Beyond its status as a dance festival nexus, Florida's Magic City is a breeding ground for underground sounds and scenes.
In this ongoing series, Billboard Dance explores the best and most buzzworthy dance scenes throughout the United States and beyond.
Miami is a mercurial city in the midst of a transitional era. Befitting of an area populated by transient creatives, new arrivals from around the world and a steady stream of tourists, impermanence is indeed a fundamental part of the Magic City.
Naturally, its club scene -- as well as the music and communities that have formed around them -- has morphed in kind. Everything from house, electro, and even IDM has had its day under the South Florida sun, yielding regional innovations such as booty bass and Miami freestyle in the process.
The city birthed the beat to the Bee Gees’ “Jive Talkin’” is home to beloved DJs such as Oscar G and Danny Daze, and once Miami Music Week and Art Basel arrive (each March and December, respectively), the city becomes a biannual hub for international electronic music. In short, Miami’s dance music credentials are unimpeachable.
But the very ephemerality that defines Miami has also hampered its capacity to foster long-lasting, meaningful movements. Whether it’s due to the local government, which prioritizes real estate developers over residents and venues, or the shared, omnipresent existential dread that it’ll be underwater in the not-too-distant future, Miami has historically struggled to allow its subcultures to flourish naturally. Electronic musicians and DJs living in the city -- such as contemporary experimental outfit Space Tapes -- have repeatedly contended with a seemingly endless cycle of turnover in commercial and industrial spaces that’s left artists searching for sites in which to cultivate ideas and breed dedicated, durable followings.
Seeing as it changes on a regular basis, it’s hard to say what Miami dance culture will look like a year from now, much less six months: even as Club Space consistently dominates the affections of locals and passersby alike, the iconic Ultra Music Festival only returned to the city by the skin of its teeth despite calling it home for 20 years. And as cherished nightlife spots such as the Electric Pickle close their doors, the promise of new clubs that’d fill the void are promptly thwarted by rising rent costs and overdevelopment.
However, no condition is permanent, and the last few years have seen the emergence of a new creative class in Miami. Between the city’s bars, record stores, and clubs, Miami’s fresh-faced DJs and producers are finding plenty of places to meet, collaborate and sort out what’s coming next. Even among the uncertainty, if you listen closely, you can hear the future taking shape.
Club Space stands tall among Miami’s dance music landscape in popularity as much as it does in size. Although it’s experienced fallow periods, Space has remained a constant of the city’s dance culture since its initial one-story incarnation opened in 2000. Now a two-floored and multi-venue operation, the club is experiencing a renaissance under the direction of co-owners Davide Danese, Coloma Kaboomsky and David Sinopoli.
Space manages the miracle of booking both crossover and leftfield acts without coming across as conflicted; you’ll just as likely catch Claude VonStroke spinning in the club’s famed Terrace as you will the likes of Dixon or The Black Madonna. The most devoted of Miami’s dance floor faithful have all undergone the rite of passage that is watching the sunrise through the Terrace’s greenhouse-like ceiling. It might require burning the candle at both ends and then some, but it’s the most fantastic and quintessential club experience Miami has to offer.
Despite sharing a building and ownership with Club Space, Floyd is effectively its own venue. The 200-person capacity club comprises little more than an L-shaped hallway that greets visitors upon entry, a main room and bar, plus a diminutive den where patrons can sit down for a spell. With its smaller frame and intimate atmosphere, Floyd feels tailor-made for the kind of frenzied, close-quartered dance floor shenanigans that often produce the most memorable nights out.
Besides bringing more niche acts such as Francis Inferno Orchestra and Matias Aguayo to Miami, Floyd -- along with the Ground, the name used for Space’s first floor when it’s deployed as its own venue -- has also presented events thrown by local initiatives including Space Tapes, Miami-based online broadcasters Klangbox.FM and Charli XCX-approved queer collective Internet Friends.
Treehouse stands as a solitary outpost for the underground in Miami Beach. With the once-bustling Trade seemingly shuttered, the nightclub and Do Not Sit On The Furniture are now the only South Beach spots prioritizing the dance floor over the not-so cheap thrills of bottle service. Fortunately for those who prefer their after-hours misadventures to be situated beachside, Treehouse has more than its fair share of attractions. The two-room club has hosted a formidable roster of artists, including Detroit techno luminaries Carl Craig and Derrick May as well as beloved DJs such as Cassy and Josh Wink.
