Best Live Music Venue 2019 | Olympia Theater | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Jessica Gibbs

In a city as young and dynamic as Miami, few venues have as much history and staying power as the Olympia Theater. Opened in 1926, it has survived decades of cultural shifts and even a World War. Although it might be best known for its comedy shows and as a host venue for the Miami Film Festival, the Olympia has beefed up its musical repertoire over the past couple of years. Recent musical performers have included Joe Jackson, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Postmodern Jukebox, and the Mavericks.

Readers' choice: The Fillmore Miami Beach

Photo courtesy of the Rhythm Foundation

From experimental Argentine folk-pop to left-field jazz to dubbed-out Caribbean sounds, the North Beach Bandshell, helmed by nonprofit talent booker the Rhythm Foundation, continues to provide community-focused music programming in Miami Beach, even as other cultural venues fade away. In the past year alone, the charming, open-air amphitheater — which in 2009 was named to the National Register of Historic Places as a gem of Miami Modernism — has hosted countless seaside concerts, like the New York Times-acclaimed GroundUp Music Festival and the Miami Reggae Festival. While the Rhythm Foundation clearly has an ear turned toward innovative world sounds and the goal of fostering cross-cultural connections for Miami's residents, it hasn't forgotten about the city's wealth of homegrown talent, often pairing the best local acts with international headliners for a more dynamic bill. Favorite Latin electro-pop duo Afrobeta opened for headliner Juana Molina last September, Spam Allstars set the mood for a special Valentine's Day evening earlier this year, and local group Nu Deco Ensemble performed its alternative orchestral arrangements alongside visiting Grammy-winning Afro-pop artist Angélique Kidjo. Even if you've never heard the performer's name, you can rest assured tickets to a show at the Bandshell will grant you admittance to a one-of-a-kind cultural experience in a gorgeous setting that puts locals — and local acts — at the forefront.

The original Le Chat Noir was a watering hole for late-19th-century Parisians, but in 2019 it's a hole-in-the-wall in downtown Miami. There's a whole lot of joie de vivre in this joint, with live jazz from up-and-coming savants and internationally recognized musical masters alike featured throughout the week. Plus, there aren't many places in Miami with cellars, making this intimate music venue all the more charming. And if you're hungry, Le Chat Noir has you covered with affordable paninis: $12 includes a salad or soup of the day plus cheese and charcuterie plates. As for wine, bien sûr, there's plenty of it, because nothing goes better with live jazz than a glass of vin. Summer hours are 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 6 p.m. to midnight Sunday. Live music begins at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Wednesday nights at 7 p.m., Pub 52 in South Miami is where you can get your dose of bebop, smooth jazz, free jazz, Latin jazz, and a bit of the blues. Each hump night, the gastropub hosts Jazz and Blues Wednesday, inviting jazz lovers to check out Miami's vibrant scene. Among the acts that perform here on the regular are the Alan Aldao Jazz Quartet, Mike Levine, the Lindsey Blair Quartet, and Brazilian jazz band Rose Max and Ramatis. Best of all, there's no pretension at Pub 52. Its low-key, chill atmosphere lets purists, aficionados, and newbies dig into the music while nursing a cold beverage or hot meal. Hours are 4 to 11 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight Wednesday and Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.

Alouette Photo
Danay Suarez

Over the years, Miami has unfairly earned a reputation as a subpar live-music town. But all one has to do to break out of that faulty line of thinking is hop over to one of the Afro Roots Fest's shows. And, yes, that's plural. Because the Afro Roots folks are not simply satisfied with a day- or even weekend-long affair, the festival's performance schedule often goes on for months leading up to a final blowout. In 2018, when the fest celebrated its 20th year in Miami, curator Jose Elias took the show on the road, with performances from Jupiter to Key West. Now in its 21st year, Afro Roots is celebrating across South Florida once again, this time spotlighting women in world music. This season's performers have included Cuban singer and poet Danay Suarez at the Seminole Theatre in Homestead and Malian singer and guitarist Fatoumata Diawara at the North Beach Bandshell. Afro Roots' concluding showcase will include a performance by Elastic Bond at the Murray Nelson Center in Key Largo June 29.

