Kendall Backyard Shows Created More Than Just a Grassroots Community

A Polaroid snapshot of the all-girl punk band Landica at a house show in 2014.
A Polaroid snapshot of the all-girl punk band Landica at a house show in 2014.
Catherine Toruno
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When I was growing up in West Kendall, my parents used to take me to spots such as the Kendall Ice Arena, Don Carter's bowling alley, Dandy Bear, and Flippers arcade. Those spots were amazing, but as I outgrew them, I had to find something else for entertainment in the suburbs.

At the age of 17, I was invited to my first backyard/house show only a few minutes from my home on Kendall Drive. Little did I know that walking through a side gate into a stranger's yard would change my life. Seeing the young crowds share a passion for live music gave me an instant feeling of freedom and belonging. The faces became more familiar as I frequented more backyard shows and eventually participated as a drummer in a band. There was no limit to the genres, bands, and people that were welcome at these shows. Some acts would play at every show, and others were welcome to perform for the first time.

I'm now 23 and my drumming days have passed, but those experiences attending backyard shows continue to affect my life. I've made lifelong friends and will always feel part of a community of Kendall kids. No doubt these shows ignited a passion for music in many other people. A good number of those bands no longer exist, but some of their members have moved on to new projects that play at venues in Miami, release albums, and tour. That band you caught last week at Las Rosas might have roots in the Kendall scene. Some musicians and fans have moved on to work in the arts. The experiences stayed with them, and now a new generation of Kendall musicians keeps backyard shows alive.

Former psychedelic/jam band Satori Kings at a Kendall house show in 2014.EXPAND
Former psychedelic/jam band Satori Kings at a Kendall house show in 2014.
Catherine Toruno

Oscar Acosta is a Kendall homeowner who opened his backyard for house shows in 2014 and 2015. He's the father of Palomino Blond singer/guitarist Carli Acosta. She would host shows at her family's home, once dubbed "Spec Haus," when she was in the band Long Shore Drift alongside her sister Caitlin and their two cousins. All members of Palomino Blond knew one another early on from playing with various bands in the Kendall music scene.

It might seem a bit bizarre for a parent to welcome up to hundreds of kids into his backyard, but Oscar would disagree. "It's inevitable that parents sometimes project their own wishes and desires onto their children," he shares. His dream to become a rock star didn't come true, but he knew he could make his wish a reality for his daughter, first with Long Shore Drift and now Palomino Blond. It helped that he blasted rock music constantly in their home.

"I'll support her as much as I can," Oscar says. He foresaw the positive effects these shows would have on the scene and his family, so they decided to start the shows and eventually hosted at least six. The backyard shows became a tradition. "It was a whole family affair... Some families go to Disney World; we set up the house to throw a show." 

Long Shore Drift at "Spec Haus."
Long Shore Drift at "Spec Haus."
Stephanie Czalpa

When opening your home to a bunch of local kids to party to live music, there are bound to be some bad apples. "One show, there was a mosh pit, and one kid got slammed because he got too aggressive and he lost his tooth," Oscar recalls. The Acosta family banned booze in the backyard to avoid underage drinking, and Oscar would even patrol the neighborhood to make sure everything was in order. However, they couldn't always avoid noise complaints. "It was rather civilized and we were very lucky... The police showed up maybe two or three times, but of course that's inevitable. What kind of party is it if the police don't show up?"

Although the days of hosting shows at his home have passed, Oscar Acosta continues to support his daughter by attending all of her local shows. "[Parents] should get more involved, especially if their kid's music is good, and generally, if it's coming from Kendall, it'll be good."

Many of today's Kendall bands prefer to take the more professional route, eschewing backyards in favor of neighborhood spots such as Tea & Poets and Spanish Marie Brewery, as well as Miami venues such as Las Rosas and Churchill's. Yet the tradition and spirit live on in other Kendall acts: The band Mahogany Purple puts on a series of backyard shows aiming to connect bands with fans and other artists.

Mahogany Purple at Tea & Poets in Sunset Place.EXPAND
Mahogany Purple at Tea & Poets in Sunset Place.
Nicole Melich

Before forming Mahogany Purple, guitarist Gabe Garcia, age 20, frequented house shows and eventually felt inspired to perform his music in front of others. "Just by going to the shows every weekend, I started meeting everybody there... It's really a grassroots thing where you talk to everybody. Every time there's a new band on the scene, you would go out to watch them and end up becoming friends.

"I played music throughout high school, but what really gave me the confidence to become a songwriter and performer was going to these shows and seeing people that lived in my community were doing it, so I guess I could do it too," he shares. "If it wasn't for those shows, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today."

What makes Kendall such a perfect place for these backyard shows to thrive? Perhaps it's the distance away from the city that gives people the feeling they can do what they want, or the common suburban drone that sparks the energy for young music lovers to wild out in a stranger's backyard. Either way, the 305 should be proud of the music that comes from Kendall.

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