The Corner’s location is as notable as its cocktails and the people who consume them. Conveniently positioned at the intersection of North Miami Avenue and Northwest 11th Street, the dimly lit dive is found just minutes away from Club Space. Miami-based DJs such as Hiltronix and Terence Tabeau can be frequently heard assembling off-kilter mixes inside, and the bar is courteous enough to provide drinks through an outdoor window.
Customers are often seen chasing their drinks and cigarettes with actual nourishment before heading to Space. Because its late-night kitchen stays open later than nearby restaurant Fooq’s and other establishments, the Corner’s selection of salads, sandwiches, and snacks has become central to the Miami after-hours diet. The Corner’s proven to be a favorite with touring DJs as well: in March, Optimo brought the near-entirety of the Electric Pickle to the bar around 5:30 AM, following the duo’s last gig at the much-missed club.
Las Rosas has become remarkably popular among regulars in Miami’s dance music scene over a very brief period of time. As frequented by dance floor fiends as it is barflies, the space functions as a bar, music venue and general haven for miscreants (Seth Troxler has been spotted patronizing the place.) Since its November 2016 opening, Las Rosas has also served as home to a number of recurring local parties. This includes the italo disco and electro stylings of Another Night, which is organized by ascendant Miami selector Sister System, in addition to the esoteric, anything goes mentality of Tropico Virgo and the Pulp-indebted indie rock abundance of Different Class.
In the near-decade since its December 2012 opening, Gramps has come into its own as one of Miami’s premier hangouts. Boasting indoor and outdoor bars, an in-house pizza shack, a spacious open air dance floor and a robust drink menu, the watering hole has endeared itself equally to locals and out-of-towners. Gramps currently hosts several weekly residencies and reserves its decks for Terrestrial Funk, a label ran by Miami DJ and committed crate digger Brother Dan, as well as long-running queer party Double Stubble on Tuesdays and Thursdays respectively. Beyond Miami’s own, the bar has also enjoyed sets from the likes of dance-punk progenitors Bush Tetras, disco edit experts In Flagranti, and electro clash alumni ADULT.
In addition to its main appeal as an Asian food market, 1-800-Lucky also sports a surprisingly stacked record store and an outdoor dance floor. The food hall, which is based in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, has been graced with sets from some of the world’s most renowned DJs, with A-Trak, Boys Noize, Felix da Housecat, and Todd Terry among them. 1-800-Lucky has also been the site of Miami house music giant Oscar G’s periodic Rice and Beats party, where he’s been joined behind the booth by fellow house pioneers DJ Sneak and Kenny Dope.
777 International Mall
Situated in Downtown Miami, the 777 International Mall was originally built in the mid-20th century as a movie theater. Although it followed in the footsteps of many American properties and became converted into a shopping mall in the ‘80s, 777 was subsequently purchased by billionaire real estate mogul Moishe Mana. The mall, now managed by the Mana Contemporary art institution, was repurposed in 2017 to serve as a creative space for Miami artists. 777 has staged an assortment of electronic music-oriented events and dance parties, including broadcasts from Miami online radio stations Orchid.fm and Jolt Radio, as well as DJ sets from Sister System and experimental Miami music legend Rat Bastard.
Less than two years after opening in January 2018, Technique Records has cemented itself as a focal point of Miami’s dance music community. Owned and operated by record store veteran Mikey Ramirez, the independent music retailer offers consistently great electronic selections and routinely features in-store spin sessions with local DJs such as Bort and Kumi. The shop has also facilitated pop-up events with hometown hero Danny Daze’s record label Omnidisc and Space Tapes, the Miami-based label spearheaded by DJ-producer Nick León. Don’t be surprised if you spot any Technique employees DJing or throwing down at Miami’s underground warehouse parties. Technique is also growing, as it recently acquired a free-standing building across the street which will allow the store to increase stock and activations and partner with Wish You Were Gear, a vintage synthesizer/electronics/gear retailer founded by Adam Gersten of Gramps.
The preferred record store of Miami transplant Iggy Pop, Sweat Records was co-founded by music scene fixture and Magic City native Lauren “Lolo” Reskin. At the moment, Reskin is preparing to transplant the shop out of its longtime Little Haiti storefront -- which hosted DJ sets from major players in the city’s electronic scene, including Klangbox.FM co-founder Laura of Miami, and more recent arrivals such as electro trailblazer Arthur Baker and prolific beatmaker Suzi Analogue -- into a yet to be announced location. However, she and her team are now expanding the definition of what Sweat can be with the founding of their aptly named record label Sweat Records Records. In June, the label issued “Everybody’s Jammin’,” a newly unearthed track by old-school Miami freestyle artist Debbie Deb.