THE SOUND OF MUSIC
South Florida is one of the few regions where you can see an authentic Cuban band, a rising jazz star and a legendary hardcore act performing in different cities along a 70-mile stretch.
It’s that variety—and the sheer number of clubs, theaters and bars where someone can catch a live set on any given night—that has led to the area’s birthing of popular acts from Ariana Grande (Boca Raton) and Camila Cabello (Miami) to Surfer Blood (West Palm Beach) and New Found Glory (Coral Springs).
“I think it’s important for live music venues to have consistency and be open to all sorts of music in their establishment,” says Natalie Smallish, owner and co-founder of the South Florida record label WaxRomantix and the manager of Fort Lauderdale’s Radio Active Records. “We have a great advantage here. There are perks to playing in [the local] music scene.”
Smallish says one of those perks is that most venues in South Florida don’t charge out-of-state performers a production fee, which can make a tour stop more appealing to younger artists that are still pinching pennies.
No matter the reason, the live music scene in the tri-county area is as vibrant as ever. Here are just some of the reasons why.
Where: 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami
High notes: An institution in Miami since 1979, Churchill’s Pub is known for consistently bringing high-profile acts to a lowbrow, loveable hole-in-the-wall. It’s surprising, the caliber of musicians that have performed at this dive—especially if you look at the bathrooms. It’s said that Marilyn Manson got his start at the Little Haiti club. Trick Daddy and Raekwon, one of Wu-Tang Clan’s founding members, have also performed on the tiny, short stage. New York hardcore legends Cro-Mags and punk royalty such as The Casualties also performed over the years. And if you’re a fan of jazz, it’s the place to go on a Monday night. Since 2000, the pub has been home to the Miami Jazz Jam—welcoming anyone who has the chops to take part.
Coming attractions: The Miami Jazz Jam takes place every Monday starting at 9 p.m.; Cheap Miami Records Anniversary show,
Contact: 305.757.1807, churchillspub.com
Hoy Como Ayer
Where: 2212 SW Eighth St., Miami
High notes: Located in Little Havana, this Cuban nightclub is adorned with wood paneling and old, black-and-white photos of Latin superstars on the walls. This Latin spot runs on Miami time, with live music usually starting at around 11 p.m. and the club staying open until 4:45 a.m. Besides one-offs from local and touring Latino performers, Hoy Como Ayer has also served as the home of Fuácata—a Thursday night dance party hosted by North Miami-based Latin-Caribbean electronic group, Spam Allstars.
Coming attractions: Visit the website for future performances.
Contact: 305.541.2631, hoycomoayer.us
Where: 2898 NW Seventh Ave., Miami
High notes: Barely a year old—it celebrated on June 8—Las Rosas is a low-key, chill escape from the rest of Wynwood. Located on the border of the trendy town and Allapatah, this cozy dive bar houses free arcade games, a photo booth, cheap drinks and no frills. There’s also free parking, which is an anomaly. Supplying a near-daily mix of live music and DJ sets, Las Rosas has quickly become a community favorite.
Coming attractions: There’s a free local show featuring Wastelands, Red Nectar and Phantom Drive on July 7; for more events, visit facebook.com/lasrosasmiami.
Contact: 786.780.2700, lasrosasbar.com
Le Chat Noir
Where: 2 S. Miami Ave., Miami
High notes: Entering Le Chat Noir is like stepping into a cozy little wine cellar in Paris—except you’re actually in Miami’s financial district. This jazz bar is a dark, intimate spot to indulge in wines from around the world, imported cheese plates and live music throughout the week. Despite “chat” being in the name, this is not a place to get talkative if live music’s happening. Le Chat Noir (French for “the black cat”) is constantly praised by local musicians for its level of respect for performers. No one’s talking while a set’s going on. Though ticket prices for bigger events are reasonable (typically $10), the venue often hosts free jam nights, typically on Tuesdays and Thursdays, encouraging locals to bring their own instruments and join in on the fun.
Coming attractions: Visit the website for upcoming events.
Contact: 305.377.8899, lechatnoirdesalis.com
Where: 176 NW 24th St., Miami
High notes: The front of Gramps’ eclectic, Wynwood-based building boasts “Air Conditioning-Cold Beer-Cocktails,” but it’s so much more than that. The hipster venue opened in 2013 and is run by longtime show booker Adam Gersten. It’s Gersten’s reputation that elevates this cocktail bar and watering hole into a venue to catch high-profile artists, one-off DJ sets and even book signings. Camila Cabello visited her fans there in February to celebrate the success of her single, “Havana.” Last year, comedian Hannibal Buress hosted a surprise DJ set with proceeds going toward Hurricane Irma relief. And before that, The Cure’s drummer, Laurence “Lol” Tolhurst, hosted a Q&A session before performing a free DJ set on the patio. And even though they may be downplayed, the house cocktails here are some of the city’s finest—including the Hula Girl, featuring Sailor Jerry rum, pineapple, lime, cinnamon and hibiscus syrup ($10).
