Ten Best Miami Bands of All Time

Welcome to Miami. The beach is bangin'. And the music is the effing best, bro.

But while the rest of America might want to limit the MIA's music scene to its coked-out clubbers, horny Calle Ocho party crews, and ass-blasting rappers, Dade County has always been rife with punks, metalheads, soul legends, swampy blues dudes, indie rockers, dark DJ duos, and experimental noise freaks too.

We got it all. Just check out the ten best Miami bands of all time.

10. Murk. Miami homeboys Oscar Gaetan and Ralph Falcon didn't just put the 305 on the house music map in the '90s. They defined that decade's worldwide house sound, sending seven consecutive singles to number one on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. And with a case of classic-house nostalgia seizing today's international dance floors, Gaetan and Falcon's sound is hotter and more relevant than ever. Get a load of 2011's chart-topping Murk comeback — "Amame," featuring Jei — for a taste of homegrown Latin-flavored Miami house at its best. Sean Levisman

9. NRBQ. Mostly led by pianist and songwriter Terry Adams, this legendary underground act got its start as a jam band in Kentucky. But it evolved into a fully formed outfit after hitting our swamplands in 1967. From that point until 2004 (with occasional reunions over the course of the past eight years), NRBQ (an abbreviation of New Rhythm and Blues Quartet) brewed a bubbling blend of psych-rock, heavy blues, experimental jazz, rockabilly, and ragtime that's been praised by everybody from Bob Dylan to Bonnie Raitt. If anything, the group was unpredictable, a quality that's made its influence on other acts far outshine any actual sales impact. NRBQ, an act once known for warped covers, has now itself been covered frequently by Raitt, Widespread Panic, and even Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's She and Him. Arielle Castillo

8. Exposé. The 23-second instrumental intro to 1985's "Point of No Return" is a master class in Miami freestyle. That alone is enough to immortalize Exposé. But then there are those perfect '80s pop vocals. And you just can't deny that your knees get weak when you hear the words, "Oh, baby!" Yet while the ladies of Exposé deserve a lot of credit, Miami DJ Lewis Martineé was the real mastermind behind the group. After all, "Point of No Return" and megahit "Seasons Change" were performed by two different sets of singers. But even personnel changes couldn't stop this phenomenon from topping the Billboard charts and making its 1987 debut, Exposure, a dance-pop classic. Jose D. Duran

7. Poison Clan. Signed to Luther Campbell's Luke Records and billed as the "Baby 2 Live Crew," JT Money and Poison Clan, in their earliest incarnation, were actually closer to Miami's version of the Geto Boys. While the group's sound would shift into more typical Miami bass territory after the departure of New York-raised MC Debonair, Poison Clan's 1990 debut, 2 Low Life Muthas, with its ig'nant lyrics about pimping and other unseemly pursuits, set up the emergence of raw Southern rap duos like UGK and 8Ball & MJG. Later LPs recorded by JT Money with an assortment of randoms were less complete but still produced the occasional Miami bass classic. Most notably, there was 1992's game-changing "Shake Whatcha Mama Gave Ya," which established the gruff vocal style that would become standard on nearly every bass record released thereafter. Of course, though, JT Money would have his greatest commercial success as a solo artist with 1999's 305 classic, "Who Dat." Jesse Serwer

6. Load. This early-'90s Miami rock band was the epitome of unfuckwithable. In keeping with the grunge era's pastiche of punk grit and classic-rock bravado, Load channeled hardcore's intensity (as interpreted by seminal record labels like Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go) into rip-roaringly drunk, nasty blues. During its heyday, this crew opened for nearly every major hard rock, punk, and alternative act (the Ramones, Bad Brains, FEAR, Killdozer) that was foolhardy enough to drive all the way down to Miami. Matt Preira

