Despite its reputation as an international party capital, Miami could improve as a live music destination. We certainly attract our fair share of triple-A acts (many of whom end up performing at the AAA), such as Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Chance the Rapper. But because of the distance from the next major touring city (Atlanta), many bands and artists that aren't obscenely rich either wait for festivals like III Points, Rolling Loud, and Ultra or skip South Florida. For much of the year, music fans end up with slim pickings.
And that's a shame, because Miami has the potential to become a music mecca. There are venues catering to acts of every size and persuasion and a population large enough to ensure that fans will turn out year-round. Below is a list of ten acts in a variety of genres that, for whatever reason, have never performed in Miami. Whether they visit on the festival circuit or their own tour, Miami can definitely find a spot for them.
There is a very clear, disturbing reason Björk has never performed in South Florida: It was the home of her stalker. In 1996, Ricardo López of Hollywood sent the singer an acid bomb hidden in a book in an attempt to disfigure her. After sending the package, which was intercepted by police before reaching the pop star, he filmed his suicide, shooting himself in the head as "I Remember You" played in the background.
It’s been 20 years since the incident, hopefully enough time for old wounds to heal. Despite any bad mojo surrounding Miami in Björk’s mind, the Icelandic artist’s bizarre yet undeniably beautiful visual sensibility would fit right into the art world’s wild vacation spot of choice. Imagine the extraordinary spectacle she might put on at the Arsht Center or the Fillmore or maybe even the New World Center.
2. Fleet Foxes
Beards, weird instruments, an affinity for the ancient world — these are not things one associates with Miami. But they are all part of the Seattle folk-rock band Fleet Foxes' milieu. And though the band's vibe might be more piney than palmy, the music, complex and endearing with searching lyrics and gorgeous instrumental arrangements, fits in well here. With the impending release of Crack-Up, their first album since 2011, the band will be on the road, and promoters should work to make this odd combination of setting and players work here. How about a magical evening at Bayfront Park Amphitheater?
How mad were you when, upon hearing about Lorde’s Melodrama World Tour, you scanned the list of dates and discovered, mouth agape, that no American shows had been announced? OK, maybe the odd West Coast festival made the cut, but still, what the hell?! We can only hope that, when the inevitable American leg is released, the New Zealand pop star will grace us with her gothy presence. That way, you and 20,000 of your closest friends will be able to belt out “Royals” and “Green Light” alongside the queen of alt-pop.
4. Aphex Twin
Ultra Music Festival, meet your next great headliner. The elusive English producer has played live only a handful of times since resurfacing for his 2014 album, Syro. But when he does perform, such as at London’s Field Day festival a few weeks ago, he brings the place to its knees through dazzling visuals and crushing acid-house and techno beats. Think Miami already knows what it means to rave? Think again: A bit of Aphex acid will teach us a lesson we’ll never forget.
5. The National
Here’s another of those bands that has seemingly played everywhere but Miami. Maybe it’s our lack of a true rock festival (SunFest is close, but it’s always been more eclectic and mainstream, less “indie” and more “alt”). But even so, it’s inexcusable. We are severely lacking in upbeat-yet-morose rock featuring a deep-voiced, suit-wearing lead singer named Matt Berninger! This year is the National’s opportunity to make amends. The band has an album due out in the fall, and a tour should soon follow. Throw us a bone and play the Fillmore, guys.
6. Godspeed You! Black Emperor
These guys were espousing pessimistic, anti-authoritarian political commentary about the decay and corruption of Western civilization before it was cool. Named for a Japanese documentary about biker gangs, the Montreal collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor has taken depressive, apocalyptic symphonic rock around the world, but never to Miami. Fellow postrock group Mogwai made an appearance at the dearly departed Miami club Grand Central in 2014, so there’s definitely an audience here for this kind of music, and GY!BE is the standard-bearer. Expect harrowing string arrangements, guitar crescendos, and bizarre films projected behind the band.
7. Car Seat Headrest
This generation of indie-rock bands includes a great crop of plucky little groups like Frankie Cosmos and Japanese Breakfast that could easily fill this list and sell out rock clubs such as Gramps, Revolution Live, and the Culture Room. But we’ll stick to one, and we’ll pick the best. Car Seat Headrest’s 2016 album, Teens of Denial, was the culmination of years of Bandcamp recordings by singer-songwriter Will Toledo, with songs on millennial suburban malaise that still sound superfun. His live shows are raucous and cathartic, and you might catch a cover of Radiohead, the Smiths, or even Frank Ocean.
8. The Avalanches
We don’t even need the full live experience from these guys. A simple DJ set would be enough to display the encyclopedic, omnivorous approach to music that caused them to work on their album Wildflower for 16 years. Sixteen years! The Australian band finally followed up its legendary 2000 album, Since I Left You, itself a revolutionary hip-hop/dance fusion and a benchmark in sampling, last year, and through it didn’t quite match their debut, it at least got them performing again. Judging by cell-phone concert footage, we think their shows look like a bombastic good time.
With every rapper under the sun coming to Miami to either party at LIV or Rolling Loud, it might be time to look across the pond for new talent. Grime, the South London rap genre blending icy beats and wicked bars, is making inroads in the States thanks to fans such as Drake. III Points has already booked Skepta for this year's October edition, and coming up next is Stormzy, whose debut album, Gang Signs and Prayer, hit number one on the U.K. charts. Coming off a stellar performance at this year’s Coachella, the young MC would be a smashing addition to any festival lineup.
10. Omar Souleyman
In nearly every photo of him, Syrian musician Omar Souleyman wears the same thing: a red-and-white-checked keffiyeh, a long dishdasha robe, black shades, and a thick mustache. It’s the attire of a living legend, one who began as a wedding singer playing the energetic music known as dabke and has become a festival-circuit fixture with hundreds of recordings. Since the breakout of war in his homeland, he’s released three proper studio albums and performed around the world. You might not understand his lyrics, but if there’s one thing that defies borders, it’s a dance beat. And rest assured, he always sings about love.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.