Coming attractions: Nerd Nite, July 12 and Aug. 9, a monthly event featuring fun, informative presentations across all disciplines as the audience drinks along. Live music every Friday with the Technique Records crew.
Contact: 305.699.2669, gramps.com
Ball & Chain
Where: 1513 SW Eighth St., Miami
High notes: Retaining its name (for the most part), location and charm throughout the years, Ball & Chain bar and lounge has sat in the heart of Little Havana since the early 1930s. The historic spot has changed owners and visions over the years, but it’s always been a place to drink—starting out as the Ball & Chain Saloon and morphing into the Ball & Chain Tavern in the 1950s. From Count Basie suing the venue (for not paying his fee) to Billie Holiday and Chet Baker performing on its stage, there’s just too much history to unpack here, so check it out for yourself. Live music is nightly with two stages, but the iconic pineapple stage outside is a sight to see.
Coming attractions: Visit the website for a full schedule of performances.
Contact: 305.643.7820, ballandchainmiami.com
Where: 1517 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
High notes: Two&’s website puts it best: “Why NOT sip on a nice glass of your favorite whiskey … while you browse fine and interesting collectibles, antiques and custom-built bikes.” This family-owned business started out as an online bicycle and vintage business, selling old porcelain, crystal and more. When husband-and-wife Elmo and Zoe Love decided to expand the business to a brick-and-mortar, they figured they might as well add a full-service bar too. The venue, which resembles a house, features local art above the mantel, high-top tables surrounded by bikes for sale, and stacked beer and wine menus. Open mic nights are on Thursdays, with a mix of local and touring bands performing throughout the rest of the week.
Coming attractions: Punk band Mindyou takes the stage July 14; open call art show, Aug. 5; open mic night every Thursday.
Contact: 954.867.5309, twoand.com
Where: 3501 Davie Road, Davie
High notes: One of the most traditional venues on this list, Bailey Hall is an intimate theater that seats around 1,200. It resides on the Broward College Central campus and throughout the year brings a mix of touring musicians as well as performers from the college. But one of the most important elements it offers is its partnership with South Florida JAZZ—a local organization that brings touring jazz greats to small theaters at reasonable prices. In May, Cuban drummer Ignacio Berroa presented and narrated his documentary, “Straight Ahead From Havana,” at the theater before performing with his trio.
Coming attractions: Bailey Hall hosts performances year-round, but the next South Florida JAZZ partnership performance will take place on Jan. 18 and will feature the Randy Brecker Quintet.
Contact: 954.201.6884, baileyhall.org
Where: 15 W. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
High notes: Yes, they accept credit cards. Cash Only opened in 2016 and quickly became loved for its relaxed vibe. It’s not a velvet-rope, Champagne bottle and sparklers type of place. Instead, the multiroom lounge is comfortable and relaxed with old school hip-hop and R&B vibes. The three-room nightclub has a little bit of something for everyone—a mainstage, a lounge room that resembles a quirky basement from the 1970s and a relaxed neighborhood bar. On any given night, visitors will be greeted by live music and guest DJ sets.
Coming attractions: For a full list of events, visit facebook.com/CashOnlyFTL and click the “events” tab.
Contact: 954.299.3295, cashonlybar.com
Original Fat Cats
Where: 320 Himmarshee St., Fort Lauderdale
High notes: A local favorite, Original Fat Cats is known for a few things—a long list of cheap beer (more than 80 types) and live music year-round, nightly. This gritty dive is chock-full of old band stickers, string lights and skateboard decks. You’d be hard-pressed to find a blank section of wall. From ska and reggae to rockabilly and punk, there’s always a different act playing at this 15-year-old establishment.
Coming attractions: Live music every night; reggae on Wednesdays.
Contact: 954.467.5867, facebook.com/originalfatcats
Blue Jean Blues
Where: 3320 NE 33rd St., Fort Lauderdale
High notes: Another venue offering nightly live music, Blue Jean Blues is a jazz and blues spot that started up in 2009. Lauded for the jazz acts it books, a full menu, happy hour and no cover charge (except for Fridays and Saturdays, when it’s $5), the club is popular. Over the years, it’s built a roster of regular performers, including Eric and the Jazzers, which perform on the first and third Wednesday of the month, covering standards from Ellington, Davis and Fitzgerald to name a few. The dark club, with brick walls and neon lights, is surprisingly nestled within a shopping plaza.
Coming attractions: Live music every night; visit the website for upcoming acts.
Contact: 954.306.6330, bjblive.com
NYSW Jazz Lounge
Where: 107 SW Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale
High notes: One of the newest venues on the list, NYSW Jazz Lounge was created by Miguel Pilgram—whose life changed after winning a $52 million lottery in 2010. Pilgram dedicated his winnings toward reviving Sistrunk Boulevard, which runs through Fort Lauderdale’s historically black neighborhood. The lounge sits on top of Pilgram’s restaurant, New York Subs & Wings. At the jazz lounge, Tuesdays are devoted to contemporary jazz, Wednesday is spoken-word, Thursday is Cuban jazz, Friday is Latin jazz. A headline act performs on Saturdays, and brunch-and-jam sessions take place on Sundays. There’s no cover Tuesday-Thursday or Sunday. On Fridays and Saturdays, it’s $10.
