Culture Room
Photo by Monica McGivern

On a chilly Friday night in January, desperate procrastinators were hanging outside a strip mall begging anyone and everyone if they had an extra ticket. No one did, because the Southern California shoegazers Silversun Pickups were in town for the first time in six years. After local openers Sweet Bronco warmed up the crowd at Culture Room, the LA quartet ripped through 16 of their alternately rocking and brooding songs that had the packed room jumping up and down to lyrics about lazy eyes, panic switches, and well-thought-out twinkles. They played requests for songs they hadn't played in years, like "Kissing Families." They flirted and joked with fans in the crowd. And, in the best of show business tradition, they left the audience hungry for more.

Weakened by a rare form of cancer, the West Palm Beach guitarist of Surfer Blood did not just sit around and mope when he had to quit touring with his band to receive treatment. Instead, he locked himself in his bedroom and made beautiful music. This past December, Thomas Fekete released Burner — 11 songs recorded on his home 4-track. The standout was the early release from the album, "Treason." It's 90 seconds of fuzzed-out, blissful garage rock filled with distortion and surf guitar. Depending on your mood, you can see it as a moment of triumph of art over human frailty or a haunting, ominous hymn of betrayal. Either way, it will earn a permanent spot on your playlist.

Rick Ross' eighth studio album features guest appearances by everyone from John Legend, Nas, and Mariah Carey to Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown, and Future, showing off the former corrections officer and current Broward resident's keen knack for collaboration. But it's the locally bred rap star's usual threatening braggadocio and trademarked "humphs" that achieve new heights on Black Market. Released in December 2015, a mere 376 days after his previous LP, Hood Billionaire, the new album received praise across the board. Even though he's faced some challenges over the last few years, (including involvement in a shootout on Las Olas Boulevard in 2013 and aggravated assault and kidnapping charges in 2015 after allegedly pistol-whipping one of his employees at his Georgia mansion), Ross remains one of our proudest exports in recent music history. Playing up his close working relationship with fellow local hustler and social media maven DJ Khaled, as well as grooming a massive Snapchat following of his own, Ricky Rozay (aka Ferrari Fatboy) makes it clear he's still a boss — and Black Market is testament to that truth.

While Palm Beach and the United Kingdom aren't known to have any trade agreements, the album Golden Ticket might be as good a reason as any to set up a British embassy somewhere around West Palm. The record is a union between local rapper Eric Biddines and English producer Paul White. Together as Golden Rules, they embody the spirit of classic hip-hop. They aren't afraid to get silly like they do on "Holy Macaroni" with the refrain, "Holy moly macaroni with the cheese," nor are they scared to get sultry as they do on "Play Some Luther" where Biddines coos, "Take your skirt off/Play some Luther Vandross." Biddines' old-school flow merges perfectly with White's ear for beats, which he previously honed with acts like Danny Brown and Charli XCX.

Palm Beach band Raggy Monster is part dream, part nightmare. Mixing beauty, horror, and fantasy both in their music and onstage has been their calling card. Their album is called As the Thorn Lures the Widow's Lip, It Seeks No Wisdom From the Wicker Flies, and the little green monster on its cover was inspired by guitarist Billy Schmidt's childhood imaginary friend. His wife Rachel, the lead singer, takes the main stage of the band's music video for "Crying Shame," which is simple and dramatic at the same time. After opening with images of fireworks and an ominous piano melody, the rest of the band slowly joins in until Rachel steps up to her place front and center. The video switches back from and forth from shots of the band playing and Rachel singing from a car driving by. Well known for her dramatic facial expressions and powerful onstage presence, Rachel delivers a performance like a haunting dream. While the band is more exciting to watch live, this music video certainly does Raggy Monster justice.

Tarpon Bend Food & Tackle
Michael McElroy

Massive, thumping nightclubs where a vodka Red Bull sets you back $20 and aggressive bros in button-downs rule the night are thankfully a fading trend, but the urge to dance will never go away. In Broward, we do it with zero frills. On Himmarshee Street, Fort Lauderdale's turnup central, seedy bottle service venues like Off the Hookah and Art Bar have shuttered their doors, but a handful of spots have remained true to their simple, time-proven formulas. Though it's primarily a restaurant, Tarpon Bend also has a decent dance floor, complemented by a refreshing lack of VIP bottle service or any dress code whatsoever. An upstairs bar and balcony overlook bustling crowds outside, and plenty of seating lets partiers roam from spot to spot, periodically timing out to show off their moves and maybe even score a make-out sesh under the dim lighting. Without being as unashamedly basic as, say, Dicey Riley's (where a typical night's playlist will span Journey to Sir Mix-a-Lot), Tarpon Bend's DJs stick to a mix of danceable hits spanning old school hip-hop to Michael Jackson to approachable house beats. And where at some places you'll at the very least receive a dirty look and quite possibly get ice thrown at you for deigning to request a song, at Tarp a total lack of pretension means your request for Rihanna's "Work" on repeat might actually be indulged. So go ahead and dance with yourself; this is judgment-free zone.

