Miami’s independent music scene stretches across its neighborhoods - in tiny hidden spots and large outdoor venues, through crowds thumping to DJs in huge festivals, or on an intimate stage at a University of Miami hangout. But, there’s no doubt that a certain corner in an unlikely neighborhood has become the major hub for the independent music scene - and it’s marked by a giant portrait of Notorious B.I.G.
Little Haiti’s dynamic impact in Miami’s thriving independent music scene centers around NE 2nd Avenue and NE 55th Street where Sweat Records and Churchill’s Pub are located. Together, these two draw all sects of the music scene from ska, punk and indie-rock, to jazz and the blues; if you dig music you’ll dig this pocket of Little Haiti. There’s more to the area than these staples of the scene.
It’s called Little Haiti for a reason; you won’t want to miss the opportunity to soak up the sounds and rhythms of Haitian culture on Big Night in Little Haiti, a monthly night of music, culture and fun. The rest of the month you’ll find the same grooving spirit at the bright new Little Haiti Cultural Center’s galleries, theater and dance studios.
Miami’s independent music scene doesn’t sound like any other. Why would it? The city’s geography, and 11 hour car ride from Atlanta (the next major music city on most tours), fosters its unique sound - a blend of jazz, Afro-Cuban, and contemporary influence, whether rap, electronic or something in between, at music venues around the city.
If you know any music buff in Miami, young or old, a trombone player or an electric guitar thrasher, they’re going to recommend you stop at Churchill’s for a glimpse at what’s up in the Miami live music scene. Since 1979 Churchill’s has been the spot for emerging bands to work the stage and get some exposure to Miami’s music enthusiasts and visiting patrons. This semi-English pub has a lineup so diverse you can listen to Latin Rock one night, join in a happy hour karaoke followed by live local bands the next, stop by a benefit show with a ten band line up later that week and drop in for a reggae or jazz night, all in seven days.
Churchill’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with classic pub fare like Sheppard’s Pie, Bangers & Mash and chips. This place can get rowdy for a midday game of Liverpool versus Manchester United or an open mic night on the back patio on a Monday night. Come by for a game of pool, a drink in the backyard, a soccer game, a local record label’s release party, a bacon cheeseburger with a cold one and of course – some new music that will make you a fan.
There was a time when record shops were crucial to local music and people congregated over new vinyl releases. The shop owners knew every band you had to listen to. It’s gotten tougher to keep the magic of the record shop alive, but Sweat Records has proven it’s not impossible.
Sweat Records, right next to Churchill’s, is more than a record shop, it’s a café, music store, event space and hangout to Miami’s indie scene. It was started in 2005 by two best friends with day jobs as a lawyer and a club promoter. Sweat Records is credited with organizing and spreading the word on the rise of the indie scene in Miami. Sweat has been through three locations and this one is the best match. While still cozy, the space has a small stage, a vegan café with delicious specialty coffee drinks (using soy and almond milk), free WiFi and space to use it, rows and rows of CDs and records with hand drawn labels, t-shirts and merchandise from local bands. You will also find novelty items like locally made sunglasses, magazines, books and literary journals, miniature record players and Lomography cameras.
If record stores have been relegated from necessary cultural hot spots to subculture organizers, Sweat has cracked the code on how to do it. The dedicated team does more than sell cool music and old favorites, they engage the community and welcome them into their family. Sweat puts on a yearly block-party called Sweatstock and has named a new holiday, Record Store Day.
Big Night in Little Haiti and the Little Haiti Cultural Center
The third Friday of every month is Big Night in Little Haiti, a free night of music, art, food, culture and fun at the Little Haiti Cultural Center. A rotating lineup of special guests include everyone from the Miami Heat’s Street Band to Grammy nominated Haitian group Boukman Eksperyans. Bring the kids to enjoy an activity in the gallery or come to experience the sounds of Little Haiti.
The Little Haiti Cultural Center’s objective is “for residents and visitors to gain exposure to Afro-Caribbean culture, entertain and develop new talent and expand their knowledge of the arts.”
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