Has a mediocre venue ever been a dealbreaker for you when it comes to committing to a show? Whether you realize it or not, many factors play into making a music venue great: Size, sound quality, acoustics, and ambiance all matter. Although locals are still coping with the loss of some of their favorite venues, the Magic City's music scene is ever-evolving, and its live stages play a large role. Arenas and stadiums are obvious choices, but this list seeks to highlight the more intimate concert halls.
Here are Miami’s top ten spots for live music:
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
It’s hard to believe the massive Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts — designed by world-renowned architect Cesar Pelli — has been around for more than a decade. Time flies when you’re watching legendary acts such as Patti LaBelle, the Roots, the Beach Boys, Morrissey, and B.B. King. From Broadway and theater to jazz, opera, and beyond, the performing arts center is a cultural pillar of Miami. Comprising the Carnival Studio Theater, the Knight Concert Hall, and the Ziff Ballet Opera House, the Arsht Center provides a variety of programming via its subvenues. The grandeur of the Arsht alone is reason enough to enjoy a show there.
Ball & Chain1513 SW Eighth St., Miami
Ball & Chain is a Little Havana landmark. You can practically smell the cafecito brewing the moment you pull up to this Calle Ocho hang that was established in 1935. This iconic venue serves authentic Cuban flair and is a must-see for out-of-towners. From the ball-and-chain door handles to the unique decor and ornate tiles, the venue's little details make it stand out from its contemporaries. The calendar of events is consistently stacked with live performances by salsa and jazz artists. If you've ever wanted to watch a band perform inside a humongous pineapple-shaped structure, Ball & Chain is the place for you. Its spacious garden hosts performances on the Pineapple Stage in addition to indoor shows. The indoor stage (not shaped like any fruit) is much smaller, but music fans can enjoy a show from the comfort of a booth. Ball & Chain's mix of music, mojitos, and mariquitas make this spot a standout.
FPL Solar Amphitheater at Bayfront Park301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
If you're ready to break out your (probably still dirty) blanket reserved for outdoor concerts, head to FPL Solar Amphitheater in Bayfront Park. The venue, which is surrounded by the high-rises that define Miami's iconic skyline, is also home to Ultra Music Festival, where the amphitheater serves as the electronic music event's Live Stage. The green oasis formerly known as Bayfront Park Amphitheater offers reserved and lawn seating. The grass fills quickly, though, so don't run on Miami time. The venue offers superb sound, and great views of the stage are possible pretty much all around. Even better, booze and food are available about every seven steps. To avoid the highway robbery that is downtown Miami parking, take the free Metromover.
Churchill’s Pub5501 NE Second Ave., Miami
Just past the double-decker bus at the intersection of NE 54th Street and NE Second Avenue in Little Haiti stands one of the most famous music venues in Miami history. Your Magic City residency isn’t official if you haven't crossed the threshold of this legendary dive. The building is primed with sweat, spit, and beer, which is probably why it's been standing for more than 40 years. Churchill’s Pub has had the privilege of hosting just about every great punk, metal, hardcore, jazz, and rock band to ever come from Miami, as well more than a fair share of famous names. There are both indoor and outdoor stages, TVs that show your favorite soccer (ahem, football) matches, and pool tables. The standing area around the indoor stage gives punks enough room to get unapologetically rowdy. A memorable time is all but guaranteed at Churchill's, and you never know what you might witness onstage because anything goes.
The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach
The Fillmore is everything you could want in a music venue. It boasts a huge stage, impeccable sound, killer lighting, and comfortable seating. If your favorite bands are too popular for a bar backroom but won't be selling out the American Airlines Arena anytime soon, you'll likely catch them here. There’s a pit toward the front (wear kneepads if you're prone to moshing), standing room in the middle, and comfortable theater-style seating in the back. Bars are located on both sides, so you never miss a beat. Music posters of past shows adorn the walls of this elegant venue. Who doesn’t love memorabilia? Popular TV shows from the 1960s were frequently filmed in this art deco building. Jackie Gleason of The Honeymooners moved his show to this Miami Beach theater, and the rest was history.
Gramps176 NW 24th St., Miami
Chugging cold beer to keep cool in Miami’s unforgiving heat is a local pastime, and you wouldn’t want to do it anywhere other than Gramps. As the sign out front states, Gramps offers air conditioning, cold beer, and cocktails. But it holds so much more inside. This Wynwood haunt is a favorite for catching local bands shred as if their lives depended on it. National acts also roll through pretty frequently, and tickets are always affordably priced. Gramps offers two stages: the backroom — Shirley’s — and the outdoor stage, which doubles as a tiki hut. Shirley’s provides an intimate setting for music lovers to enjoy live tunes and great vibes. To top it all off, Gramps serves delicious Brooklyn-style pizza, hot wings, garlic knots, and Cuban coffee at Pizza Tropical.
The Ground34 NE 11th St., Miami
There was a time when you would have never seen a metal act or its acolytes anywhere near Club Space. But it's 2020, and things seem to be getting stranger all the time. The Ground, dubbed by New Times the best intimate music venue in 2018, is Miami’s latest and greatest midsize concert venue. Located in downtown Miami on Space’s ground floor, this gem of a concert hall is what the 305 needed to fill the gaping void of fallen favorites such as Grand Central. Since its 2017 opening, the Ground has hosted an array of musical acts spanning genres from indie rock and metal to R&B and electronic. Boasting an intimate environment equipped with great sound and a small elevated seating area for guests who don’t want to stand, the venue has quickly earned its honorific as one of the best venues in town. Don’t miss the food at the Space Odyssey stand, located near the bar. Pro tip: There is a $30 minimum on credit cards at the bar, so bring cash.
Las Rosas2898 NW Seventh Ave., Miami
There's never a dull moment when it comes to Miami nightlife, and if you're looking for a primo spot with no cover, Allapattah's Las Rosas has you covered. This bar-meets-concert venue supplies a healthy dose of live music by hosting seven to ten shows a week. The dive's walls are lined with photographs of rock stars such as Kurt Cobain and Elvis Presley and comprises four areas: the front room, with a bar, booths, a pool table, and a photo booth; a corridor with an additional bar; a backroom with a decent-size stage and DJ booth; and a patio with plenty of seating.
North Beach Bandshell7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Miamians are prone to forgetting this tidbit: We live where other people vacation. We have the luxury of enjoying music outdoors near the beach while others are bundled up in ten layers of clothing and stuck in the snow. This thriving North Beach pearl gives music fans the opportunity to appreciate the city’s beauty while swaying in the ocean breeze and watching live concerts under the stars. The North Beach Bandshell's pristine beach location makes it a must for anyone looking to enjoy a quintessential Miami concert experience. Local and international acts pass through it frequently thanks to the efforts of promoters such as the Rhythm Foundation and music festivals like GroundUp. Bonus: Cheap parking is available across the street.
Olympia Theater174 E. Flagler St., Miami
Get up, go to work, go home, wake up the next day, and do it all over again. You don't need the 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner's capitalist critiques to tell you that the 9-to-5 grind blows. Hell, you’re probably dreaming about that trip to the Mediterranean right about now. If you can’t quite swing that getaway just yet, a visit to the exquisite Olympia Theater might sate that wanderlust. Smack in the middle of bustling downtown Miami lies a little slice of heaven that you might not have known was there. The Olympia Theater is a Magic City favorite that’s been around since 1926. It opened as a silent-movie palace but has since hosted world-class musical acts such as Kraftwerk and Chromatics. With its charming Mediterranean courtyard, golden balconies, and opulent decor, this magnificent theater feels looks something out of a dream.
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