4
Nicolas Jaar at III Points 2015
Nicolas Jaar at III Points 2015
Photo by Karli Evans

The Best Miami Concerts and DJ Sets of the 2010s

Even as the last ten years saw Miami's music and nightlife scenes undergo a series of seismic shifts, the city still made time to host a number of incredible shows. Although the DJ reigns supreme here, a number of live acts also left their mark on the minds and memories of Magic City concertgoers. It takes a lot for bands or rappers to come here — usually, festivals like Ultra and III Points or international showcases such as Art Basel do the trick — so when our faves do show up, we make sure to show our appreciation. The 2010s saw pop superstars, electronic music pioneers, indie rockers, and more grace our city's stages and DJ booths.

Check out our favorite concerts of the 2010s below:

Nicolas Jaar at III Points, October 10, 2015

It was the first day of III Points 2015, and the A/C had broken down at Main Frame, the festival's stage located inside of Mana Wynwood. The convention center quickly became a sweat-filled dungeon, and it was going to take nothing less than a miracle to keep the crowd from swarming away in search of a cool breeze. Enter Nicolas Jaar, who began his DJ set around midnight by dropping Steve Reich's 1966 experimental opus “Come Out.” The ten-minute-plus vocal loop was the a test of patience for the shirtless crowd. A beat eventually kicked in, and Jaar proceeded to take the crowd on a surreal and funk-filled odyssey for the next three hours. Thumping bass lines and obscure samples flooded the speakers, with more recognizable cuts such as Jaar's then-recent release "Fight" and How to Dress Well's "Words I Don't Remember" occasionally rearing their heads. As he wound through his myriad influences and vacillated between funky rhythms and glitched-out arrangements, the hunt for track IDs took a backseat in order to take in the totality of what the Chilean-American artist was assembling. As if by magic, the A/C kicked in during the end of his set. — Grant Albert

Jay-Z and Kanye West as Watch the Throne at American Airlines Arena, November 15, 2011

Before Kanye West was a Bible-thumping Trump supporter, he was the heir apparent to Jay-Z's Roc Nation. The two rappers ruled side-by-side with their collaborative project Watch the Throne in 2011, and followed the record up with a headline-grabbing international tour that created a new standard in live hip-hop performances. Rather than pit Jay or Ye against one another for top billing — or even rotate the lineup from show to show — the then-super friends shared the stage for a massive 40-song set list that mixed Watch the Throne originals with their own solo hits. On the night of their Miami show, the duo slammed the crowd with jams including "Otis" and "H.A.M." before Mr. West left the stage to leave Jay to rock "99 Problems" and "Dirt Off Your Shoulder." Kanye later reappeared on a pillar in the middle of the Arena floor for renditions of "Touch The Sky" and "Heartless." My personal highlight of the night was when West's Graduation single "Stronger" turned into a straight play of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," which was then mixed into Justice's "D.A.N.C.E" and eventually "On to the Next One" from The Blueprint 3.

But the biggest and wildest moment of all came at the end of the night, when Jay and Ye played "Niggas in Paris" five freaking times in a row. The crowd could have heard it 15 times and would've still wanted more; consecutive performances of the song were a staple of the Watch the Throne tour, and at the time, the Miami show set the record. Eventually, the song was performed 11 times in the city that inspired it, but that night in Miami will be forever seared into the brains of those who witnessed it. Ye returned to the AAA a few times after, both for his theatrical Yeezus and hovering platform-centric Life of Pablo tours. Jay also returned to Miami for another co-headlining, mash-up style show with wife Beyonce in support of the On The Run tour at Miami Marlins Stadium. All were stellar performances, though none singled Miami out like that then-record-setting encore. — Kat Bein

