Best Intimate Music Venue 2022 | The Anderson | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
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.

Photo by Luis Vallin

On "Move Along," Mellow Rackz doesn't hold back. "The things I do ain't right/But I can't do no wrong/Yo bitch pulled up with no cheese/But pussy provolone/He fuckin' asked for my number/Type the digits wrong." It's evident the Young Money signee is pure South Florida. She has sex appeal to spare, but don't you dare cross her or you won't live to see another day. Rackz first made headlines thanks to her short-lived engagement to controversial rapper Kodak Black (see "Best Local Boy Gone Bad"), but since then, she has proven she's more than arm candy. Her flow is gritty yet full of braggadocio. Seriously, Mellow, give us the album already!

Photo by Yajaira Sattui

On her latest track, "How You Feel?" Natalie Foucauld brings her experimental indie-pop sound closer to the hyperpop aesthetic that's taking over the internet. It's not a huge leap for Foucauld, who has been taking pop music to exploratory extremes under the moniker Le Poodle. On the aforementioned track, Le Poodle and producer Richy B incorporate trip-hop and R&B melodies with a stuttering bassline. Foucauld's vocal delivery is also reminiscent of PC Music princess and proto-hyperpop act Hannah Diamond in that glossy imperfection, revealing a certain vulnerability often absent in mainstream pop. Overall, Foucauld's musical output is sparse, but when she releases a song, you can't help but be in awe of her natural talent.

Photo by Sophia Liv Maguire

Singer-songwriter Ryahn's music has a '90s quality that TikTok teens are going gaga over these days. But far from giving off a vibe that the 24-year-old is usurping trends she wasn't even around to witness, Ryahn is surprisingly genuine. Perhaps it's her husky voice that evokes comparisons to Toni Braxton, or that she looks so effortlessly cool in a Dionne from Clueless sort of way. Now based in Los Angeles, the Fort Lauderdale native seems destined to dominate the charts if the public catches up with her. On "Happening Again," her collaboration with Miami-based collective Frut, Ryahn makes a case for chart-topper status as she frolics against a beautiful California backdrop.

Gaiya's vocals are as effortless as her style. The Miami-bred singer sounds like a soulful cross between Amy Winehouse and Celia Cruz — a lethal combination in a rising young Latin star. Her live performances are electrifying; Gaiya feels the music moving through her as she lights up the stage, to the point where it's impossible not to find yourself swaying along to the beat in your seat. Best of all are the times when she riffs vocally during a set. That's the moment you know the music has overtaken her and it's about to sweep up the audience, too. Catch the songstress performing around town at places like the North Beach Bandshell and the Doral Yard. She's also a frequent performer at Isabella Acker's Tigre Den studio. Follow her via Instagram (@gaiyaoficial) for the early word on local appearances.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®