The underground metal cognoscenti revered the 2005 self-titled debut album by heavy hometown heroes Torche for its melodic take on sludgy sounds. But it was last year's followup, Meanderthal, that won the band a wider audience and even more critical praise. (And even though at the time the album was recorded, half the musicians lived outside of their hometown, we'll still claim 'em.) Torche kept the down-tuned riffage cranked to 11 but at the same time explored more left-field influences, with shades of My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth brought to the fore. It earned the group prime-time slots at a slew of international festivals, as well as glowing reviews from Mojo, Spin, Pitchfork, and pretty much every other magazine. On a bittersweet note, the record is also the last capturing of the band's classic lineup; guitarist Juan Montoya, who wrote a large chunk of Meanderthal's riffs, was booted last year. Luckily, the album remains as evidence of Miami's best recent heavy exports in their prime.

South Florida had two kinds of rock aficionados in the '80s: those who whined about the barren wasteland before them and those who thanked their lucky stars for a musical oasis named Charlie Pickett. In reality, the scene wasn't quite that bad, but mention Pickett to a roomful of veterans, and you'll find a diverse assortment of grateful fans. Whether they liked the blues, punk, country or straight-up rock 'n' roll, there was Pickett (and various friends) grinding out a wicked set of originals and covers that pleased everyone. Thirty years down the pike, Pickett still owns the stages around town, and now he has a new anthology: Bar Band Americanus: The Best of Charlie Pickett and... It serves up a warm introduction to long-out-of-print hits and other great moments from Pickett's distinguished career as a Miami institution. It's a must-have for any local music connoisseur. Yet as great as this CD is, the fury and fun of a live Pickett show don't quite translate to vinyl or plastic. It's at the bar where it all really kicks into overdrive. Pick up this gem; then go see Pickett play.

Best Music Festival to Die in the Past 12 Months

Langerado Music Festival

The sudden cancellation of the Langerado Music Festival this year was one of the sadder events of the local scene. Critics, however, would say it was expected. Long ago (well, in 2003), Langerado began as the brainchild of hometown promoters Ethan Schwartz and Mark Brown. At first, it was an informal jam-down at the smallish Young Circle in Hollywood. By 2005, it had blossomed into a two-day event at the larger Markham Park in Sunrise. But it was still an informal jam-down based on communal camping and dancing till the wee hours to tripped-out sounds from the likes of Umphrey's McGee and String Cheese Incident. Later years saw the festival grow even larger in attendance and length (three days). It also became more inclusive in its musical lineup, inviting a host of indie-rock (Vampire Weekend, the Walkmen) and even hip-hop luminaries (Beastie Boys, the Roots). The jam-band crowd, however, fretted that the festival was losing its original soul, and all message-board hell broke loose when organizers announced the 2009 edition would take place in downtown Miami. There would be no camping, and the lineup would be decidedly less jammy — its headliners including acts such as Snoop Dogg and Ryan Adams. The result? Poor ticket sales — so poor that Langerado pulled the plug barely a month before the assigned date. It remains unclear whether it'll bounce back in time for a 2010 edition. Langerado, we hardly knew ye.

Once upon a time, Ultra was a one-day beach party, a rogue daytime rave coinciding with the annual Winter Music Conference. Some 11 years after its birth, though, it has morphed into a two-day, multistage extravaganza that long ago received the official WMC blessing; it's become an international destination on the festival circuit. Every important electronic act has played at Ultra, and many of the biggest names — such as Tiësto, Paul van Dyk, and Carl Cox — have made it basically a requisite annual gig. And with the live performance bookings of the past few years — the Cure, Bloc Party, Perry Farrell — Ultra's promoters have wisely helped expand the masses' notions of dance music. This year, an estimated 70,000-plus revelers attended. And can that many people be wrong about a good time?

