This past December, it was just a little too easy for the local smart alecks to make cracks about Miami Beach regressing into a retirement community for musical has-beens. Kicking off Art Basel was one of the most influential bands of the late Sixties — led by rock's most emulated singer (an adopted local no less) and joined by punk's finest bass player. Too easy. But when Iggy Pop and the Stooges came out full bore, those same cognoscenti knew right away they'd be gnawing on their Grecian Formula-coated words before the night was through. The Asheton brothers thundered through their own classics as Iggy sexily pranced around like a boy one-third his age. Mike Watt, formerly of the Minutemen and a cultural institution in his own right, took over the late Dave Alexander's spot to the delight of all — especially his own. At one point, Iggy welcomed the audience onstage for a couple of songs, and several dozen concertgoers took up the offer to wriggle around, singing "No Fun" and smiling at the irony. The only things that made the evening more brag-worthy were the free admission, the starry sky overhead, and the sand you had to shake out of your boots afterward.
The nonprofit Rhythm Foundation is celebrating its 20th year of spreading global musical cheer in South Florida, and each season seems to get better than the last. That's a tough feat, given the group's track record. Founded with the intent of showcasing the best in "world music," the outfit has managed to shake that term's sometimes boring and crunchy connotations via a program of the planet's most exciting music, regardless of scene or language. For the 2007-2008 season, Rhythm Foundation has helped push pop forward and reinvent some of the oldest forms of folk. That's meant hosting, say, the Argentine-Swedish singer-songwriter José González at the lovely Manuel Artime Theater in Little Havana, which provoked an enraptured audience into possibly the lowest noise levels ever recorded for a Miami audience. It's also meant hosting Brazilian baile funk tricksters Bonde do Rolê at the soon-to-be-defunct downtown club Studio A, or Spanish disco-popsters the Pinker Tones at the North Beach Bandshell. Other times, it's meant even legendary Bollywood playback singer Asha Bhosle and tabla master Zakir Hussain. The common thread? New explorations into sounds and textures, and some of the smartest, coolest crowds you could hope to amass in this town. The folks behind Rhythm Foundation prove time and again it's a small world after all, but there's room for all of us to dance in it.
Love Hate Lounge
You don't need us to tell you which of the cavernous superclubs is "best" — that's a matter of nightlife politics and the quickly shifting winds of whatever the crowd deems cool. Instead, our pick for where you can really shake it is a not-so-well-kept secret: Love Hate Lounge, just south of Fifth Street and blocks from any of the bling-bling spots. Infamous for being owned by the needle-wielding stars of Miami Ink, the place is known by locals as a no-fail, no-bullshit spot for getting down. Yes, it's kind of small, but all the better; this means half the space isn't devoted to bottle service, like everywhere else, and you're almost guaranteed to have to grind into — or at least brush past — a stranger. And the narrow layout means the party often gets pushed upward — onto the couches, the chairs, and those strategically placed shiny poles. There's never a cover, the dress code is tattoo chic, and the soundtrack is a bumping mix of mostly old-school hip-hop and party classics, a respite from the Top 40 and Euro house clatter of its northerly neighbors. If you can't have fun here, you probably can't have fun anywhere.
Happy's Stork Lounge and Liquor
Photo courtesy of Happy Stork Lounge
Ah, to drink where the booze is cheap; the bartenders are tough, hot women; and all the patrons are salty drunks. Look no further than the Happy Stork. Forget this town's lame pretensions about dressing up to drink. Come to this place directly from work, order yourself an Anchor Steam, and strike up a conversation with someone who can really tell you what's going on around here. Like the brilliant/crazy guy who has lined the walls with all of his weird straw sculptures. Or the ornery drunk who is about to get thrown out for refusing to pay his $30 tab because (he insists) his glass is dirty. Play a game of pool on the chalky, gray-green table, or enjoy a saucy game of strip poker on the coin-operated machine. Best of all, this place is managed by a dour little Irishman who, when he grumblingly rolls himself cigarettes, looks kind of like a pirate. (He won't let you roll one, so don't even try, Cheech.) After a few drinks, you'll want to propose to your bartender and arrange to have your ashes spread into the dirty, dirty urinals.
