Miami, Live: A Local’s Guide to the City’s Top Live Music Venues
Miami is known for its nightlife, and that includes an impressive collection of live music venues. Sure, there are world-class performance halls, such as the famed Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center, but there are also Old Havana-style supper clubs, pulsing nightclubs and nostalgic venues with secret entrances. Miami is the rare city that manages to be both electric and eclectic. That’s because anything goes here – from Cuban to Haitian to Latin American or classical, there’s a medley of international flavors and sounds around every palm-studded corner. Sway your hips under the stars at a historic Little Havana hotspot or take in a show at a hole-in-the-wall beloved by locals. Whatever you do, expect balmy breezes and well-heeled people. As if you’d accept anything less from Miami!
Here’s a look at some of the Magic City’s best places to enjoy live music, theatre and dance:
For Dancing Under the Stars: Ball & Chain
This 1935 Little Havana haunt is the quintessential Miami nightclub, evidenced by the lines that snake around the corner until the wee hours. Reserve a table and indulge in tapas such as chicharrones and congri fritters while sipping a “Calle Ocho” old-fashioned made with aged rum and tobacco leaves. Admire the original pine beams, the Cuban tile work, and the exquisitely preserved Spanish Colonial architecture, before wandering to the back patio, where live Latin music pulses across the moonlit dance floor (don’t miss the old man in the corner rolling cigars).
Who knows? You may even be pulled on stage to join the dancers.
For a Taste of Nostalgia: El Tucan
This downtown tropical cabaret is like a modern-day version of Cuba’s famed nightclubs – right down to the 12-piece Latin orchestra and sequin-clad performers. Two live music sets follow two entertainment sets every Thursday through Sunday evening (the latter feature plenty of laughs in addition to dancing). For a true taste of what a visit to a Havana nightclub was like in the 1950s, make a reservation for both dinner and a show. The prix fix menu features traditional Latin dishes with a modern twist, served tapas-style, and you’re guaranteed a seat with a great view. Who knows? You may even be pulled on stage to join the dancers.
For Mingling With Locals: Hoy Como Ayer
This small, nostalgic salsa spot whose walls are plastered with posters of icons, packs in diehard fans of old-school Cuban music. Order a Cuba Libre and let the Spanish-speaking waiters show you how to shake your hips to the Miami house band – or one of the city’s patron sons of Cuban music. “This place is tiny, but it is full of personality and a bit of an institution in Miami, so you never know who you’re going to see,” says Miami attorney Gina Polo. “You can find yourself dancing all night or quietly listening to nostalgic Cuban music from local artists who are better than most pop stars.”
For South Beach Nightlife: Jazid
The longest running nightclub on Miami Beach is not an easy distinction to earn, but Jazid has been entertaining locals with live music every night of the week for almost 20 years. This intimate, cozy spot with plush sofas and specialty cocktails on South Beach’s famed Washington Avenue is beloved by locals and overlooked by tourists who flock instead to celebrity-studded hangouts. A mix of Latin and American jazz, funk, cumbia and reggae, Jazid’s downstairs lounge features many local artists who’ve developed a fan base. Upstairs, a DJ spins a variety of musical genres, creating more of a nightclub vibe for those who prefer to dance all night.
For a Classical Evening: New World Symphony WALLCAST™ Concert
For something truly unique to Miami, stroll down to SoundScape Park to catch a New World Symphony WALLCAST™ concert. A state-of-the-art surround system reflects the sound heard indoors, where 12 high-definition cameras around the stage and hall capture the orchestra from different angles. Outside the building, designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, the images are projected onto a massive, 7,000-square-foot wall.
“The cameras focus on the conductor and soloists inside, and the images go hand-in-hand with the music,” says New World Symphony clarinet player Ran Kampel, a third-year Fellow. “When it’s amplified on the big screen, guests see how we interact with each other and pick up on details you may not see if you’re inside the hall. They feel like they’re part of the experience visually, rather than just listening to it.” WALLCAST™ concerts attract families who appreciate being able to attend a cultural event that’s actually kid-friendly. “I bring all three of my kids, we set up our blanket near the speakers and enjoy a picnic,” says Miami writer Sara Liss. “The kids are free to move around and the adults get to enjoy the free concert. If it's a cool night and hundreds of people have gathered, you truly feel the magic of community and art coming together.” Insider tip: Stay for a few minutes after the show when the musicians come outside to meet and greet fans.
Citi is excited to be the presenting sponsor of the WALLCAST™ concerts, ensuring that they remain free to the public and can be enjoyed by everyone in our community. Bring a picnic and enjoy this unique cultural institution and great music under the stars! The New World Symphony is located in the New World Center, adjacent to SoundScape Park in Miami Beach at the intersection of 17th St. and Washington Ave. For more information, visit New World Symphony Website.