Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
Somewhere between lounge, bar, and club sits The Vagabond, a lovably comfy new hangout in the old I/O space on NE 14th St. This is a place with a mission statement unlike no other in town: Everybody is welcome here as long as they dance and have a good time. Just see the club's official slogan: "You are no one. You are every one." Rock kids can come in scruffy Converse sneakers; house heads can show up to jam without worrying about not having an asymmetrical haircut. That's because there's a vibe for everyone in this indoor/outdoor playground, from the mod-futuristic main room to the bohemian-styled front bar to the urban-tiki weirdness of the back patio. The soundtrack can be anything from a mix of cutting-edge dance sounds to throwback soul to garage rock to all of the above, depending on the hour of the evening and the mood of the crowd. Prices, too, are superrelaxed: Well drinks go for $6, a better deal than at the bar's downtown neighbors. Chilled-out and familiar but still fresh and funky, The Vagabond feels like ... well, home.
You know Rachel Goodrich. You were drunk, it was Churchill's or PS14 or wherever, and there was this girl playing music, and you didn't really give a crap, but then you noticed everybody else was paying attention, so you started to listen and — zammee! — you were, like, Holy shit. This girl's pretty good. A blurry minute later, you thought, No, she's very good. Maybe it was the ukulele she brought out; maybe it was the participatory glee she incited when she handed instruments to the crowd; whatever it was, you were digging it. And then the tequila took hold and off to the curb you stumbled — but Rachel played on without you. A Miami Beach native, the 23-year-old musical phenomenon has been writing her own stuff since she was 12 and began performing at age 16. The stuff she's working on these days — music she describes as "shakeabilly" — is a little bit rock, a little bit country, a little bit crazy-woman, and generally a whole lot of fun. Her only regular gig at the moment is 190 Restaurant, every Friday night, but it's not hard to find her playing somewhere on any given weekend. Check her MySpace page for upcoming shows. And if you're too lame to go out and hear her live, she's got an album coming out in a few months.
Six signs of a serious afterhours party: 1. A crowd that goes to sleep insanely early, only to arise around 3 a.m. and then begin getting ready to go out. 2. A hard-core subset of that crowd that won't deign to do afterhours, or even party much, anywhere else. 3. A 24-hour liquor license (!). 4. Marathon sets by some of the world's superstar DJs, from Roger Sanchez to Dubfire, who show up after they've played gigs at regular clubs. 5. International mix CDs named solely for one geographical area — say, a terrace — of said afterhours party. 6. A crowd on said terrace visible from the highway until, sometimes, 2 p.m. the following day. Space Saturdays boasts all of these. Nobody else in town can, and they don't even try. End of story.
Induce is sort of like the dark horse of the DJ pack. What he lacks in superhigh-profile residencies at boring danceterias he more than makes up for in skill, deep musical knowledge, and diversity. A young DJ with an old-school mindset, he's the type of guy who still lives with rooms of old vinyl and who doesn't need Serato to school his weaker peers and move butts. An Induce set is always a tossup because he does with finesse what the best DJs do: plays to the crowd. And because of his encyclopedic mental library, audiences are startlingly wide in range — everyone from indie types at Poplife to hip-hop heads at Purdy Lounge to fashionistas at Gen Art parties to Zen types at The Standard to the swank and pampered patrons at The Shore Club. Just see the track list of his 2007 mix, More Iconic Less Ironic: Eric B. & Rakim, The Cure, the Neptunes, and Stereolab all get equal billing. Meanwhile, he's been garnering web love for his own productions and for his turn as half of the duo, uh, Casual Sax, which has been blessed with Perez Hilton's golden wand. Boring laptop jocks, eat your hearts out.
Shine, nestled inside the glam Shelborne Beach Resort, was a labor of love for DJ Jonathan Cowan, whose family has long owned and operated the hotel. With a veteran dance-floor conductor at its helm when it opened in the spring of 2006, the club quickly distinguished itself for its stellar Steve Dash sound system and even more stellar DJ lineup. For that year's edition of WMC, Shine glittered with luminaries rarely seen in Miami, including Satoshi Tomiie and Frankie Knuckles. But by early 2007, weekly operations ceased and all kinds of rumors swirled — Miami New Times even declared it the "best club to die within the past year."We were all wrong. Cowan was just on a break to take care of family business and retool the club's programming a bit. So last summer, Shine came back with a bang, hosting special events during which the likes of Adam Freeland, Layo and Bushwacka!, and King Britt, among others, graced the decks. WMC 2008 saw the place slammed, with the return of Tomiie, for one, and parties by Ibiza superclub Pacha and legendary label Def Mix. The remainder of the year, the club continues to open for special events, treating local dance music cognoscenti to house, techno, electro, and the rest of the best in new beats. The moral of the story: Patience pays, and Shine still sparkles.
As rumors flew that The Eat was spending a lot of time in a not-so-secret rehearsal space, the collective excitement felt across South Florida's music scene was palpable as far and wide as our hipsters are astute and with it. The Eat, previously named Best Band of All Time by this publication, had not played in about a dozen years, so the news was almost earth shattering to fans. Arguably, The Eat was South Florida's first punk band, releasing in 1979 a DIY single ("Communist Radio/Catholic Love"), which has likely changed hands more times on eBay than there are actual copies. But rarity wasn't the only reason the group's sides sell for hundreds of dollars — The Eat's catalogue is chock full of musical and lyrical gems on par with any chart toppers from that period. Ever wonder how the Miami scene got its bizarre sense of humor? Just pick up last year's It's Not The Eat, It's The Humidity compilation, and it will all start to make sense ... well, more sense, anyway. Those songs influenced young bands (and other funny people) for years afterward. The compilation itself was perhaps the biggest reason Mike and Eddie O'Brien reformed the band with longtime member Kenny Lindahl and newcomer Mike Vullo (substituting for Chris Cottie, who passed away in 2004) to perform to a packed Churchill's Hideaway on Groundhog Day. The band was spot-on, and audience members left with huge grins on their faces. The boys have already played at least one other unannounced set this year and promise more official gigs in the near future. We hope they really mean the actual "near future," not 12 years from now.
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.
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.
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.
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.