Die-hard Ramones fans will readily admit it doesn't take a lot of technical skill to faithfully reproduce the New York punk rockers' power-chord assault. What it takes, though, is a kind of scrappy joy that revels in that simplicity and harnesses it into a slap-happy party. South Florida's Rockit to Russia has plenty of that, as well as a near-obsessive devotion to the Ramones oeuvre. Not only have the members individually renamed themselves as Ramones (i.e., Nicky Ramone), those Ramones then, uh, play the real Ramones (i.e., Nicky Ramone as Joey Ramone). Heck, the guys of Rockit to Russia have even commented on New Times' music blogs in "character" (think, typing a lot of "Gabba gabba hey!"). You have to admire that kind of dedication and also the musicians' equal-opportunity spirit. They're quick to point out on their MySpace page that, among them, they speak Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, French, Italian, and Japanese — perfect for all of your multiculti Ramones booking needs. Hey, ho, vamonos?

This quartet's appellation is as plugged-in, fuzzed-out, and likeable as its lo-fi garage punk.

Best Band to Break up in the Past 12 Months

The Remnants

Since the Remnants' inception around 2004, the foursome had been a live favorite across the South Florida rock-dive circuit. The group was a grimy, swinging, rock 'n' roll outfit, led by firecracker frontwoman Cynthia DuVall, that described itself — quite appropriately — as "the Who fronted by Tina Turner." In fact, in 2005, New Times awarded DuVall Best Female Rock Vocalist, describing her as "the ass-kicking, sass-spewing, rock-star love child Janis and Iggy never had." Alas, day jobs and other real-life concerns led the Remnants to finally call it quits last year, giving South Florida a little less maximum rock and soul to go around.

It's been a good year for South Florida's quirky local indie darling, Rachel Goodrich, what with a glowing shout-out from the New York Times this past November and her official debut appearance at South by Southwest in the spring. It was all well deserved and timed with the October 2008 release of her debut full-length, Tinker Toys. Like the actual Tinkertoys, the album is sophisticated in its simplicity and a whole lot of fun. A real lover of whimsy, Goodrich eschews the typical singer/songwriter guitar in favor of a wider swath of instruments, applying liberal doses of harmonica, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, xylophone, and even kazoo. She toys with her voice as well, shifting from a breathy whisper to an almost bluesy sigh, sort of like Billie Holiday gone twee-pop (just try to imagine it). Rather than insufferably charming, though, the result is mentally indelible. For all her faux-naif trappings, Goodrich is an astonishingly mature crafter of melody, able to cinch clever wordplay and slightly hippied-out narrative into a recognizable pop structure. Occupying a rare creative space between the experimental stylings of acts such as CocoRosie and the polish of VH1 faves such as Sara Bareilles, Goodrich should soon rightfully take her place as South Florida's Next Big Thing.

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®