Best Intimate Music Venue 2023 | Savage Labs Wynwood | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

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.

Photo by Adinayev

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.

Photo courtesy of Over Under

Do you like piña coladas? What about getting caught in the rain? If you're looking to find other folks who enjoy singing their hearts out to yacht rock classics and the like, then head to Over Under some Wednesday around 9:30 p.m. Toward the back of the room, you'll find a chill crowd of karaoke enthusiasts, fortified by their own self-confidence and/or liquid courage. Pick your poison, choose your favorite tune, and shoot your shot. Likely as not, you'll be back for more. It's addictive.

Photo by Alive Coverage for Ultra Music Festival

After the travesty that was Ultra Music Festival's brief sojourn in Virginia Key in 2019, followed by COVID-19 cancellation in 2020 and 2021, one would have been forgiven for thinking the star-studded, internationally renowned festival might have lost its way. But big-name DJs, top-quality stage production, and mind-bending pyrotechnics have returned to Bayfront Park. In 2022, Ultra reclaimed its reign as one of the supreme leaders of the festival world. And this year, the throngs saw the return of dance-music legends such as techno club DJ Carl Cox, trance idol Armin Van Buuren, and superstar trio Swedish House Mafia. Next year's tickets are already on sale.

Photo by Christian Torres

Sugar, spice, leather, and spikes. New Jersey-born Octavio Aguilar (AKA Dope Tavio) designs clothes that differ from your summer suits and honey mango-colored sundresses. His designs are a shock-and-awe campaign of ruffles, layers, stripes, and polka dots laid bare in black and white. Each Dope Tavio piece is a statement better suited to a rave or punk show than, say, your nephew's bar mitzvah. Aguilar has gained support from the likes of Patricia Fields and made it through some tough rounds on Project Runway two years ago. If the material can be altered, Aguilar will find a way to manipulate its contours.

Marrying millennial angst with a retro '70s vibe, Dee Wahlung's illustrations are a trippy fever dream of anthropomorphized telephones and empanadas, wavy fonts, and rainbow colors. After getting her start as a ghost designer for a local wall décor brand, the 28-year-old has transformed her illustrations into prints, stationery, and household items for a client list that includes Restoration Hardware, West Elm, and Nordstrom. She now oversees the art direction for international lifestyle brand and works as a freelance designer for local shops like Gilded Moon jewelry and Great Oak Tattoo.

Whether she's launching a new product or designing a magazine cover, Reyna Noriega imbues each project with the colorful and whimsical Caribbean-Latin flair from her heritage and upbringing in Miami. After a stint as a high-school art teacher, the Florida International University alum went to work as a freelance graphic designer. Her unique illustrations soon graced the covers of the likes of the New Yorker and Science magazine. More recently, Noriega partnered with the hair-accessory brand Goody to design Caribbean-inspired hair tools for the Goody Tru collection. She's now collaborating on a swimwear line with Nomads and the Clif Family Winery's limited-edition 2021 Napa Valley red wine blend. Noriega hopes her art can inspire other BIPOC women to live unapologetically. "We are deserving of peace, joy, happiness, and confidence where we're at right now," she says. "It's not something we have to break our backs to achieve. I want women to feel empowered to embrace that aspect of their lives and cultivate it all around them."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®