After an entire year without music festivals, the Bayfront Jazz Festival was an oasis in the desert for those who live and breathe the live music experience. The inaugural edition, held April 30 and May 1, was the first music festival with more than 1,000 people in attendance since the pandemic started. Those who attended were treated to quite a show. From performances by neo-soul vibraphone legend Roy Ayers and jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgestone to the heart-nourishing piano stylings of Cuban master Chucho Valdés, the Bayfront Jazz Festival reminded us of what our music-loving souls have been missing. Here's hoping it was a taste of things to come; the festival organizers at Melrose Media promise a 2022 encore.

Gramps
Photo by Alex Markow

Expect to see damn near anything and anyone at Gramps. The kitschy Wynwood dive bar offers a cornucopia of live entertainment, from local DJs to traveling bands to some of Miami's most beloved queer events (like the drag show Double Stubble). Mirroring the arts district in which it resides, Gramps' outdoor seating boasts walls and walls of murals in a rainbow of colors with dizzying designs. So if you're just looking to hang back, drink some craft beers or cocktails and eat some pizza (yes, they have pizza) while taking in the sights, there's a space for you. Gramps is open every day except Wednesday; hours are noon to around midnight (noon to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday).

North Beach Bandshell
Photo courtesy of the Rhythm Foundation

Despite its prosaic-sounding name, the North Beach Bandshell, designed and built by Norman Giller and Associates, is one of Miami Beach's most recognizable architectural landmarks. It's served as a cultural nucleus since its construction in 1961. In its early days, the bandshell hosted weekly dances, and was once the backdrop for a special winter edition of The Mike Douglas Show. In 2015, the Rhythm Foundation was given the keys to the storied venue, and its mission to grow the bandshell's legacy as a music and community hub took off. In recent years, the venue has played host to acts from around the world, attracting to Miami some of the global diversity it tends to lack owing to its geography, and staging shows by national treasures like Robert Glasper and Big Freedia — always with an eye toward uplifting local talent as well. In the wake of this year's Surfside disaster, management didn't skip a beat, announcing it would pause programming to serve as a relief center for emergency services — proving once again the bandshell's special place at the heart of the community.

Space Park Miami
Photo by Adinayev

The great minds behind Club Space and Bar Lab have created a new, outdoor venue where music lovers can congregate. Since it opened early this year, the Little Haiti venue has attracted an eclectic audience who come for a multitude of activities, from parties to yoga. With a variety of food and drink to choose from and plenty of places to sit and relax, patrons can have a chill time (as long as it doesn't pour down rain). Space Park Miami was the setting for the III Joints event in April and has hosted numerous local artists Rick Moon, Jaialai, and Donzii (to name a few), as well as a wide range of out-of-towners including Omar Apollo, who will perform at the venue on September 18. If you haven't yet checked out a performance at Space Park, consider yourself exhorted.

Plumes of fine cigar smoke hang in the air. A pair of pudgy dudes dressed in guayaberas and khaki shorts puff on premium stogies. Near the entrance of Guantanamera Cigars, a raven-haired woman in a sequin one-piece bathing suit and a Carnival headdress sashays inside, where a crowd packs the small dance floor. Afro 23 is banging out a set that blends salsa and pop beats as revelers knock back mojitos or shots of Cuban rum. Located in the heart of Little Havana, Guantanamera is an intimate live music venue reminiscent of a pre-Castro Havana watering hole. The lineup changes throughout the weekend, with a rotation of unheralded salsa, merengue and reggaeton artists from the Caribbean who play for the sheer excitement of performing for a live audience. Guantanamera opens its doors every day at 10:30 a.m. Closing time is at 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, midnight on Thursday and Sunday, and 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Treehouse

The reopening of dance clubs late last year put into perspective how these venues are more than just places for hedonistic pursuits. They're also places where people come together in a euphoric atmosphere of disco lights and thumping bass. Treehouse reopened last October and quickly recalibrated itself to accommodate the realities of the pandemic. What didn't change? It continued to book some of the best DJs around. Since then, Roger Sanchez, Paul Oakenfold, Aly & Fila, and Markus Schulz have all spun at the Miami Beach spot. And when travel restrictions finally ease up, expect more of the best house, techno, trance, and dubstep producers to look to be invited.

Best DJ
Photo by Bogus Bogey

Alexis Sosa-Toro has been loudly making a name for herself with regular stints at Floyd and Club Space. Performing under the moniker Sister System, she incorporates techno, electro, and ambient elements with a nod to '90s rave music. If you're expecting to hear your favorite EDM hits, Sosa-Toro may not be for you. But if you're looking to get lost during a set that takes you for a ride with nuanced textures and masterful mixing, Sister System will deliver. In addition to DJ'ing, Sosa-Toro serves as Club Space's artist liaison and as manager of Danny Daze's imprint Omnidisc. She's recently opened for acts like i_O, Anthony Parasole, and Autarkic, making her one of the best reasons to get to the club early.

Best Urbano Act
Photo by Greg Watermann

Miami's Urban Latin market evolves every time a revolutionary artist enters the spectrum. In 2021, Miami's own IAmChino is doing everything in his power to bend Latin music to fit his extraordinary vision. The Cuban musician, who got his start as Pitbull's DJ, has always been in tune with a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to reggaeton to EDM and more. In recent years, though, Chino has channeled his Grammy Award-winning touch into his own hit records, igniting radio airwaves across South Florida. Last year he served up singles like "Llamame" and "Miami Party" featuring Fat Nick. This year, he has kicked it up a notch, making waves with with "Ten Cuidado" (featuring El Alfa and Omar Courtz), as well as "Give It to Me" (with Yomil y El Dany, Pitbull, and La Perversa). He even collaborated with the legendary Elvis Crespo and EDM artist Derreo for a rare Latin-inspired dance track. The title of his latest single best describes how he's been doing lately: "Tamo Winning."

Best Latin Act
Photo courtesy of Universal Music Latin

It almost seems like Mariah Angeliq was destined to become a singer. Her mother, an obsessive Mariah Carey fan, named her after the icon. The Miami native signed to Universal Music Latino in 2018, and her star has been rising ever since. It would be easy to classify Angeliq as another urbano act, but in addition to reggaeton and Latin trap, she incorporates elements of R&B and pop. Last year saw the release of her debut EP, Normal, with cuts like "Perreito" and "Taxi." She was nominated for a Premios Lo Nuestro for "Female Breakthrough Artist" and a Premios Juventud for "The New Generation Female" in 2020 and "Youth Artist Female" and "Girl Power" in 2021. And in June, she dropped her single "Bobo" with Bad Gyal and Maria Becerra, a Spanish translation of TLC's "No Scrubs."

Best Pop Act
Photo by Lissyelle

This may be the last year Miami can claim 305-born, Los Angeles-based duo Magdalena Bay as its own. Mica Tenenbaum and Matthew Lewin met in 2011 at Live! Modern School of Music, an after-school program in North Miami they attended as teenagers. Fast-forward to 2016, and the pair came together to indulge in their pop fantasies as Magdalena Bay and released a Miami-filmed video for their cover of Tears of Fears' "Head Over Heels." But it was in 2020 that the duo really started to turn heads, with sites like Gorilla vs. Bear and Pitchfork finally taking notice. They also learned to master TikTok, where their short clips have garnered over 1.5 million likes. Magdalena Bay's debut album, Mercurial World, will drop on October 8, so be on the lookout.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®