Apparently, size matters. In the past year, either owing to locals' thinning wallets or attempts to evade tourist traps, smaller and more personable venues have made a huge comeback. Giant nightlife staples once reigned supreme, but today's world is slightly different. Many local partiers are searching for smaller locales — or maybe they've just grown tired of the $20 parking, $20 cover, and $20 drink charges. This past December, the price to be in the presence of Lady Gaga and one of her science-project outfits at Miami's larger-than-life Fontainebleau Resort was $425 — for general admission. That's a lot of money to spend for a night out dancing alongside a slew of sunburned out-of-towers seeking photo ops. And then there are those MTV reality-show characters who keep making appearances with their camera crews at Miami's mammoth clubs. Yet there are many night spots throughout the city where cover charges either don't exist or are minimal, and the crowds are purely local. Try explaining the Electric Pickle to a foreigner. Or check out the recently opened Cafeina in Wynwood. Maybe Miami's after-darkers have become recessionistas. Or perhaps they believe they are too good to mingle with tourists. Whatever the reason, the town's holes-in-the-wall are enjoying the love.
AJ the R&B General is a man who frankly speaks his mind. Take, for instance, this come-on from the song "Ape Sex": "Baby, he might have good sex/But, baby, I got ape sex/I hit it like boom, boom, boom, ah, ah." Then, on "Professional Dancer," he sings, "The way she work that pole is so amazing/All the money in my pocket she gon' take it/I ain't never seen nothing so beautiful naked." And of course, there's the sweeping chorus: "I'ma throw my money at her." And finally, from the most blush-worthy entry in the AJ oeuvre, "Satisfaction": "Sitting on my face/Love the way you taste/Gripping on your waist while I'm making my tongue say/La la la la la la."But the 24-year-old crooner somehow gets away with it all, thanks to a talent for writing scarily catchy melodies and choosing ultrahigh production values, mostly bolstered by beats by local producers Phat Boy Beats. He also has a mellifluous tenor that holds up live as well it does on record, a rarity in a sea of industry wannabes.
At the beginning of the year, Sweat Records announced a contest for amateur filmmakers to create a video for local sweetheart Rachel Goodrich's latest single, "Lightbulb." The winner would receive bragging rights and $500. Thirty-seven artists uploaded their entries to YouTube for Sweat and Goodrich's consideration. The song, like much of Goodrich's work, is quirky, unthreatening, and full of kazoo. It's sunny and hummable enough to land in a Crayola commercial. So most of the would-be video directors submitted similarly twee clips and animations. Not Lucas Leyva, the young, upstart member of the local Borscht Film Festival. The Miami native is diehard 305 till he dies, and his version went for reality. Filmed in the streets of Wynwood, the video shows a gang of street children on bicycles, tattoo artists, and thugs with gold vampire teeth — all lip-synched along to Goodrich's happy-go-lucky tune. Some are loading guns or rolling dice. Oh, and between each of these vignettes, there's plenty of booty-clapping for emphasis. The entry was completely unexpected, and the predictable offended comments on YouTube were as funny as the concept itself. Leyva scored second place in the contest, but he's the winner in our book. (You can see it by searching Leyva and Goodrich on YouTube.)
If you're older than 25, you might remember the now-defunct Friday-night party Off the Radar, an indie/electro/what-have-you night organized by Poplife founder Ray Milian. It was never much of a success, partly because it was way ahead of its time and also because it changed venues too often. Milian, though, isn't a man who surrenders easily. He has put all the musical knowledge to good use to give Miami its answer to popular music blogs such as Gorilla vs. Bear and Stereogum. Off the Radar (the blog!) boasts Milian in the DJ seat, but instead of a turntable, he uses Blogger. He receives help from a group of contributors including Lillian Banderas, Caroline Geys, Michael Unger, and Erika Ordoñez. Though the majority of the blog doesn't focus on Miami music, it offers plenty of downloadable tracks for connoisseurs with more developed palates. In other words, if you're expecting this blog to discuss Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, move along.
