Best Drag Performer to Retire in the Past Year

King Femme

Photo by Karli Evans

If you haven't seen King Femme live, you're missing out. (And frankly, we're concerned.) The nonbinary drag king began performing in 2017, flaunting a fierce makeup mustache, occasional lace-front wigs, and the smooth vibe of a '50s jazz bar. In short, they brought the queer, Black, androgynous representation Miami's drag scene desperately needed. From cowboy chic to leather angel, King served as a heroic symbol, especially for gender-diverse people of color. You automatically knew it was a party with King Femme on the lineup. But their drag persona was just half of the craze. King (who goes by Eli Sage Rosenberg out of drag) fundraised and donated free chest binders, publicly documented his medical transition journey, and now educates about mental health, diversity, equity, and inclusion — all in order to encourage others to embrace their authentic selves.

Photo by Vanessa Diaz

Poetry might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Miami's creative scenes. But the O, Miami Poetry Festival continues to challenge that stereotype with its engaging and inventive programming. Held annually with the mission that each person in Miami-Dade will encounter at least one poem during the month of April, O, Miami is a powerful lesson in nonprofit arts programming. Engineered all year long and ranging from large-scale to intimate projects, with ideas sourced from locals, the festival is a testament to community building through the arts. The festival spotlights the poetics of cinema, music, performance, art, and technology. Its dedicated and adventurous staff works tirelessly to create an event that's accessible, equitable, and inclusive. A wonderfully unique and evolving entity, O, Miami Poetry Festival remains one of the city's most imaginative and disarming festivals.

Photo by Adinayev for III Points

In today's cutthroat festival world, everything has to go perfect before making it to year two. Yet III Points has always thrived on adversity, which may be its secret sauce. The latest test, aside from COVID-19, was condensing to two days from its habitual three-day roaster. No biggie. With a restless lineup of purebred talent and a seismic crowd, the festival made up for lost time. III Points brought the Strokes back to Miami from a lengthy hiatus, wooed the crowd with Rüfüs Du Sol, and pushed the limits of one stage with Peggy Gou. Presale tickets for 2022 are on sale and they've already started teasing the lineup by announcing its first headliner: Rosalía. III Points 2022 is scheduled for Friday, October 21, and Saturday, October 22.

Photo by Jason Koerner

Sixty-plus years into its Miami Beach journey, the Fillmore continues to strike the perfect balance. There's so much to love about this 2,500-ish-capacity room, which occupies a sweet spot between mega-venue and teeny-tiny club — its Art Deco allure, its South Beach proximity to post-concert shenanigans, the steady flow of big names rocking its fully equipped confines. Among those to grace its stage in recent years: Madonna, New Order, the Kid Laroi, and Death Cab for Cutie. All of which makes it nearly incomprehensible to imagine living without the place — something we're going to have to do for the next 12 months as construction commences on Miami Beach's new, 800-room Grand Hyatt Miami Beach Convention Center Hotel right next door. It's going to be a long year.

Photo courtesy of the Anderson

Sure, Miami has an endless supply of opulent nightclubs and no shortage of DJs, but if you're a denizen looking for a break from the tiki-tiki sounds of Miami Beach, head to the Anderson. Housed in the former Magnum Lounge, the Anderson continues its predecessor's legacy with nightly entertainment ranging from Latin jazz to reggae, rock 'n' roll, and everything in between. Once inside, you'll time-travel to an analog age courtesy of the venue's retro motif. Grab a seat underneath the glistening disco ball and indulge your ears with the sounds of some of Miami's greatest local acts.

Photo by Alex Markow

While the pandemic forced many local-music institutions to unplug the soundboards, Wynwood's granddaddy of bars, Gramps, has continued to amplify the best acts the South Florida scenes have to offer. The venue has consistently given local acts priority for a variety of exposure— from record-release parties to DJ sets to booking them as openers for nationally touring artists — building a deserved reputation as the place to check the pulse of Miami's native sound. The outdoor stage allows for a larger crowd to dance to the beats or nod along as they chow pizza and slurp beer. And the Shirley, Gramps' more intimate back room, has become a refuge for occasional jazz jams.

Okay, the Flamingo Theater Bar at the Four Ambassadors is not a "club," per se — but it regularly books some of the best Latin music-centered shows in the city. The theater, along with its sister venue, La Scala de Miami (also located in the Four Ambassadors), has artists from Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, and Puerto Rico grace its stage, keeping Miami's diasporic communities connected to their cultures. ChocQuibTown, Jacob Forever, Carlos Varela, Julio Iglesias, Jr., Los Amigos Invisibles, and Daniela Darcourt have all performed here. And while it's not a nightclub, that doesn't stop people from getting up and dancing at shows. Tickets are typically priced in the $50 to $60 range but be aware that you usually have to spring for a whole table. (Some tables are two-seaters.)

Karli Evans

It is hard to believe that only five years ago, applicable adjectives to associate with Club Space would have included "seedy" and "grimy" –– in other words, flat-out unwelcoming. But ever since new owners took the reins, the club has dusted off the curtains and let the sun shine through to the terrace. Disco balls and lasers, hanging foliage and a cigarette-free environment, plus star-studded lineups that rival Ibiza? Who's to quibble? Space ushered in a residency with Macro Carola, and brought Ricardo Villalobos (twice) and the legendary Carl Cox. The twin tricks to the club's success: collaboration and investing wisely. Space interact with the community via free weekly yoga, sound buffering, and a scholarship fund. The sound system levels every room with bass and leavens 'em with pristine hi-hats, but to dance there is to experience club culture as it used to be: for everyone.

Photo by Ro Orozco

A DJ's humble beginnings are seldom graceful. The success rate is modest: discordant transitions, lack of studio equipment, sound saturation. This, of course, pegs the meteoritic rise of Layla Benitez as an outlier. In little time, she has released EPs featuring her hot-pot blend of afro and deep house on big-name labels and has entertained crowds on the international scale. The Miamian debuted at Coachella this year and is set to take to Ibiza's White Isles — all while maintaining her resident duties at Club Space. Undoubtedly, being the daughter of legendary dance-music virtuoso John "Jellybean" Benitez adds a buffer to her learning curve, but Layla's music is unquestionably her own. She spins deep, akin to the South African-infused music of Black Coffee that is inherently hypnotic for sunset/sunrise hours. Often, you have to go to club X in Miami to find the "Best DJ" spin—but if you're so inclined, just buy a ticket to any spot, and you'll likely hear Benitez's spin under the sun or moon.

Photo by Elizabeth Vianale

Dance culture has always revolved around hustle. Hustling to play the clubs, to release music, to get heard. INVT duo Luca Medici and Delbert Perez make the game look too easy. The 24-year-old Miami natives have taken underground dance music by storm with their nightmarish jungle and dubstep combos that link to the more traditional Latin and South American genres like reggaeton and cumbia. The sounds are cryptic and distorted, often driving the listener toward introspection. The team has self-released nearly 100 tracks along with pushing their own fashion brand. They've also collaborated with locals including Nick León and Coffintexts. The British DJ Ben UFO recently dropped their track "Sopla" in his latest Essential Mix, and they're set to join U.K. legend Skream in June. INVT's shining star is its live show, whose sets come equipped with a thick layer of analog gear and drums. Hands move quickly and heads bop in sync. Yep, stone-cold hustle.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®