Miami is known for nightlife, parties, and no-holds-barred crowds that are down for anything. We are brash, loud, passionate, and not exactly known for subtlety.
Isabella Acker and Pola Bunster of Prism Creative Group, a local PR and events company, see these qualities as endearing attributes of our city but want to introduce a concept they find lacking.
"It's so often that music in general is an afterthought," Bunster says. "The Listening Den is kind of our way of making the whole reason that you're going to this event to listen to music and to be in the moment and not worry about what's the next drink you're going to order or what are you going to say to the person next to you or 'Oh my God, I have to post this on my Instagram story,' but instead that you're listening to some highly curated, really great live music."
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Acker cites venues catering to bar sales as a big factor in the lack of listening spaces in Miami. Venues often look for upbeat Latin or rock bands that can keep the drinks flowing and people dancing. This, she says, can ultimately lead to the perception that Miami cares little about live music. "If you're watching a live band, it's generally because you're going to be dancing salsa or it's part of a happy-hour networker. It does create this thing where at the end of the day musicians feel disrespected; then it creates a domino effect [so] they want to move to L.A."
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To remedy the issue, Prism Creative Group, along with Ace Prop House + Studio, came up with the Listening Den, a sit-down concert series that centers on singer-songwriters. And it's serious about making sure audiences treat musicians with respect.
"When people walk in, there will be a sign that states all the house rules, like 'Be present' or 'Don't talk while the artist is performing.' Even our vendors and the bar will really try... to not take drink orders while a song is happening. These are artists that are a little more quiet. I don't want to hear a shaker shaking ice while this girl is belting this beautiful ballad."
Adds Acker, "We think there's an opportunity... If you create the scene, if you create this moment where people really get to sit down and all they want to do is listen, [they'll] do it."
The Listening Den, With Macy Todd and Keith Johns. Thursday, August 31, at Ace Prop House + Studio, 398 NE 78th St., Miami; 305-756-0888. Admission is free with RSVP via eventbrite.com.