Killa, is still on the air, and Throwback Thursdays will be rocking your boombox again very soon. Such is the irregular life of a pirate-station superstar. When Walshy isn't able to perform his duties as an on-air jock on Miami's best Caribbean radio station, he tours the world with the DJ sound system Black Chiney, bringing island vibes to parties all over the world. This year alone, he's already been to Trinidad in the heat of Carnival, then to England, then to Bermuda. "It's not glamorous. Don't ever think it is. Now that I've traveled, I would trade what I'm doing to stay here," the modest selector says. Although he loves being on Mixx 96, Walshy aspires to go mainstream, to have a show on one of the big three urban stations, perhaps. If they would step out of the box to hire a DJ like him, that is. "I don't have any formal mainstream training, but what I do have is my acquired skills and my ability to communicate with people," he says. Ah, that explains it. That lack of instruction has made him the friendliest, most down-to-earth DJ on the dial today. He hasn't yet become a cog in the corporate machine. He hasn't had to deal with studio pimps. Right now Walshy Killa is still free to be himself. For those who haven't experienced Throwback Thursdays yet, be forewarned. The show might not resonate with folks who didn't grow up in the Caribbean, or who didn't listen to dancehall reggae during their formative years. Walshy spins the tracks the people want to hear, like Shabba Ranks's "Roots and Culture," or Dennis Brown's "Silhouette," for example, and then launches into hilarious anecdotes for the folks who remember going to annual school bazaars, when gangsta wannabes sported "bullethole suits," and the Bogle and Butterfly were big in the dance. "I love Throwback Thursdays more than anything, because I'm 29, and it brings back memories. I really do believe that I have a great, great talent of getting how I feel across to people. So I'm like, yo, do you guys remember this? And when I play the song, I remind them of what they were doing at the time, how they were dressing, what clubs they were going to, and what dances they were doing. The people really respond to that. And I'm always shocked to find out how many people were right there, where I was at," he marvels. Walshy was born in Miami and raised in Jamaica. As a youth, he traveled extensively, and it gave him an appreciation for other cultures. "That's why I love the other islands so much. I want to learn everything about them, because I was blessed to understand from young that the world is bigger than my little world." For that reason, he chooses not to adopt a strong Jamaican accent, slipping into straight Yankee, singsong Trini, or lilting Grenadian when he sees fit. For the people who aren't familiar with Mixx 96's blend of community chatter over classic reggae tracks, the constant interruptions can be annoying to say the least. But for migrants who want their voices heard, it's vital and important. Callers get angry when the DJs don't take enough on-air calls. "On my show, I do my very best to include everybody and let them know that where they are from is the best place on Earth," says Walshy. One of Throwback Thursdays' most memorable moments took place when he was sick, coughing, raspy, and somehow still hosting the show. Between selections by Garnett Silk, Freddie McGregor, and Eek-a-Mouse, Walshy asked callers to share their native cold and flu remedies with him. "People were calling in with some wild, wild stuff!" he exclaims. "One Trini lady called in and said I needed a Ôcowboy,' which is a sponge bath. Another guy called in and said I needed to mix babash (moonshine bush rum) with corn soup. When you hear that stuff, you just say, man, the islands are the best. Yo, for real -- the people from the islands are the best."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®