Video may have killed the radio star, but now “The DJ” is on trial for attempted murder in many places across the country. The alleged victim – live music. Music created by humans, for humans, in real time, where there is eye contact, smiles, nods of appreciation, and bursts of clapping and dancing when that “feeling” just can’t be contained any longer.
Live music is a dying breed in many places, but fortunately for those that visit or dwell in Miami, a select group of business owners dedicated to live music have kept it alive and well in the Southern part of the Sunshine State.
For many people, music sits alongside food, water and shelter as one of basic needs, so it only makes sense that if you combine the four together you’ll have the formula for a great night out. As a food lover (and aspiring musician) I dedicate this article to all the restaurants (and patrons of restaurants) out there who support live music.
Coconut Grove, commonly referred to as just “The Grove”, is a live music haven in general. The local business owner’s association in the Grove makes sure the street corners and sidewalk cafe’s of the Grove are filled with all sorts of music, from Bluegrass and Folk to Steel drum and Afro-Caribbean.
Catch the Djonga Kembe playing outside of Out of Africa in the early afternoon while perusing traditional African wares and you’ll think you are more “in Africa” than out. Or check with Le Moulin Du Grove to see when “The Barkless Dawgs” acoustic trio is playing, and enjoy a baguette and a nice bottle of wine while listening to a trio of steel-string guitar, world percussion, and acoustic guitar play a medley of Flamenco, Jazz, World Beat and Americana that will leave you feeling as if you are in Kerouac’s On the Road. Real people playing real music…
In the early evening (which is 8PM’ish in Miami time), Upstairs at Van Dyke Cafe is the place to be. For many years they have been bringing in musician after musician with such talent that you will find yourself looking around in disbelief that you were able to just stroll in and sit close enough to read the brand name on the guitar player’s pick. Not just on weekends, but throughout the week you’ll experience amazing Jazz, Latin Jazz, Bossa Nova, Flamenco, Blues and mixed acoustic combinations of the above. With warm lighting and an intimate ambience, a beautiful bar with hard to find rums, scotches, vodkas, tequila’s and great food centered on Mediterranean flavors, upstairs at the Van Dyke Cafe is a jazz lovers paradise.
After a little dinner and taking in the first set upstairs at Van Dyke Cafe, take it up a notch by heading over to Jazid on Washington Avenue. Although a name like Jazid would have you think the above description of Van Dyke was misplaced, the New Orleans-feeling Jazid has been a hub for live music on South Beach for over 12 years. Jazid has morphed with the times as South American influence seeped heavily into the Miami area in the 90’s. Not to be confused with the classic Latin Jazz sound of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s that mixes the indigenous sounds of Puerto Rico (Bomba, Plena), Cuba (Son, Rumba) and the Dominican Republic (Merengue, Bachata) with classic jazz. Groups like Grammy-nominated Locos Por Juana, as well as Suenalo Sound System and The Spam All-Stars take off from Latin Jazz with Colombian sounds like Cumbia in addition to funk, soul and reggae to create a new genre that tips its hat to the Big Band era of the Palladium while nodding to P-Funk and Bob Marley alike. Although not a restaurant, the drinks are strong and the vibe is music, music, music.
If you still have some steam left and are looking for some late night Rock or Blues, the legendary Tobacco Road will be waiting for you. Opened in 1912, it is the owner of Miami’s first-ever liquor license and has hosted Blues legend B.B. King. It’s walls whisper the secret’s of Al Capone from when it was a speak-easy, and the fresh whole lobsters (often for under $15), steaks, barbecue, hand-cut fries, and free-flowing Gentlemen (Jack, Jim and Johnny) are boast-worthy as well. Electric Blues, Classic and Latin Rock, as well as a little of “you never know what shows up” all grace the stages at Tobacco Road. With a dark, worn, smoky feel that is usually experienced along the banks of the Southern Mississippi, Tobacco Road stands the test of time as Miami’s longest-running and most award-winning live music venue.
Miami’s music is now a sauce containing influences from the many different Caribbean Islands and South America, sitting alongside Jazz and Blues of African descent and Rock n’ Roll from the good ole’ USA to make for a truly unique flavor and experience. The establishments mentioned above toil to maintain this experience, often at out-of-pocket expense. Let their music soothe your soul the way many a local Miamian does will give thanks enough…enjoy.
What & Where:
Van Dyke Cafe (849 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach; 305-534-3600)
Jazid (1342 Washington Ave Miami Beach; 305-673-9372)
Tobacco Road (626 S. Miami Ave, Miami; 305-374-1198)
Out of Africa (2911 Grand Ave # 402, Coconut Grove; 305-445-5900)
Le Moulin Du Grove (3425 Main Hwy, Coconut Grove; 305-774-1111)