Dan Deacon at Grand Central, December 8, 2012

Before the plot of land just before the intersection of North Miami Avenue and NE Sixth Street was a parking garage, it was a venue goddamnit, and no degree of automotive convenience can outweigh the life-changing nights and hedonistic memories Grand Central made possible for Miami's most rowdy. The venue's lifespan coincided with a golden era of indie music, which resulted in peerless lineups like that of December 8, 2012, when Animal Collective's Deakin and Avey Tare took to the decks to mix in-between live performances by Baltimore-based madman Dan Deacon, pop-inflected duo Tanlines, and Gainesville-born group Hundred Waters. Although Hundred Waters would later collaborate with Chance the Rapper, organize their own music festival in Phoenix and enjoy crossover success, the Saturday night Art Basel party belonged entirely to Deacon. Foregoing the stage, Deacon set up his array of analog synthesizers and electronic gear on a folding table positioned at the crowd's level, and proceeded to verbally corral the audience into taking part in a performance of its own: What followed was a series of group interpretive dances, mosh pits, and the occasional human tunnel that stretched outside of the venue and looped around back in, all set against alternatingly harsh and cheerful music that could charitably be described as experimental synth-pop. Things were whipped up into such a frenzy that Deacon had to implore the crowd to "back up!" when what felt like the entirety of the Downtown Miami venue was putting all their weight behind descending upon his precious gear. The night set a standard of good-hearted idiocy that few live shows have since matched, and made sure all in attendance would mourn Grand Central upon its demise. — Zach Schlein

Radiohead at American Airlines Arena, March 30, 2017

Radiohead is known for its legendary live shows, and luckily for us, the British alt-experimental-electronic-rock titans seem to love playing in Miami. In the spring of 2017, for the second time in a decade, the group began a rare North American tour at the American Airlines Arena. While the first of the band’s two Miami shows this decade had leaned into its experimental bent with the live debuts of tracks like “Meeting in the Aisle” and “Cut a Hole,” the 2017 show was a celebratory protest staged in the shadow of political turmoil. Donald Trump had just taken office, the procedural gears behind Brexit had officially begun spinning the day before, and Radiohead was about to release OKNOTOK, the 20th anniversary retrospective of one of the greatest records of all time. As many amazing moments as the show contained (including the first performance of “The Tourist” in nearly a decade and an unwelcome, but hilarious interruption by a god-awful Bruno Mars song) nothing compared to the towering catharsis of the crowd belting out the line “bring down the government” along with Thom Yorke during “No Surprises.” For a few beautiful moments when we all stumbled out onto Biscayne Boulevard after the final notes of “Bodysnatchers,” it felt like everything would be OK, even though things were (and remain) very much NOTOK. — James Biagotti

Peaches at Grand Central in September 2011.
Peaches at Grand Central in September 2011.
Photo by Lex Hernandez

Peaches at Grand Central, December 31, 2014

It’s not every year that the underground scene gets to “Fuck the Pain Away” of the previous 365 days with Canadian electroclash queen Peaches. But on December 31, 2014, upstairs at the now-bulldozed venue Grand Central, she performed a wild set for a panting audience with golden skulls gracing her shoulders and a black feathery bolero. As if the teaches of Peaches weren't enough, the night even opened with a surprise set by Baltimore alt-rapper Spank Rock. Known as the Garret, that low-lit loft was crafted into a mini-home for the Ultimate House Party, where scenesters and artists modeled for photos on a bed in the club. The event was produced by SuperMarket Creative and Desperados, a sort of tequila/beer-type beverage, which helped to lubricate the party. Champagne bottles were popped and bodies sweated profusely — it was a peachy way to ring in 2015. — Liz Tracy

Optimo visiting the Electric Pickle in May 2016.EXPAND
Optimo visiting the Electric Pickle in May 2016.
Photo by Karli Evans

Optimo at the Electric Pickle, October 8, 2017

Four words I never thought I’d say on the dance floor: “Is that Pink Floyd?” Four words I’d always wanted to say on the dance floor, but had never gotten a proper chance to: “I’m about to cry.” Evoking these kinds of intense, raw reactions has been DJ duo Optimo’s bread and butter since 1997 when Glasgow-based selectors JD Twitch and JG Wilkes came together to start a club night that would give them the freedom to play anything and everything they wanted on the decks, ranging from prog-rock deep cuts to influential house classics.