Don't let the name of this club fool you. These are some real men — well hung and swangin' that thang. Club Boi is the only black-owned gay club in South Florida, and it serves as a welcome alternative to the same old stuff on South Beach. There is nude male dancing, and the vibe is hot. Even for heteros, this club is a good time. On Friday nights, the Face-Off: Strippers Contest takes place. Are you a confident man? Do you think you've got what it takes? Get up on that stage and strip down naked. On Saturday nights, DJs Dias E and Gavin keep those beats pumping with some crazy house music. And Tuesday nights are right for a karaoke showdown. Get out of the closet and get down at Club Boi.
Blue Martini
It's 4:59 p.m. ... one more minute. Just one more minute. The longest minute. You've worked hard all day. Why won't that clock's stupid little hand hurry up?! And then it happens: 5 p.m. and all's well. The time has come for twenty- and thirtysomethings across the city to loosen their ties and unbutton their shirts. In the heart of downtown, this classy second-floor joint bathes its young and beautiful crowd in cool blue lights that spill out over a dance floor, multiple bars, and a frequently occupied stage. The 4 to 7 p.m. happy hour offers half-price drinks to the mingling crowd of young professionals looking to let their hair down after a long day at the office. Inside there's a nightclub atmosphere, but you'll find a more relaxed vibe at the outdoor bar, where you can kick back and drunkenly toast to the setting sun.
Van Dyke Cafe
With Sandoval's shuttered and Jazid following a more eclectic blend of funky music, Upstairs at the Van Dyke remains a hidden gem for jazz lovers — on Lincoln Road, of all places. Earlier this year, the café changed ownership, and with the new guard came a welcome infusion of energy and enthusiasm for livening up the music programming. While many nights showcase all kinds of global sounds, there's still plenty to hear within the great realm of jazz. Recent offerings in the genre have included everything from the piano stylings of Silvano Monasterios to The Randy Singer Band's harmonica-vocals combo. Besides the topnotch soundtrack, the space itself remains cozy and suffused with retro charm, with cabaret-style table service from classy cocktail waitresses. Completely unlike anything around for miles, Upstairs at the Van Dyke is a welcoming place with the intimate feel of a secret club.
Tom's NFL American Sports Bar & Grill
Tired of sharing the mike with those pesky beach tourists? For folks serious about karaoke, there's nothing worse than listening to drunken amateurs ruin a perfectly good song. That's where Tom's NFL Club comes in. This relaxed neighborhood bar, the ideal local oasis for the dedicated karaoke enthusiast, has no cover charge or outrageous liquor prices. Instead Tom's offers a weekly karaoke extravaganza for all the would-be jukebox heroes in the city. This attitude-free karaoke night packs every song imaginable, from country to New Wave; the karaoke DJ will likely have your most-wanted song. Sealing the deal, the dedicated but welcoming local crowd will make you feel at home — provided, of course, you can hold a note.
Miami has its fair share of illustrious Latin bands. Still, the sizzling rhythms of Tiempo Libre stand far above the rest. Formed in 2001, Tiempo Libre — Free Time — plays in the style of timba, which blends traditional Afro-Cuban beats with fresh pop genres such as hip-hop, house, and jazz. Known for its ultravigorous live shows, the seven-member ensemble, led by pianist Jorge Gomez, is also a formidable studio band. Their brilliantly produced album Lo Que Esperabas/What You've Been Waiting For is packed with danceable tracks including "Manos Pa'rriba" and more traditional numbers such as "A Bayamo en Coche." That record earned the members a 2007 Grammy nomination for Best Tropical Latin Album. More important, Tiempo Libre's solid reputation as a first-class live band has turned the local boys into in-demand international touring celebrities. Still, the coolest place to catch them is in Miami, where all of their influences come together.
Don't confuse this nautically themed viejo haven with the Los Marinos Restaurant or the Los Marinos Cafeteria. (They all share the same building, painted up kinda like a boat, across the street from the dog track).During the week, this lounge is full of smoky old men playing cubilete for dollars and drinking. On weekend nights, though, it transforms into the most awesome Miami experience imaginable.Things get magical around 8 p.m., when the cast of characters arrives: the cougars (heavy makeup, crimson dresses, peroxide hair), the couples (holding hands, waiting for their chance to tear up the tiny dance floor situated between a pair of battling DJ booths), and the mysterious Señor Amor (a dapper Lothario sporting a white suit and a mullet, who apparently gets the only tablecloth in the house). Ponytails, double-breasted jackets, and blue eyeshadow abound.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®