Musicians Discount Center
Photo by Arlenis Brito
As music goes cold and digital, an ever-growing contingent of music fans and artists is turning back to the snap-crackle-pop of vinyl. For those who continue buying actual physical music, the big surprises of an actual record far outweigh those of the disappointing CD. And of course, vinyl will likely always appeal to obsessive collectors. But most crate-diggers in town are reduced to doing so virtually or picking through mounds of holiday-music albums at thrift stores. This is no longer so if they head to Cutler Bay, miles from hipster central. In a strip mall next to a sports bar lies Musicians Discount Center, which, at first glance, looks like just what it is — a small, family-run musical instrument store that's a decent place to snag your first guitar. But head to the back of the main room. There the store sells crates upon crates of old vinyl collections. It's a curated one, though, and it's a digger's paradise, with records conveniently sorted by style but priced as though they were still languishing next to those holiday albums. The average price is $5. Gaze upon first pressings of New Order 12-inches from the '80s, paw through early hip-hop LPs by acts such as Kool & the Gang, or snap up rock classics by artists such as Chuck Berry and Santana. Just don't spread the word too much — oops.
Lily's Records
With three Miami locations, Lily's Records is the center of Latin music in the city. The main store — located on Calle Ocho — remains a busy intersection of all things Latin. Even in these hard economic times, people line up for new releases and appearances by their favorite artists. Big international names — such as Calle 13 — along with local up-and-coming artists make Lily's their main stop in Miami. And not only are the shops up-to-date on all the trends, but also this is the place to get your fix of classic salsa and other old-school greats. Whether it's Latin jazz, pop, or old-time tropical, all three Lily's locations have what you're looking for.
La Casa De Tula
You don't have to look hard to hit this hot sweet spot. Situated in the center of Miami's comeback kid, Calle Ocho, it's the ideal place for folks in search of authentic Latin rhythms. The venue offers top live orchestras, such as the three-time Grammy-nominated Tiempo Libre. Even better, La Casa de Tula has one of the most spacious dance floors in the area. The club also offers an open patio that serves as a nice chill-out mecca for dancers who want to rest and mingle. The venue truly comes alive during the Viernes Culturales art walks, held the last Friday of each month, so be sure to check it out.
Let's face it: Rock clubs per se have a rather tormented history in Miami. In order to survive, venues need to either moonlight as discos or stop strictly curating their lineups. Oh, of course there's Churchill's, but that's an institution, seemingly likely to survive unchanged into the next century. Other than that, most so-called clubs are expensive anyway. The real best places to catch underground rock shows are at warehouses, and there is one for almost every micro-scene. There are the semiofficial spots for the all-ages pop-punk and post-hardcore circuit; the supposed art galleries that are little more than raw space; and the living-working spaces that open their doors to strangers. These spots change names and open and close faster than print allows, but head for the forgotten parts of town. There you'll find the most fun shows for the least money. Good places to check for listings are sorawfestival.com, which maintains an events database of its own and other promoters' shows, and the blog for the Guest Lab (guestlab.tumblr.com), an artsy-minded collective that hosts shows at the venue of the same name, as well as shares information about others.
Miami has a fickle music crowd. Your chances of winning over an audience increase only if you are behind turntables at a megaclub. When Art Basel Miami Beach organizers took a risk in booking British avant-garde R&B-meets-punk songstress Ebony Thomas — AKA Ebony Bones! — it definitely piqued our interest. This postmodern Grace Jones had barely played in front of American crowds, let alone those in Miami. After Yelle's lukewarm reception in 2008, Thomas gave the event the avant-garde jolt it needed. What worked in Thomas's favor was the international crowd that usually makes up any Basel event. Plus her performance featured an enormous backing band, colorful outfits, and an out-of-this-world performance that made it hard to look away. Couple that with an infectious melody that felt retro yet contemporary, and the concert was a highlight during a week that has become Miami's South by Southwest.
Everything about Karu & Y seemed wrong from its 2006 opening date. There was the mysterious name, the molecular gastronomy menu, and the confusing layout with concentric rings of warring nightlife "concepts." Then, of course, the most glaring problem: It was a sprawling luxury complex where the average cocktail cost $15 — in Overtown. The moneyed patrons who would frequent the same club on different turf were at first afraid to go; if they confronted their fear, they were escorted by security back to their cars. Everything was tumultuous from there. Chefs were hired and fired, the restaurant closed permanently while the club stayed open, and marquee-name concerts were promised and then failed to materialize. The biggest weekend of the year for the club always seemed to come during Winter Music Conference — a few days' stretch definitely not inhabited by locals. And then, this year, there wouldn't even be WMC for the club. Days before Conference, with little fanfare, party promoters announced the club had been swallowed back into the sprawling event space from whence it came — the formerly next-door Ice Palace Studios. And with that, the median drink price instantly plummeted.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®