Readers' choice: Stache 1920's Drinking Den

Stache Drinking Den
CandaceWest.com

"We're keeping it true to the vinyl because we're all music lovers. That's kind of what was missing," says Jo Viscaino, marketing and music-curation mastermind at Stache in downtown Fort Lauderdale. "It needs to feel organic — feel right, comfortable." Viscaino's Strictly Vinyl party on Wednesday nights at the speakeasy-style sister venue to America's Backyard and Revolution Live was a year in the making. "I was so meticulous in making sure the DJs were comfortable that I literally had all our managers agree we can't have people come up and [ask] for requests. That's not the vibe," she says. To create a more intimate feel, once a week they close off the curtains, shut down the first floor, and offer 25 percent off all whiskey drinks and free pool. "People just know," says Viscaino of the party, which has gained traction mostly through word of mouth. "It's kind of like a living room party." The event happens from 8 p.m. to midnight for now.

Shout Karaoke
Dana Drolet Photography

The Isley Brothers loved to cause a ruckus. They released "Shout" in 1959 and "Twist and Shout" in 1962 (and a few people probably made some noise to their 1983 single, "Between the Sheets"). Both songs are classic singalongs at parties and weddings and are perfect fits, thematically, for Shout Karaoke in downtown West Palm Beach. Like its musical namesake, Shout is a fun, friendly, and often silly karaoke joint with options for both the attention whores and the shy guys. An unassuming entrance leads directly into the heart of the action in front of the main bar. The entire floor is the stage, allowing singers to hide near a hi-top or strut their stuff in the faces of passersby. In the rear is a second bar and lounge area, and eight private karaoke rooms line either side of the lounge. It's ideal for birthdays and private parties, and upstairs in the pool hall, there's an escape from all the wailing banshees. The best thing about Shout is how supportive the room always is. Regardless of your level of suck, people will always clap. (Yes, a bit of liquid courage poured by the awesome bartenders helps.)

Readers' choice: Dubliner Irish Pub

Hard Rock Live
Photo by Ralph Notaro / Courtesy of Hard Rock Live

An enclosed, multipurpose arena seating 5,500, the iconic Hard Rock Live is most famous for hosting massive music and comedy shows, but it has also served as home to sporting events like world championship boxing, tennis, and rodeo events, as well as celebrity charity fundraisers and exhibitions. Opened in the summer of 2005, it's competed with similar sized venues like the 5,000-seat Mizner Park Amphitheater in Boca and even larger venues like the 20,000-seat BB&T Center in Sunrise, bringing in legendary acts like the Beach Boys, Billy Idol, and Diana Ross as well as more recent luminaries like Fall Out Boy, Weezer, and comedian Tracy Morgan. Draws for talent and fans alike include the venue's state-of-the art sound system as well as its modern, scaled-down pro sports arena feel. Coupled with the fact that it's nestled within one of South Florida's premier casino and nightlife hubs, the always-professional Hard Rock Live consistently delivers top-rate talent in a comfortable, dynamic atmosphere.

Readers' choice: BB&T Center

It's been a while since the party people of Fort Lauderdale have had an intimate live music venue with the quality bands and kickass sound system that can compete with the larger, more expensive clubs. Screeching wannabes in hot, smoky bars with sticky floors have satisfied our lust for rock 'n' roll for too long. But Trio Live is an upscale club close enough to the freeway to be convenient and just far enough from the beach to offer plenty of free parking. Its analog sound system is a claim to fame, presenting music in the raw, grainy splendor that true music connoisseurs demand — powerful enough to pound out blazing classic rock on weekends, yet clean enough to have a conversation over smooth jazz and soulful blues on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Rock out to bands like the Long Run, Jeffrey James Gang, and Riverdown without having to sidestep through puke or make a mad dash to find a clean restroom. Trio Live offers a full menu, a generous bar, and no cover charge.

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