So when Optimo took to the Electric Pickle’s DJ booth on night two of the ten-year anniversary celebration for Miami party promoters SAFE, there seemed to be a universally understood consensus in the room that things were about to get seriously weird in the best possible way. By the time Arthur Russell’s disco magnum opus “Kiss Me Again” made an appearance around 5:30 AM, it was the emotionally overwhelming climax to a night that had taken clubgoers all around the world and back again, with Twitch and Wilkes dipping twice into Bicep’s then-recently released debut LP along with selections from across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

The evening – or more accurately, very, very early morning – was a master class in effective DJing and the possibilities of the form. But most importantly, it was simple, stupid, unpretentious fun. — Zach Schlein

Kraftwerk perform "Computer Love" at the Olympia Theater in September 2015.
Kraftwerk perform "Computer Love" at the Olympia Theater in September 2015.
Photo by Alex Markow

Kraftwerk at Olympia Theater, September 29, 2015

The curtains opened around 8 p.m. for the first of Kraftwerk's two shows at the Olympia Theater on the night of September 29, 2015. The deadpan quartet stood behind their respected booths and played, dare I say, robotically. Despite a palpable urge to rage, the crowd stayed glued to their seats, subdued by the double whammy of the German group's timeless melodies and arresting visuals. The electronic forefathers played influential classics including “Autobahn,” “Computer Love,” and “Tour de France,” all of which were accompanied by stunning 3D visuals that literally came to life through nifty Kraftwerk-branded paper 3D glasses. Footage of previous Tour de France races, a simplified CG reproduction of the original Autobahn sleeve art, and even the exterior of the Olympia Theater were just some of the sights displayed on the giant screen behind the group; the occasional “Whoa!” could be heard when the effects got too crazy to take in silently. Even with all of the fancy production value, Kraftwerk could have sold out both Miami shows even if they were pitch black. — Grant Albert

Arcade Fire perform as the Reflektors at Mekka on October 2013.EXPAND
Arcade Fire perform as the Reflektors at Mekka on October 2013.
Photo by Marta X. Perez

Arcade Fire at Mekka, October 23, 2013

On a rainy Wednesday night in October 2013, one of the biggest indie bands in the world played a show to 300 people at a tiny club in Miami, and barely anyone knew it was happening. Only two-and-a-half years removed from notching a Grammy win for Album of the Year with The Suburbs and nearly a week before the release of the James Murphy-produced, disco-drenched Reflektor, Arcade Fire played a secret set as “The Reflektors” at the since-closed Mekka nightclub in Park West. Those who were lucky enough to score tickets arrived with no idea what to expect and were only allowed through the doors if they arrived in costume or formal attire. After 90 minutes of mostly unreleased music and the demolition of a massive iPhone piñata, a few hundred people escaped from the fire-hazard-level crowded show and into the humid Miami night, sweaty and astonished, asking “did that really just happen?” — James Biagotti

Jamie xx at Art Basel 2015
Jamie xx at Art Basel 2015
Photo by Karli Evans

Jamie xx at Mana Wynwood, December 4, 2015

December 4, 2015, holds a special place in my heart: it was the first time I ever stepped into the New Times office, and it's the day I was ordained into the dance floor faithful by Jamie xx. Sandwiched between Sampha and Four Tet, the English DJ/producer played a DJ set worthy of the banner year he'd just enjoyed with the release of his LP In Colour and its stellar singles "Loud Places," "Gosh," and "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)". More than four years later, I still remember it as well as any alcohol and drug-damaged brain hardened by sleep deprivation can: rushing in with my partner during the opening notes of Idris Muhammad's "Could Heaven Ever Be Like This" and making our way through the crowd to the Whispers' "And the Beat Goes On"; the genius of emphasizing the ambient crowd noises of "Dope" by Butch to trick the audience into losing their shit even more; the progression from the steel drums of "Far Nearer" into the absurdity of Kink's "Diversion" and "Gosh" followed by the much-needed cool-off of "Oskar" by Esther Silex; the guy holding his hand over his mouth in disbelief as Radiohead's "Everything In Its Right Place" plays itself out. More than any show staged there since, Mana Wynwood's convention center interior felt like the site of the archetypal warehouse rave Jamie xx has spent his career pining after; that night made a dance floor junkie out of me, and it's a feeling I'm unashamed to say I've chased ever since. — Zach Schlein

