What do you get when you cross a wiry, tattoo-covered Vincent-Gallo-look-alike batshit frontman, slashed-speaker Stooges-style power chord freakouts, and gigs at places such as adults-only female wrestling events? Pure fucking rock and roll, that's what. Mad Martigan can't even be bothered to put up a song sample on its MySpace page, but if you hit the local circuit enough, you will encounter the group. And if you're weak, the band's raw power will send you running back to the baby's corner where you belong. More room for those of us who are ready to hail the homecoming of balls-to-the-wall, whiskey-fueled madness.
For a while, only the most intrepid venue owners and clubbers ventured to the edge of Overtown around NE 14th Street and North Miami Avenue. For several years, the medium-size indoor/outdoor club I/O flourished there, and then tiny watering hole PS14 opened a couple of doors down. Alas I/O closed, leaving PS14 alone. But then the megaluxury palace Karu & Y opened a couple of blocks west, to extreme skepticism, to say the least. Somewhere along the way, the strip of NE 11th Street known as the "Park West District" became a wall-to-wall strip of high-traffic spots, and at least the nightclub part of the Karu & Y complex did okay. The sparkly-white bohemian joint White Room opened on NE Miami Court, the old Ice Palace studios began hosting the occasional event again, The Vagabond took over the old I/O space, and not so suddenly there was an honest-to-goodness club district on the mainland. And unlike their glitzy counterpart left behind on the Beach, the areas around Overtown and Park West offer something for everybody, from scruffy artsy parties to strip club debauchery to live bands to superclub afterhours. It's the kind of patchwork nightlife playground, relatively free of pretension, that made Miami Beach cool the first time around. Maybe on this side of the causeway, we'll get it right this time.
Churchill's Pub
Alexander Oliva
Who would've thought that a weekly night of quieter, strummed sounds would turn into one of punk dive Churchill's best-loved regular events? Well, local duo Raffa and Rainer, the brains behind the operation, must have had some idea. They've created a weekly Wednesday event that's as warm and welcoming as a group hug yet still attracts topnotch talent. Everybody gets a shot at the opening part of the night, a true open mike, with a scheduled performer taking the stage later. Since the event began last summer, it has attracted all the local luminaries, including Rachel Goodrich and Jesse Jackson, and even unexpected, uh, softer sets from acts such as Fitzroy, the Down Home Southernaires, and MJ of Awesome New Republic. Out-of-town guests, too, have gotten in on the act, including a somewhat baffling recent appearance by Michale Graves, former vocalist for the (post-Danzig) Misfits. In fact, CYRALS has established itself as a sort of friendly local proving ground. If a song can make it here, regardless of genre or electronic hookup, it can make it anywhere.
We never thought Poplife would really go away. Hell, the party/crew/local-culture juggernaut can take the lion's share of credit for launching the city's indie-type scene, back when it was a little gathering called Life at an art gallery in Coral Gables. Since then, it's turned into a watermark (brand sounds so crass) for progressive, creative thinking in a city that can seem so intent on anything but. Which is why we got a little worried when the Saturday-night soirée ditched its longtime digs at the now-defunct District, moved to a restaurant on Coral Way, and then seemed to grind to a halt. It semi-returned, absorbed into the short-lived Dirty Disco collab at Pawn Shop, but the vibe just wasn't the same. Thankfully, our worrying was for naught. The minds behind Poplife were just turning the wheels and working on bigger projects still to come, and the party returned to much fanfare last fall, with a new home at White Room. It's continued doing what it does best — exposing its crowd to next-shit acts that later blow up, stretching minds and genres at once.
La Paloma
Cocktails are weird. They're prim, in a Mamie Eisenhower kind of way, and yet they're meant to get you sort of drunk before you eat.Plus they're kind of expensive. So don't try to beat around the bush by drinking your cocktails somewhere cheap and normal. Go to La Paloma. You've seen it before; it's that restaurant on North Biscayne Boulevard that's covered in Christmas lights.Step inside.The décor will make you feel like some kind of Swiss duke. There are cabinets full of strange porcelain dolls. Heavy wooden furniture and red carpet abound.Enjoy your white Russian (or whatever) slowly. It's going to cost you about 10 bucks.
Monty's Sunset
Sometimes you just want to kill everyone in Miami. The traffic, the sweating, the general idiocy.Cool down there, chief. You need to get your ass to Monty's. Enjoy a quiet beer on the water's edge. Stare out past the marina and watch the ships go by. Contemplate the vastness of the ocean and the insignificance of your worries.Or order a bucket load of margaritas and a half-dozen oysters, get yourself good and drunk, and giggle at the people getting their scuba certification in the swimming pool. They look like little seals!Soak up the sweet abandon of faux island tunes being pounded out on the keyboard by the guy in the Hawaiian shirt. No need to get angry. Life is but a Jimmy Buffett song.
"This is the best radio station in Miami," says DJ Bo. "Go ahead and change the station — I dare you." This is old-school, Miami-style pirate radio from the hood. "Fire it up and get loose," he says. "It's time for some booty music." He plays hip-hop songs at high speed, so they sound as if the Chipmunks were rapping in the background. He talks over the beat — "For the love of God, say what?" — and takes calls on the air, always asking the same three questions: (1) What neighborhood you represent? (2) What school you represent? And (3) Who is your best friend for life? Don't be afraid. Give him a listen and a call.
Tobacco Road
Tobacco Road has provided a venue for local artists, and booze for its loyal patrons, for what seems like an eternity. (Actually, in Miami, the club's 96 years comes pretty close to eternal.) But The Road stands out among its competitors for more than its longevity; you'll be tapping your toes and rocking out any day you walk in. The open-air patio provides the perfect festival atmosphere, even if there is only one band playing. Sure, Tobacco Road isn't as seedy as it once was, but what centenarian is?
Shuckers Waterfront Bar & Grill
Photo courtesy of Shuckers Bar & Grill
Dark, macho, foul-smelling sports bars are easy to find in every American city. What makes a great sports bar is its ability to incorporate the style of the town into its atmosphere. This is the beauty of Shuckers Bar and Grill: There aren't too many burgs where you can sit outside comfortably to watch a December NFL matchup. The bar and bay-side patio are lined with flat-screen TV sets, so you can sit and sip a rum runner by the water while you watch the Dolphins lose ... again (sigh). The food is good and cheap and includes all the sports bar standards — chicken wings, peel-and-eat shrimp, burgers, and fish platters. But the location, on the 79th Street Causeway, is what puts it over the top. You can park your car in the Best Western lot and just follow the smell of fried grouper to the back dock, or pull up in a boat, tie off, sit down in front of one of those flat-screens, and get your cheer on.
Located in Little Haiti, Take One Cocktail Lounge is ghetto-fabulous. It's a place where thugs chill, a small strip club with the stage directly behind the bar. The smell of ganja fills the air, and the staff makes you feel welcome. Most of the patrons are locals, and the strippers have some of the biggest booties you will ever see. One of these hot mamas has "100%" tattooed on her left buttock and "Beef" inked on the right. Go ahead and stick a dollar bill into her butt crack. She will shake that rump in your face. Oh, the joy of being smacked with some big ass and titties. Order a drink and consider getting the most inexpensive lap dance in Miami ($10). She will dry-hump you, bumping and grinding until you are satisfied. The DJ plays nothing but hip-hop; songs with lyrics like "Slob on my knob, like corn on the cob" create the perfect ambiance. Admission is free, but please leave your guns at home. Owing to a number of shootings on the premises, the bouncers will pat you down before you enter.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®