Coming attractions: Visit facebook.com/nyswjazzlounge and click the “events” tab.
Contact: 954.765.6141, nyswjazzlounge.com
Where: 303 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton
High notes: An unpretentious, passionate and casual spot, this club plays hosts to local favorites like Miami’s own Ketchy Shuby. It also has welcomed big names, such as Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, who jammed with the club’s owner during a show in 2015. There’s always something going on at this venue, which is tucked into Royal Palm Place; shows are already booked through January. What you can’t be sure of, though, is who you’ll see there. From Billy Joel and Springsteen tributes, to soul, country and smoldering rock-n-roll, every night is different. Door charge is free at times, and tickets for higher profile shows range anywhere from $7 to $65. Even though the club is named after a musical term—a funky biscuit is “a beat or a bass line that rocks the membranes of your brain”—you can also order a plate of biscuits, smothered in a bourbon butter glaze, for $4.
Coming attractions: A Concert for Bangladesh, July 20; The Long Run: A Journey Through the Music of The Eagles, Aug. 3; Khris Royal & Dark Matter, Aug. 4.
Contact: 561.395.2929, funkybiscuit.com
Where: 94 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach
High notes: Arts Garage is a unique community space in downtown Delray; it’s part performance space, part gallery—plus, it’s BYOB. The nonprofit venue hosts all genres and acts—rock, blues, folk, swing, even children’s theater and drag. The black box theater encourages patrons to BYOW—bring your own “whatever,” including food, drinks, alcohol and cutlery. Its art galleries and open mics are a great way to catch up-and-coming talent, while its arts education classes are an opportunity to hone in on your own.
Coming attractions: Shaw Davis & The Black Ties, July 13; The William Cepeda Afro-Rican Jazz Project, July 14; local band showcase, July 19.
Contact: 561.450.6357, artsgarage.org
Where: 700 Park Ave., Lake Park
High notes: Indie films, touring alternative bands, community theater and even burlesque—Kelsey Theater is the place to go for all the performances that Lake Park used to not be able to house. The hip, 500-person theater has hosted alternative/pop-punk acts that typically lack venue options in the area, such as Turnover, Tigers Jaw and Have Mercy. It’s located in a downtown district that’s showing a lot of potential, with neighbors that include Brewhouse Gallery, Kelsey Vintage Goods and Ivy and Oak Tattoo Studio. The theater room itself is cozy and intimate, with community tables set up for certain showings (traditional shows are standing-only) and jumbo pretzels and popcorn at the concession stand.
Upcoming attractions: Rebirth Brass Band, July 6; “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” July 14; Damon Fowler Band with the Allman Goldflies Band, July 28.
Contact: 561.328.7481, thekelseytheater.com
Where: 52 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach
High notes: The only full-fledged restaurant on this list that doubles as a live music venue, Dada is a modern American eatery owned by the same group that owns Howley’s in West Palm Beach. It’s easily the only place you can catch a show while noshing on roasted duck in an onion-raisin marmalade or bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and chorizo. For years, the establishment has been hosting smaller shows and acoustic sets as well as open-mic music and comedy nights. A favorite that does regular appearances is Big Chief, a New Orleans-style brass band based in Miami. This funky, playful spot has entertainment scheduled regularly and stays open late—until 2 a.m.—nightly.
Upcoming attractions: Open-mic nights every Monday; Before March and Elevator Fight Club, July 28; for a full list of upcoming events, visit facebook.com/dadadelray.
Contact: 561.330.3232, sub-culture.org/dada
Where: 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach
High notes: Going strong for more than 20 years, Respectable Street remains the king of all venues on Clematis Street—as well as one of the few alternative spots on the entire block. This nightclub has played host to big names, including Misfits, The Damned, Big D and the Kids Table, and more. A former Salvation Army building from the 1920s was revitalized into a hipster haven, complete with local art and murals covering the walls, a checkerboard dance floor and a handful of velvet couches. When you need a break from the dance floor, the covered patio is a favorite retreat spot for the regulars.
Upcoming attractions: Das Ich, Astari Nite and more, July 5; GreyMarket, Yardij, Space Coast Ghosts and Migrate, July 6; for a complete list of events, visit facebook.com/respectablestreet.
Contact: 561.832.9999, respectablestreet.com
Where: 6 S. J St, Lake Worth
High notes: It calls itself one of the “premiere live music venues” in Lake Worth. It’s also one of the few. Propaganda has been an integral part of South Florida’s music scene for more than a decade. The Soviet-themed bar—with red walls and propaganda posters—hosts local bands most nights as well as big names, including Vivian Girls, Cracker and Dashboard Confessional, whose frontman, Chris Carrabba, has stopped in at times for surprise sets. In June, punk legends The Dickies and The Queers celebrated 40 years at the club.
Upcoming attractions: Guavatron, FUGU & The Psychedelic Monks, July 6; visit the Facebook page and click on the “events” tab for future shows.
Contact: 561.547.7273, facebook.com/propagandalakeworth