Rat Bastard at Churchill's Pub.
Rat Bastard at Churchill's Pub.
Photo by Jim Hall

International Noise Conference 2014 at Churchill's Pub, February 4-8, 2014

The International Noise Conference has long fostered a communal performance experience, patching together a disparate community Frankenstein’s monster-style by adding on new and fascinating parts each year. The festival’s founder, the godfather of noise Frank Falestra — who also goes by the name Rat Bastard and never fails to displease audiences with the cacophony of his Laundry Room Squelchers — oversaw INC's rise to a fever pitch in 2014. He took the intimacy, art, and crazed energy of the event to the next level with several days of nearly nonstop mini-sets by burgeoning and seasoned noisemakers from all over the world. What made that year notable was a wider audience with greater gender diversity; the affair culminated in Reverend Mother Flash peeing into a cup and drinking her own urine onstage while Cock ESP’s chaos raged around her. It embodied the early 2010s moment where the phrase "anything goes" was truly applicable to Churchill’s. That, Miami, is saying a lot. — Liz Tracy

Future Classic WMC Showcase at Bardot, March 27, 2014

I sometimes refer to this as the last great party in Winter Music Conference history, because it carried the torch of bringing top-shelf talent representing a taste-making boutique label for an all-night get-down at an affordable price. For $23 to $30, Thursday partiers got seven hours of sweat-inducing, body-hammering disco grooves and future bass beats in the first year of the genre's pioneering reign. The lineup is the stuff of legend, having featured What So Not (when the duo comprised Flume and Emoh), Wave Racer, Trippy Turtle, Touch Sensitive, Chrome Sparks, Chet Faker (now known as Nick Murphy) and Cashmere Cat. The crowd raged until 5 a.m. in now-defunct Wynwood venue Bardot's intimate lounge and atmosphere, losing themselves in the sounds that would define electronic music for the next couple of years. If you ask anyone who was there, get ready for an impassioned diatribe; those are the kinds of moments that Miami Music Week and WMC moments that money can't buy. — Kat Bein

Jenny Lewis
Jenny Lewis
Photo by Timothy Norris

Jenny Lewis at Revolution Live, September 10, 2019

Judging from New Times’ love letter to Jenny Lewis from South Florida, it’s pretty apparent that the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter was wildly influential on Miami’s indie music scene. On September 10, 2019, Lewis made her highly-anticipated stop at Fort Lauderdale’s Revolution Live in support of her latest solo release, On the Line. This was Lewis’ first time headlining a solo show in South Florida. And if you were there, you’re probably still in debt to Baptist Hospital from being put on a respirator after this religious experience. Lewis was a vision atop her heart-shaped pedestal dripping in pink sequins and sang like a damn angel, caressing the room with her tear-inducing silky smooth vocals. Her generously curated 20-song setlist felt like a special treat for die-hard fans and featured cuts from her solo catalogue sprinkled in with some Rilo Kiley hits, and even featured a performance with the Watson Twins (who she collaborated with on the album Rabbit Fur Coat). Love you forever, Jenny- thank you. — Jessica Gibbs

Âme and Dixon go back-to-back for a very early-morning set during Rakastella 2018.EXPAND
Âme and Dixon go back-to-back for a very early-morning set during Rakastella 2018.
Photo by Lauren Morell