When was the last time you went to Bayfront Park for any reason — besides attending a music festival, showing around tourists, or boarding a casino boat? If you can't remember, don't worry. The folks at the Miami Downtown Development Authority gets it. So this past spring, they started the DWNTWN concert series at the park. On regular early Friday evenings, the DDA has booked some of Miami's best live favorites to play a series of free sunset concerts. Shows have spanned genres and demographics, featuring everybody from young party-starters Afrobeta, to live-circuit staples Spam Allstars, to Latin greats such as Conjunto Progreso and Arturo Sandoval. With hot music and cool drinks from the pop-up full bar, a DWNTWN show is truly a happy hour in paradise. Stay tuned to the DDA website for the opening date of the next round.

Sure, there're the AAA, the Arsht Center, the Knight Center, and all of those wonderful monsters that fill our downtown. They are loud and cool and we love 'em. But the White Room, ah, the White Room! It has welcomed plenty of local acts to play on its modest stage, including Otto von Schirach, Astari Nite, José El Rey, Kill Miss Pretty, and many others. Some of the out-of-town acts that have played include Gravy Train!!!!, Calvin Harris, Chairlift, Free Blood, ADULT., Rye Rye, Amanda Blank, and Gameboy/Gamegirl. And while the setup might not exactly be Fillmore-esque, we haven't heard anyone complain.

Danny Daze has been doing the DJ/producer thing for a while now, but he has definitely been getting plenty of attention. He spends as much time on the decks at clubs around the nation as in Miami, and when he's here, you can catch him at South Beach bashes such as LIV's Wednesday-night Dirty Hairy party and Rokbar's Good Clean Fun on Thursdays. He really shines during rare downtown sets at the Vagabond and White Room. Freed from the shackles of the Beach's Top 40 inclination, Daze delivers raw and energetic sets that are drastically different. And there's more. He sometimes produces his own music and works with Midwest DJs Joe Maz and Gigamesh as part of the production trio DicoTech — which has produced remixes for the likes of Kanye West, All-American Rejects, and Chris Cornell. And, oh yeah, he's working on his new collaborative project with Gigamesh — Señor Stereo.

Specs Music

For many among us, there's nothing better than walking into a well-stocked record store and discovering a cool new artist. And while there's nothing wrong with getting music through the computer, there's still something magical about a real record palace. This being Miami, one of our most cherished record stores caters deeply to the Latin music aficionado. Located between Sunset Place and the University of Miami, Spec's offers a Latin music section that stands as one of the best in the nation. The shop's extensive selection covers everything from tango to reggaeton and those classic romantic Mexican boleros. Cooler still, the used CD section offers deep discounts on many top-selling and rare albums. So whether you are into the latest Calle 13 reggaeton rump or on the hunt for some unusual old-school Latin recording (that's not available on iTunes), the place to hit is Spec's in Coral Gables.

Churchill's Pub
Alexander Oliva

Churchill's has pretty much stayed the same for 30 years while fancier newcomers have come and tanked. Why? Because the place has stuck to the magic formula of successful, no-frill rock clubs: a strict commitment to live music (no bullshit DJ nights), cheap drinks, and regrettable bathrooms. Pretty much anyone can play here, and as any number of local micro-scenes are born and die, they all, at some point, touch on Churchill's. Anything goes here, from sold-out shows by touring blog-buzz bands, to experimental theater, to low-budget porn shoots. So the place, thankfully, seems to repel gentrification. It's a good bet that after the nuclear holocaust, the survivors will still gather at Churchill's, blithely awaiting the first of ten bands to go on at midnight.

The upstart warehouse venue Goo is quickly becoming something of a Churchill's Junior, with a bustling near-daily schedule of music and art shows. The important distinction, though, is that this place is strictly DIY — no bar and earlier start times make it friendly to the underage crowd. Still, it's no kiddie playground; there are plenty of clued-in legals showing up to hear multiband bills that largely fall along the punk/hardcore spectrum. Goo is a no-frills operation run purely out of love by volunteers, so please, please don't screw it up by acting like a jackass.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®