5. KC & the Sunshine Band. Somewhere in the Himalayas, there's a young Tibetan kid in a modest shack drinking Coca-Cola, looking at his Elvis poster, and dancing his ass off to a KC & the Sunshine Band record — probably "Shake Your Booty." In late 1973, this now-classic disco crew was born when studio intern Harry Wayne Casey cut some after-hours demos at TK Records' headquarters in Hialeah. The boss — local music legend Henry Stone — liked them so much that he invested in the band and some hi-fi vinyl. And within two years, every club rat from John Travolta to Miami's own disco mamas were shaking booty to KC's tunes while screaming, "That's the way I like it!" Jacob Katel

4. Sam & Dave. Before signing to Atlantic Records and working with the famous Stax Records production team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter, Sam & Dave ("Soul Man," "Hold On, I'm Coming") were under a gun-barrel management contract with John Lomelo of the King of Hearts club in Liberty City. These Miami boys, now known worldwide for their explosive live show, cut their teeth on the talent-show circuit through Overtown, Coconut Grove, and all of black Miami, where they sang their hearts out for little more than craps money and new shoes. But one day, TK Records label honcho Henry Stone took Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun to see Sam & Dave work a nightclub, and the rest is music history. Jacob Katel

3. Harry Pussy. Twenty years since it started shrieking and more than a decade after going silent, Harry Pussy is finally getting the credit it deserves. Thanks in no small part to the popular resurgence of axe man Bill Orcutt's solo career as an acoustic deconstructionist, the Pussy — once a cult phenomenon — is becoming increasingly recognized as one of American noise-rock's most important bands. Of course, no vocalist has yet to re-create Adris Hoyos's deranged yelping or her runaway-train drumming style. And despite Orcutt's ascetic dedication to four-strings, comparing his circuitous arrangements to the compositions of his sonic descendants would be like trying to draw parallels between basic addition and differential calculus. Matt Preira

2. Miami Sound Machine. Laugh all you want, but so many of our city's contemporary groups, from Afrobeta to Otto Von Schirach to Avenue D, owe Gloria and Emilio Estefan's Miami Sound Machine an enormous debt. It would take eight studio albums for this Latin-pop powerhouse to earn mainstream success with 1984's Eyes of Innocence, the group's first English-language album. But "Dr. Beat" was only the beginning of a string of massively popular Sound Machine singles, including "Conga" and "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You." Still, there's just something about the group's original breakthrough single and its sugary hook, "Doc-doc-doc-doc, Dr. Beat/Won't you help me, Dr. Beat?" It's a plea for a cure to dance fever that would later be mimicked by everyone from Gwen Stefani to Kylie Minogue. Jose D. Duran

1. 2 Live Crew. Ain't nobody in the history of Dade County ever been as nasty or repped harder for First Amendment rights than 2 Live Crew. And the whole gloriously horny tale began in late 1985, when Miami party promoter and label boss Luther "Uncle Luke" Campbell signed the Crew's Cali founders Mr. Mixx and Fresh Kid Ice, brought them to the 305, assumed essential hype-man duties, and added superfilthy homeboy Brother Marquis to the fold. Four years and two slabs later, Luke, Mixx, Kid, and Marquis unleashed their definitively smutty masterpiece, As Nasty As They Wanna Be. It landed them on the Broward County Sheriff's obscenity shit list. It earned them heat from Tipper Gore and the D.C. censors. It got them Banned in the U.S.A. But eventually, it took them to the Eleventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, where 2 Live Crew finally defeated the prudes and the pigs. An immortal victory for the freaks. Throw the D! S. Pajot

Read New Times' expanded list, "The 50 Best Miami Bands of All Time."

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Arielle Castillo
Contact: Arielle Castillo
Jose D. Duran is the associate editor of Miami New Times. He's the strategist behind the publication's eyebrow-raising Facebook and Twitter feeds. He has also been reporting on Miami's cultural scene since 2006. He has a BS in journalism and will live in Miami as long as climate change permits.
Contact: Jose D. Duran
Jacob Katel
Contact: Jacob Katel
Sean Levisman
S. Pajot
Matt Preira
Jesse Serwer