Photo by Adi Adinayev

Just as Miami's coastal areas are endangered, so are the city's evolving nightlife spaces. As gentrification has encroached on areas once considered undesirable, nightclubs that once took advantage of few nearby residents are now finding themselves threatened by noise complaints. Nowhere is there a better example of this phenomenon than in Miami's once-thriving Park West neighborhood, home to the city's 24-hour nightclub district. For 19 years, Space has been a pioneer of the area, and parties continue every Saturday. In 2016, the club went under new ownership led by veterans Davide Denese, Coloma Kaboomsky, and David Sinopoli. The trio has been able to inject new life into the grande dame of Miami nightlife, bringing with it a refreshed sound that focuses more on what's bubbling up from the underground. They also rechristened the downstairs room as the Ground — a live-music venue — while Floyd acts as a space for alternative electronic sounds that perhaps aren't yet ready to be heard upstairs. Hours are 11 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday and 11 p.m. Saturday to Sunday afternoon.

Readers' choice: Electric Pickle

Guillaume Raberin

"Sweet Caroline/Good times never seemed so good." Yes, Neil Diamond's catchy 1969 track is a karaoke cliché at this point, but Brickell's Sweet Caroline Karaoke Bar leans into it hard, because who doesn't love a great sing-along? Since the closure of Studio at the Shelborne, there hasn't been a true dedicated space for amateur singers to belt out tunes to group of strangers. That's because unlike the Japanese-style karaoke bars that have opened as of late, Sweet Caroline doesn't offer any private rooms. In fact, the bar is pretty tiny, so the crowd will sit up close as you croon your off-key rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody." If you want to reserve a table, do it well in advance. Tuesday is comedy night hosted by Miami Comedy, featuring buy-one-get-one-free drinks with RSVP. Wednesday is ladies' night, with select drinks free from 6 p.m. until midnight. Signature cocktails — such as the Hey Jude (bourbon, Amaro, Campari, and lemon) and Purple Rain (peach, raspberry, orange juice, pineapple, and red wine) — cost $12. Hours are 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

Readers' choice: Sweet Caroline Karaoke Bar

Karli Evans

There's a punk ethos to Miami's newest generation of drag queens, kings, and queer performers. These performers don't necessarily emulate the divas and pop icons of yesteryear, as generations before them have done. That's still fair game, but Miami's younger drag generation is doing for drag what the Ramones and Sex Pistols did for rock 'n' roll: They're making it easier for the average person to get involved in the cultural moment. Counter Corner is where many of these performers' wildest ideas are born. They often try their acts out on the crowds who gather monthly at the Corner, and audiences respond in kind with their own elaborate getups. At Counter Corner, everyone is welcome — and you're just as likely to see a baby queen trying out her lace front for the first time as you are to see the vets show them how it's done.

Karli Evans

The Miami queen who gifted the city with the multiday drag festival Wigwood — which New Times honored with the title of "Miami's Best Festival" in 2018 — is the glue that binds the Magic City's newest generation of queer artists, performers, and partiers, from South Beach to the mainland. Whether she's teaching kids how to sew at the public library, curating a queer art exhibit in collaboration with Hôtel Gaythering, or welcoming any LGBTQ+ in need into her House of Shame, the slender, bearded, and always chic Queef Latina (Antonio Méndez out of drag) is altering the fabric of queer Miami forever.

Readers' choice: Karla Croqueta

Alexander Guerra

Located inside a hip hotel and sauna, this SoBe hot spot offers two interior bar rooms with plenty of space for mingling and dancing. Modeled in the spirit of a sexy summer camp lodge with long wooden communal tables, Gaythering also boasts some of the area's most thoughtful programming, such as queer film screenings and themed discussion nights where the community can come together over topics ranging from politics to HIV treatment. If you're looking to hone your domestic skills, stop by for one of Queef Latina's sewing classes and learn how to craft your own jockstrap. Hôtel Gaythering also recently recruited Karla Croqueta as its host for Monday-night karaoke, so start practicing those tunes in the shower.

Readers' choice: Twist

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Best Of Miami®