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.

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.

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.

Traditionally in Miami, all the top Latin clubs have resided somewhere in Little Havana, but this year there's a new sweet spot. Downtown's newly christened 90 Degree is now boldly bringing Latin vibes to the house-music-oriented club strip on NE 11th Street. Every Saturday night, the place's Sábados Elegantes party jams with the latest reggaeton, merengue, and old-school salsa. Even better, the downtown venue is getting into live music, recently throwing a concert by the legendary Gran Combo — arguably one of the greatest and most acclaimed Latin orchestras of all time. With more live performances on the way and the finest Latin DJs in town keeping things moving, 90 Degree is an undeniably central destination for Latin rhythms in Miami.

Before Set opened in 2007, ultra-lounges such as Mynt and Mokai were popping up everywhere, aiming to taking over the Beach's — and the Opium Group's — high-end clientele. So what did these mega-club wizards do? They created a monstrous lounge with minimal dance-floor space but plenty of couches for VIPs looking to consume copious amounts of liquor. It's a place full of contradictions that has us in a constant love/hate relationship with the venue. We hate it because it's more difficult to get through Set's doors than it is to get into the Jonas Brothers' pants, and because drink prices ($12 for a standard well vodka and mix) make us wish Bernie Madoff had persuaded brothers Eric and Francis Milon and Roman Jones to invest in his Ponzi scheme. But we love it because there is never a shortage of superstar DJs taking over the decks; among those who have performed here are Benny Benassi, Fedde Le Grand, and Miguel Migs. And it's so luxuriously decorated you feel like the excess of wealth might rub off on you. In other words, we love to criticize, but we are secretly envious every time we aren't taking part in the fun.

As the Opium Group expanded to national locales in New York and Las Vegas, the last thing we expected was a new addition to its Miami Beach portfolio. But 2008 brought exactly that with the introduction of Louis at the Gansevoort South Hotel. And while most beach hotel lounges are slickly integrated into the lobby or pool, Louis takes guests completely out of the Gansevoort to a place where 18th-century French aristocracy meets contemporary urban hipster. And it's topped off with a dwarf in full Napoleon regalia walking around the space. It's dark and cavernous, with touches of hot pink and regal wallpaper. The door policy is just as hollow as its sister clubs, but for some reason the payoff seems greater when you gain access. Yes, everyone is gorgeous, and bottle service will get you noticed, but if you're content with hanging out at one of the two expansive bars or cheering on whatever DJ is spinning, your pathetic normalcy is quickly forgotten.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®