Âme b2b Dixon at Rakastella, December 9, 2018

There are good DJs and there are great DJs: while serviceable selectors might facilitate a notable night out, great DJs elevate the proceedings and tap into the ether where sound and setting come together to form a greater picture. Âme and Dixon were firmly in the latter category during their closing set at Rakastella 2018: as hoards of people who'd been partying for 12-odd hours gathered around Virginia Key Beach to watch the sunrise at 7 a.m., the pair managed to imbue revelers with second, third, and even fourth winds off the strength of their mix. Watching the sun pierce the horizon as Lindstrom's otherworldly "I Feel Space" plays was an experience those in attendance won't soon forget. — Zach Schlein

Uncle Luke at United States of BassEXPAND
Uncle Luke at United States of Bass
Photo by Ian Witlen

United States of Bass at Gramps, October 24, 2015

Red Bull began its United States of Bass series in other cities, but the brand should have known the most legendary, X-rated edition could only go down in the mighty Magic City. DJs represented for every regional iteration of bass music, from Jersey's DJ Sliink to Los Angeles' Egyptian Lover and Detroit's DJ Assault. TT The Artist broke it down for Baltimore, DJ Spinn and DJ Earl — who lives here now — came in for Chicago, but Miami supplied the heaviest weight. DJ Laz brought the bilingual Miami Bass of "Esa Morena" and "Mami El Negro" that made him a generational legend; three-time DMC world champion DJ Craze took the crowd through a chronological history of the low register with the style of a seasoned battle vet. Best of all was when 2 Live Crew mastermind Uncle Luke took the stage. Even at the age of 55 years old, he still managed to get women to strip down to their underwear while dancing on stage. It was all love, respect and booty clapping for a night that refused to be tamed and won't ever be touched. Shout out to everyone who got one of those shirts or jackets. — Kat Bein

2manydjs at Floyd, April 4, 2018

It’s hard to be surprised in the age of the internet. Whether with regards to music or anything else, a quick Google search and 30 minutes spent surfing and scrolling is usually enough to give you the gist of any given subject. However, sometimes you’re lucky enough to walk into something blind. When 2manydjs played at Floyd in the wee hours of April 4, 2018 courtesy of Miami's Slap & Tickle party, all I knew the brotherly pair of Stephen and David Dewaele for was collaborating with James Murphy on Despacio and one or two songs made under the moniker they use for original music and remixes: Soulwax. I had no idea I was in for a DJ set that aligned more with my own tastes than anything I'd ever heard before, with the likes of "Blue Monday," LCD Soundsystem, and Daft Punk seamlessly juxtaposed against Spanish-speaking electro, edits of Technotronic, and even the song that sold me on raving years earlier. By the time the Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers" was mixed into "Girls and Boys" by Blur towards the end of the night, I couldn't do anything but bend my head into my knees and scream; that had never happened before, and it hasn't occurred since. Whether it was the E talking or 2manydjs' bold selections and remarkable mixing abilities (Who else is closing out DJ sets by going from AC/DC into the Stooges?!) I walked out of the club that morning a different person than I'd been going in. — Zach Schlein

Justice at Ultra Music Festival 2017EXPAND
Justice at Ultra Music Festival 2017
Photo by George Martinez

Justice at Ultra Music Festival, March 26, 2017

Hours before Justice hit the Ultra Live Stage in 2017, the duo told Billboard Dance it makes a point of playing the festival explicitly because the crowd sits outside of its usual audience. Although the French electro kings made their Ultra debut at the main stage in 2008 and returned there in 2012, they shifted to the intimacy of the live stage for the U.S. debut of what would become a Grammy-winning career retrospective and top-of-the-line technological spectacle. The show, later released on record as Woman Worldwide, took bits and pieces of Justice's three studio albums and repurposed them into new mashed-up grooves that highlighted fan-favorite tracks. The duo performed on keyboards and synthesizers inside a sideways control room flanked on either side by its characteristic wall of Marshall amps. What set the production apart and above were the four fast-moving light grids which created stunning disco spotlights, blinding blasts, brooding cathedrals, rosy sunsets, and vast expanses of interstellar space, changing placement and composition quicker than the audience could notice. The overwhelming surprise was even more stunning in the intimacy of the Bayfront Amphitheater and joined the canon of once-in-a-lifetime artist appearances afforded by Ultra's live stage over the years, including sets from Kraftwerk, New Order, the Prodigy, Porter Robinson, back-to-back weekends of Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube in the rain, Underworld, Peaches, and many more. — Kat Bein

