Miami Music Scene
Lauren Wells | March 7, 2014
Miami, primarily known for its rap scene, has birthed a wide variety of musical acts. During the late 70s, disco soul singers like Howard Johnson released chart-topping hits like “So Fine” and “Let This Dream Be Real.” Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry also hails from Miami, and she still remains a new wave 80s icon. I dare you to find someone who doesn’t know the songs “Heart of Glass” and “Call Me.” Gloria Estefan, one of the top selling musicians, has won seven Grammy Awards and has been going strong since the 70s. With more than 20 albums and plenty of television and film appearances, Gloria has put Miami’s music scene on the map with her distinct style of Latin pop. The late 90’s introduced electronic masterminds like Steve Aoki, known for his energetic live shows (expect cake and champagne to cover you at any moment) and elaborate DJ sets. Hip-hop producers/songwriters The Exclusives emerged from the Miami music scene in 2007. Rappers like Kat Dahlia, Flo Rida, Jacki-O, Sean Kingston, Pitbull, Rick Ross, and Uffie also made use of the growing Miami nightlife scene during the 2000s. Jason Derulo, an R&B/pop/dance/choreography mastermind, also hails from Miami. While it’s difficult to pin down precisely what sound is coming out of Miami, one thing is for sure: the city has a vibrant and energetic music scene.
The second-largest performing arts center in the U.S. is Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Home to the Florida Grand Opera and the Miami City Ballet, the Arsht Center houses the Ziff Ballet Opera House, the Knight Concert Hall, the Carnival Studio Theater, and the Peacock Rehearsal Studio. Located in the Omni neighborhood of downtown Miami, the Arsht Center opened in 2006 with performances and appearances by Gloria Estefan, Jeb Bush, Andy Garcia, and Bernadette Peters. The jaw-dropping 570,000 square foot venue was designed by Cesar Pelli to accommodate more than 400 performances per year. The venue’s in-house programming team brings in educational outreach programs, Broadway shows, jazz, classical, dance, and summer festivals– a little something for everybody!
The New World Symphony calls the New World Center home. Located in Miami Beach, the 756 capacity venue was opened in 2011. With world-class acoustics and a strategic seating arrangement, the New World Center provides the audience with a feeling of closeness to the performer. The Center implemented modern programming that allows classical music to be more accessible to younger generations, especially with its visual and technological aspects (think film screenings, video art, and concert “wallcasts” you can watch from outside the venue). Lauded for its sense of community inclusiveness, the New World Center is well worth checking out– even for those of you who shy away from classical music.
Originally opened in 1926, the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center is a truly impressive venue; with its Mediterranean courtyard, elegant décor, golden balconies and intricate turrets, you may find yourself gawking at the interior design and ignoring the show you’ve come to see. Currently a performing arts and concert venue, the Olympia Theater used to be a vaudeville theater. After the decline of silent films, however, the theater shifted its programming to feature icons like Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Luciano Pavarotti, and Etta James. This intricately designed venue has a “wow” factor that packs a punch and makes you feel like you’ve stepped into an ornate wonderland. The Olympia Theater books concerts and produces film screenings.
Located in the Wynwood neighborhood, Bardot is a trendy music venue featuring great live bands and DJs. Artists like Pusha T have made appearances at Bardot, but mainly they feature DJ sets. With a pool table, funky little trinkets and art decorating the shelves, and cozy sofas spread throughout the venue, Bardot is a dimly lit lounge space. Be prepared to pay a cover and throw down some money for bottle service, though. Also, when you’re trying to find the venue, don’t look for a flashy sign (they don’t have one)—instead, keep an eye out for their open doors adorned with red curtains.
Home to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami Hurricanes, Sun Life Stadium often hosts sporting events, but it also has been the site of some infamous concerts. Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, Flo Rida, Diddy, MGK, the Black Eyed Peas, Cee Lo Green, Jason Derulo, T-Pain, and Sean Kingston have played gigs at the 75,540 capacity Sun Life Stadium. Located 16 miles northwest of downtown Miami, Sun Life opened in 1987 and has hosted many soccer and football games as well as music festivals and concerts. Keep an eye out on their website if you want to see some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment.
The 4,569 capacity James L. Knight Center is an entertainment, meeting, and convention center housed in downtown Miami. Opened in 1982, the venue has hosted artists like Wale, R.E.M, Charlie Wilson, and J. Cole. The performance space is located in the Hyatt Regency hotel and has a well-worn but maintained vibe to it. This simple venue brings in some great entertainment with a no-muss, no-fuss atmosphere.
Downtown Miami is home to the massive American Airlines Arena, an event space that books internationally touring artists. Located along Biscayne Bay, American Airlines Arena is home to the NBA’s Miami Heat. Having hosted acts like U2, Madonna, Coldplay, Marc Anthony, Phish, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and Jay-Z, the arena has become a destination stop for all touring A-listers.
The Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater, managed by Live Nation, has hosted Lenny Kravitz, Seal, Tony Bennett, Marc Anthony, El Puma, Frank Sinatra, Jack Benny, and Bob Hope. An impressive venue with impeccable acoustics and lighting (not to mention gorgeous chandeliers), the Fillmore Miami keeps its standards in line with that of the other Fillmore theaters in other major U.S. markets.
Grand Central Miami is a midsize performance space with features reminiscent of a warehouse. Musicians like School of Seven Bells, The Naked and Famous, Iggy Azalea, Icona Pop, Misfits, The Temper Trap, Surfer Blood, A$AP Rocky, and Deer Tick, among many others, have graced the stage. Enjoy a crowded night of dancing to some of the best current music.
Opened in 1951, the Miami Dade County Auditorium hosts operas, symphony, theater, concerts, ballets, lectures, and educational community programs. The space can accommodate 2,429 people for shows like Ivette Cepeda, Descemer Bueno, Danny Rivera, and Chucho Avellanet.
No city would be complete without its casino music entertainment. Enter the Magic City Casino: they host shows by acts like Michael Bolton, The Romantics, Cynthia and Johnny O, The Spinners, Eric Burdon and the Animals, and Ralphie May. Don’t spend too much money on tickets – save some for the slots!
For over 35 years, Carnival Miami has hosted the Calle Ocho Music Festival. The proceeds benefit the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana’s community service programs. So while you’re enjoying the musical stylings of Leslie Grace, Oro Solido, Daddy Yankee, Juan Magan, David Correy, Celiz Cruz All-Stars, Dark Latin Groove (DLG), Frankie Negron, and Alfredo de la Fe, you’re also helping those in need!
The Miami Made Festival at the Adrienne Arsht Center is a showcase featuring new work from artists and musicians working in Miami. With play readings, dance showcases, and performances, the festival is sure to quench your thirst for art. Best of all: admission to the festival is free! While this is primarily a performing and visual arts showcase, keep an eye out for musical performances to be thrown into the mix.
Sun Life Stadium hosts Soulfrito: the Urban Latin Music Festival every February. With performances by Nas, Don Omar, Busta Rhymes, Victor Manuelle, Plan B, Juicy J, and El Torito, this festival will make you get up and dance. Established in 2002, Soulfrito is the first and longest running annual Urban Latin music festival in the U.S. Latin, Urban, Pop, and EDM acts take the stage to throw one massive, all-day party. If you need a break from the loud music and DJ sets, check out their live art and digital installations throughout the event space. You’ll even get to see emerging names in music before they become famous, as this festival has helped rise Pitbull, Aventura, and Wisin Y Yandel to fame.
The touring Ultra Music Festival makes a stop in Miami at the Klipsch Amphitheater at Bayfront Park. The EDM festival features the hottest names in music: Tiesto, Afrojack, Armin van Buuren, Avicii, Cazzette, Cut/Copy, David Guetta, Diplo, Eric Prydz, M.I.A., MGMT, Pusha T, and Zedd, among many others. The outdoor festival utilizes the Klipsch Amphitheater’s state of the art production equipment to put on an unforgettable, highly-coveted show.
Grand Central will host two nights of the Hard Miami festival. Acts like Boys Noize, M.I.A., Zeds Dead, RL Grime, Cashmere Cat, MK, Claptone, T. Williams, AMTRAC, and Brodinski will keep you dancing until all hours of the night.
If you prefer your festivals in the middle of the ocean, check out Kid Rock’s Chillin’ the Most Cruise. Going on its fifth year, the cruise sails from Miami to Key West and then to the Bahamas, where concert/cruise-goers can turn the island into a self-proclaimed “Redneck Paradise.” Kid Rock, Scott Munns, The Band of Heathens, Trailer Park Ninjas, and Big Rock Show will be headlining the six day cruise. Don’t expect to relax and kick back — this cruise festival expects you to party hard and let loose. You can even get a tattoo on board!
Promoted by the charity organization Positive Legacy, Holy Ship! is another floating festival that resides on board the MSC Divina, a luxury ship. Restaurants, spas, and casinos will keep you entertained when you’re not catching a show by Zedd, Laid Back Luke, Diplo, Boys Noize, A-Trak, Baauer, Disclosure, Skrillex, and Flume. With two private island beach parties during the cruise, you may even spot Pharrell and his entourage flying in to join the fun.
The Moody Blues Cruise celebrates the iconic rock band the Moody Blues by featuring performances by The Zombies, Lighthouse, Roger Daltry of the Who, Starship, Little River Band, and Carl Palmer of ELP, among other special guests (of course the Moody Blues is the headlining act). Sailing for five days to Grand Turk Island and Nassau, the cruise also sails on the MSC Divina. The festival cruise is themed around the Isle of Wight Festival, one of the most iconic classic rock festivals in history, and produces Q&A sessions, a karaoke bar, special events, and plenty of activities that allow you to interact with the acts — all while sailing on a luxury liner!