In the depths of West Kendall, just past the chain restaurants your parents love, lies a layer of pride buried beneath the manicured surface. People are proud of not only the awesome happy hour at Bahama Breeze but also of the wealth of major talent on the rise.
Rewind to 2007, when hometown heroes Jacuzzi Boys' Gabriel Alcala and Diego Monasteri found their humble beginnings at Kendall's Felix Varela High School. Black Tide (founded under the name Radio in 2004) also got started in Kendall. The band recently reunited at Churchill's for a one-time show.
In 2015, New Times wrote, "There’s a pocket of Miami’s music scene that is alive and kicking, but usually flies under the radar, overshadowed by the loud and flashier parts of our city. Maybe it’s because many of the live shows are put on in backyards due to the lack of appropriate venues in the area." That sentiment still holds true when it comes to Kendall.
Musicians often spent their formative years playing shows at places such as the now-defunct strip-mall venue Kaffe Krystal, warehouses, and house parties. In recent years, Lucid Gallery near Tamiami Airport has also provided a space for local artists and bands.
So, does living in the suburbs affect a band's music career and trajectory? New Times sought the answer from three bands with members who reside in Kendall.
Palomino Blond, composed of Carli Acosta (vocals and guitar), Kyle Fink (vocals and guitar), Raven Nieto (bass), and Jake Karner (drums), is a young and hungry indie-rock band. The four met while playing backyard shows in previous groups.
Like other band members, Acosta threw parties at her house in Kendall while growing up. Hers were dubbed "Spec Haus" and included local acts performing on her patio. Acosta reminisces, "It was really pivotal for me growing up that my parents allowed me to do that at our home and all the other people whose parents opened up their houses to a night of such debauchery."
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The band's outlook on its geographic location is positive. "I think if you let yourself get so down and out about living in the suburbs and the fact that everything is moving so slow, you're just getting too in your head about it," Acosta says. "You have to focus on the art, focus on making it really, really good, because that's the only criteria for gaining a following... There's definitely an audience out here... but of course one day I would love to move to a major music city."
Her bandmates echo her sentiments. Karner says, "I do believe Miami is pretty disconnected from everything else, and even bigger bands don't come this far south to play... If more big bands came down here, there could be more opportunities for, I don't know, opening acts even or getting picked up."
Fink adds, "I actually really like it because it's a quiet place with not a lot going on, and it's just fertile ground for me to collect myself and create ideas and just recharge and then go out to the louder areas."
Nieto says proudly, "One of the greatest things about being from suburban kind of heaven is that we have energy, we're not surrounded by chaos... but we don't have enough outlets."
"I don't think living in a suburb is so much my handicap as it is living in Miami," Kris Alvarez of Firstworld says. "I've never really been a big fan of how Miami treats its local bands." He explains that some venues try to get away with not paying bands and feels that they don't appreciate the city's local musicians.
Hot on the heels of his debut six-track EP, I'm Right Here, he finds the internet helped him jumpstart his latest project after his first single landed on Spotify's official "Fresh Finds" playlist last year.
Alvarez says, "There are so many great bands that have come out of [Miami], out of Kendall, that no longer exist because... it's grueling to make ends meet as an artist down here... I eventually have to get the hell out of here if I want to be a real player in whatever I do next."
Alvarez credits venues such as Las Rosas and Bougie's as being some of the best in town. He holds the Talent Farm, the now-defunct Pembroke Pines venue, in high regard and deems it a venue that embraced community. "The day we even have a Talent Farm-esque type of venue down here is the day that Miami really, really, really, really makes a push for the better. Everybody that worked in the Talent Farm, from the staff to the promoters, everybody worked with the artists' interest in mind," Alvarez says.
Garage-rock outfit SunGhosts has been on a meteoric rise in the 305 over the past few years. It was dubbed both Miami's and Kendall's best band in 2015. Members gelled while taking music business courses at Miami Dade College's Kendall campus.
SunGhosts singer/guitarist Nik Olas reminisces, "I've always loved indie rock and like garage rock and that whole genre, and it wasn't until I went to Miami-Dade that I met a shit ton of kids that also liked that kind of music... That's when like the house show scene kind of started for SunGhosts playing with AstroMaps, Sigh Kicks, and all these bands, and it was such a great time."
In 2015, the band released “Til the City Goes Under," a single with an accompanying video that talks about what it's like being a band in Miami. He chatted with New Times that year about the song and said, "During my first ten years as a gigging musician, having been in three different bands before SunGhosts, I learned a lot about Miami and its music scene. I’ve seen a fair share of sketchy promoters, sketchy bands, sketchy venues that disappear months later, and even a sketchy record deal. But those have only opened my eyes, allowing me to truly see the hustling promoters, hardworking and talented bands, and iconic venues."
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He doesn't think living in the suburbs is necessarily an issue. Olas says, "I can imagine if you lived downtown and you're in the middle of the art scene or lived in the Wynwood area, then you might be prone to more opportunities because you're in the thick of it and you're always there. A lot of it is just being there and being around other people, and opportunities and doors open... It's just not in person now; now there's a whole digital parallel... There are so many ways to progress the business that it doesn't matter if you live in a small rural town of population 500 in the middle of nowhere — you can make it."
For now, Olas says, the band doesn't have any plans to leave the Magic City. "We've heard from friends that live in other cities that it's very much, like if you wanted to move to Nashville or Austin or one of these places, New York, L.A., it's very much like throwing yourself into a sea of oversaturated musicians because there are people that have lived there and they've been busting their asses, and here we come thinking there's going to be opportunity everywhere, and, you know, maybe there is, but also there are plenty more people looking for those opportunities, and they've been there longer."
Palomino Blond. With DiIvories, the Ruffans, Deux Pooch, and Dénudés. 10 p.m. Friday, July 20, at Churchill’s Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Tickets cost $5.