The best live music venues in Miami are sprawling, loud and relentless. At least during the winter; it’s a little more lethargic during the hot summer months when all anyone wants to do is find a swimming pool in Miami or cool off at a Miami beach. Weather notwithstanding, South Beach and its mega nightclubs aren't known for their jam sessions either. If you think beyond the nightlife scene, you'll soon discover terrific live music from live bands with real instruments performing in places without velvet ropes. So turn off the DJ and get down to tunes from some real-life musicians at these top spots.
Best live music venues in Miami
With no neon sign outside and no valets to park your car, Bardot aims to keep a much lower profile than its brethren across the causeway. The venue has a soft spot for local musicians, and top-notch DJs often spin into the wee hours. The Thursday night Living Room Sessions feature well-known indie pop and hip-hop artists such as Slick Rick and Junior Boy. Be sure to check out the erotic artwork on the walls.
This is Miami’s most famous dive bar, in the heart of smash-and-grab-central Little Haiti. It’s had the shit kicked out of it so many times it wears its bruises with pride. The beer’s cheap, as is the food (good booze-soaking fare such as scotch eggs and curry). There are a couple of pool tables, Space Invaders video games and a jukebox stuffed with skatepunk. Bands of varying quality play nightly in the back.
Gramps is a chill bar where cheap drinks and live music are the norm. People who love music love Gramps because not only is it mixed up in Wynwood’s artsy vibe, but you almost never hear commercial radio music. Go here to hear live music from indie and alternative rock bands, as well as see stand-up comics and other performers.
Visiting Miami for its vibrant Cuban heritage? Easy enough, considering there’s a cafecito spot on every corner. But as far as live music and drinks go, Ball & Chain is your place. Located in Little Havana, its white-and-green awning is pretty hard to miss. On any given night, you’ll hear live jazz, salsa and traditional Cuban music. Local bands, like Suénalo and Spam Allstars, typically charm crowds with performances on the pineapple stage in the outdoor courtyard out back. Though low-key, the place often ramps up dramatically, everyone dancing and sipping drinks between bites of tasty Cuban food.
In the heart of South Miami, Bougies is a hot spot on the South Florida live music circuit. Best known as a laid-back live music venue, the best acts perform Tuesday through Sunday and feature a range of styles, including jazz, R&B, Latin funk, reggae and rock. The club’s Thursday Living Room Sessions are usually funk and soul, followed by live reggae at night. The artists are local talents, a real switch up from the typical Miami club vibe. Bougies also has corresponding drink specials based on the night—think $4 Jamaican beers on reggae nights. Yea, mon!
Lagniappe is a cozy New Orleans-style wine bar with shabby-chic decor that supplies barbecue and live music every single night. Sounds vary from jazz to blues, rock and hip- hop. At Lagniappe, you can have it your way in a super-chill environment and mixed crowd: You’ll see 20-year-olds kicking it with 40-somethings and enjoying wine, beer, cheese and amazing music. Cheese plates include sliced crusty bread, marinated olives and fig jam for just $5. Most beer is $4 to $6. No out-of-control bills here.
The communal outdoor space is a one-stop for local eats and beats. You’ll find some of the city’s most popular food trucks permanently parked along the perimeter of the space and a large cocktail bar at the center. But the real focus of the Wynwood Yard is its rotating list of performers, featuring bands from all over Florida as well as Miami-based talent. The yard also puts on weekly musical showcases, including the popular reggae Sundays.
For an over-the-top, crazy South Beach kind of fun, try Mango’s, a restaurant/nightclub with cocktails, live Latin music and entertainment until 5am that’s nothing short of fabulous. A main attraction is the nightly 8pm dinner show, one of the longest-running performances of its kind in the country. The Mango’s experience comes with live band, DJ sets and acts ranging from salsa and bachata to tribute performers. Dancers appear frequently and will shake it on the dance floor, on tables and just about everywhere else.
Few businesses endure in this spot (it's been an indie club, a gay hangout and an EDM bar, to name a few) but Armando Records' future appears promising. Its indoor and outdoor stages have already showcased the likes of Bomba Estéreo, Locos Por Juana and Osmani Garcia. In addition to Latin artists, the downtown Miami lounge (an offshoot of a Bógota club by the same name) is where you'll see local rap stars and rock bands perform nearly every weekend. The perennially up-and-coming area is sketchy but at least the drinks inside are cheap.
Most things set in Miami are actually filmed in LA, but whenever someone shoots in the city (Chef, Ballers), this place seems to make an appearance. Maybe that’s because the Little Havana lounge offers an authentic Latin music experience in a chic, intimate space—think tight round tables huddled before a low stage and walls lined with black and white portraits of Latin icons. Hoy Como Ayer regularly brings huge salsa artists and keeps a steady rotation of local Latin funk outfits, so you’re sure to catch a great act any night. Check the schedule online to see if there’s cover.