Best DJ (Dance) 2023 | Nii Tei | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
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Hit 'em deep in the heart and keep 'em moving: That's the name of Nii Tei's game. The Ghana-born DJ moved to Miami a decade ago, but his inspiration from home never faded. Merging electronic music with Afro influences, Nii Tei produces a sound that adds oomph to any set. Tei's hypnotic sets sucker-punch the crowds at Club Space, Floyd, Eagle Room, and the local party series Coconut Groove. His modus operandi is one part homage to dance culture and one part devotion to the sounds of his youth. The new father took a short break but he's back and he's not hard to miss: round eyeglasses, a big smile, and a head that bops up and down to the music he spins oh, so well.

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Every Saturday night, Red Rooster's pool hall, the Shrine, pulsates with a fusion of Afrobeat, Amapiano, and Caribbean rhythms so hypnotic that by midnight the dance floor's completely packed with gyrating bodies. It's all thanks to Cameroon-born Aya (Leslie "Aya" Ayafor) who's often perched inside the DJ booth manning the 1s and 2s. Ayafor credits Kwaito, a subgenre of South African house music from the '90s, for influencing his signature sound, which has become a crucial note in Miami's diasporic nightlife scene. You can also catch him at his monthly party, Stamped. "It feels great to offer a space where it's unapologetically African," Aya says. "Stamped is not just a party. It's a community. It's a celebration of not only African music, but everything African."

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There's a new club in town. Don't worry — you don't have to dish out $3,000 for a table. At Domicile, a threadbare venue nestled deep in Little Haiti, $20 for a ticket is usually all you need to drip sweat from every pore until 5 a.m. surrounded by punks, goths, depraved ravers, and photophobic creatures of the night. The median BPM runs close to 140 inside, but there's an area out back to chill out and water is reasonably priced. The club has hosted techno's dark royalty, including Rebekah and Aadja, making it a long-awaited home for DJs who spin too fast for anywhere else. Fair warning: Domicile is usually 18-plus, but mixing with kids is a small price to pay (did we mention the price of admission?) for an authentic warehouse-club aesthetic in this skyscraper-plagued city.

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Sister System (Alexis Sosa-Toro), True Vine (Santiago Vidal), and Jonny From Space (Jonathan Trujillo) have been painting the town with ad hoc parties throughout Miami and even the Everglades. But the trio's monthly residency at Floyd, dubbed ODD (as in Objects Don't Dance), features the underground's best sound cache of downtempo, left-field, psychedelic, and techno, including Danny Daze, Ben UFO, and Aurora Halal, with prime spots from locals. LED tube lights are installed for each party in a different pattern that flickers and bounces across the ceiling in sync with the music, imbuing the flowery, pink space with a dark and eerie vibe. The objects might not dance, but the people sure do.

Perreo Galáctico is an amorphous, shape-shifting party. It pops up in a new venue and with a different theme biweekly, but the one crucial constant is the thunderous blast of Daddy Yankee, Wisin y Yandel, Rauw Alejandro, and other reggaeton legends. This traveling Latin bash was started by TikTok sensation Karen Ponce; previous perreo themes have included Y2K, emo night, cowboys, and aliens. For the scoop on where they're popping up next, check the Instagram account. You can reserve tickets ahead of time or buy them at the door.

Amid the tourist-luring murals and selfie-takers of Wynwood, there is at least one haven for locals: Savage Labs, a small music venue where patrons sometimes sit cross-legged on the floor just a few feet from live acts when the velvet sofas reach their capacity. Come for the tunes from up-and-coming Miami artists but stay for the community vibes. Claustrophobes, fear not: It's intimate but there's always enough wiggle room to dance and a lush outdoor patio if you need a breath of fresh air. There are usually products by local small businesses available for purchase, too.

Photo by Mathew Messa

Lately, Miami has seen the closing of a lot of live venues that booked local acts — Churchill's Pub, Las Rosas, the Center for Subtropical Affairs (its replacement, Understory, hasn't been booking local bands with any regularity). In their absence, a no-frills South Florida sports bar — yes, a sports bar — has stepped up to become our town's new local music hub. For the most part, the Sand Bar + Kitchen in North Beach feels like your run-of-the-mill South Florida sports bar. But if you go through the back door and courtyard, you'll stumble across the SandBox, the bar's live-music space, which boasts black-box theater vibes and an impressive sound system. Emerging bands regularly play here on the weekends, and there have even been a few raves and burlesque shows. Local acts that have graced its stage include Johnny Dread, Glass Orange, the Creature Cage, Foxgloves, and Iliad. Bar owner Tim Wilcox deserves a parade for giving the community a live music venue when it needed it most.

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It was uncclear how Factory Town would fare after Miami Springs abuelos and nine-to-fivers complained that sound from the Hialeah club carried to their nearby Mayberry and deprived them of sleep. But beats prevailed over litigation, and Factory Town's team — owned by Club Space and others — now works with municipal governments to keep the noise dialed down at every event. Though the venue might seem out of place among the warehouses and body shops, Factory Town flexed its muscles with an engrossing visual display and star talent during Miami Music Week, Art Basel, and on New Year's Eve. The club can accommodate three different stages simultaneously and boasts the obvious essentials: VIP amenities, artwork, food booths, a party bus, and room to spare.

Photo courtesy of the Rhythm Foundation

Designed in 1961 by MiMo architect Norman Giller, the Miami Beach Bandshell has been described as "a futurist take on the Roman amphitheater." But instead of gladiators, the open-air beachside venue hosted roller skaters, movie nights, and ballroom dancing for seniors. Sweeping renovations included a customized sound system in 2009, and a canopy (designed by Giller's son, Ira Giller) to protect guests from the bright sun or rain. More recently, the venue has become a live-music aficionado's paradise, hosting myriad genres from hip-hop to classical music, and artists from as far away as Sweden (thanks for coming, pop singer Tove Lo!).

When the Center for Subtropical Affairs shuttered last year, it left a saxophone-shaped hole in the community where it's open-air jazz night used to be. When the owners of the intimate downtown restaurant Jaguar Sun (and some friends) opened Understory, they didn't just bring a rotating roster of exciting new chefs and community events (yoga, poetry, figure-drawing classes) but added a weekly jazz night, too. On Thursdays the folks at Miami Jazz Bookings curate Jazz in the Jungle, which brings local and touring musicians to a small outdoor stage. Some nights the sounds are funky, other nights are more bass-heavy, but there's nothing more romantic than listening to the improvisational beats in the subtropical air with crunchy gravel beneath your feet and string lights overheard. The cover is a more-than-reasonable $15.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®