Pixies at Revolution Live, June 21, 2018

When it was announced that a cult band named "Debaser" would be playing Revolution Live, South Florida had enough amateur sleuths to pack Revolution Live under the assumption it would actually be the Pixies playing a secret show. Those who showed up had their faith rewarded, as one of the most influential bands in indie rock proceeded to tear through a formidable selection of their discography. The Black Francis-led band deployed the same formula they used to record their classic songs: no fat, no waste, just pure, unbridled rock 'n' roll energy. In a little over two hours, they somehow ripped through 41 of their songs, and left the intimate room sweat-soaked and gasping for air. It's no wonder half the crowd made the drive to West Palm the following night to see them open for Weezer. — David Rolland

Danny Brown at III Points 2017.
Danny Brown at III Points 2017.
Photo by George Martinez

Danny Brown at Bardot, December 5, 2012

Danny Brown has always been a force of nature, and the chance to see him at the height of his breakout hype on the Bardot carpet was an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Because the former Wynwood club didn't have a stage, Brown performed in front of the DJ booth in a small circle created by the crowd. He ripped through contemporary hits including "Piss Test," "Grown Up" and "Monopoly," sweat flying as he shared joints with the crowd and otherwise acted like a one-man mosh pit. He ended his set with "Blunt After Blunt" as the room filled with weed smoke, and when all was said and done, he stuck around to take pics with fans that had become bonded through the experience. It was a wild night, and it even started with a DJ set from street artist turned international sensation Shepard Fairey. They just don't do Art Basel parties like that anymore. — Kat Bein

Taylor Swift at American Airlines Arena, October 27, 2015

I’m not sure what I remember more vividly about this concert. It could be the sound of an entire arena of screaming tweens, which feels like getting hit in the chest with a shotgun full of glitter. Maybe it was the surprise Pitbull appearance. Or perhaps it’s the fact that my guest for the concert was my boss’ 12-year-old daughter, and I knew that unless I returned her exactly the way I’d found her, I would probably not have an office to go to the next morning. It’s honestly a combination of all those things, but I also remember just being in awe of the power of Taylor Swift in her prime. This was before she became a polarizing figure, when everyone but the most snobbish of music nerds could agree that she was a once-in-a-generation pop star making music that will be remembered for generations. Oh, 2015: you were a much, much simpler time. — Ryan Pfeffer

James Murphy at III Points 2019EXPAND
James Murphy at III Points 2019
Photo by Karli Evans

James Murphy at III Points, February 17, 2019

If you’re the type of person who finds themselves on dance floors far too often at far too early hours in the morning, it’s only a matter of time before you become bound in some farcical situations. Sure, you have your memorable alcohol and amphetamine-fueled nights out, but then you have times where you dance so hard you wind up getting yourself and your seven-person crew — several of whom are on mind-bending substances – brought backstage in the middle of a James Murphy DJ set.

The who’s, whys, and how’s of this particular incident aren’t important; what matters is that the LCD Soundsystem frontman’s DJ set at III Points 2019 was so good, so otherworldly, that the impossible was made manifest. Who else uses their platform at a major music festival to drop Brian Eno, mix a Southern-fried disco cut in proximity to a lush Paul Simon edit, or bring the beats to a screeching halt for a minute-long gospel-tinged vocal? It’s sonic shamanism, and it takes a certain kind of iconoclast to pull it off.

Earlier this month, Murphy pulled a similar trick during his appearance behind the decks at Floyd. By the next day, people who weren’t even there said they’d heard it was the best DJ set that’s ever happened at the venue. Murphy is the maestro, and it won’t be soon enough until he returns to Miami with “all the underground hits” in tow. — Zach Schlein

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.