Last year was tough for everyone, but it was especially bruising for music fans, who lived through the deaths of David Bowie and Prince — and George Michael on Christmas Day.
Now that the bubbly is no longer flowing, it's time to honor the legacies of these artists in a way they'd like: by going to see live music and supporting other artists. The year is already shaping up to be a banner one for live music in South Florida: Homegrown festivals are popping up with growing frequency, and more artists are recognizing that making the trek to the area is worth it. Here are some of the coming year's most exciting opportunities.
Run the Jewels
The reigning king of rap, Kendrick Lamar, anointed Killer Mike as one of hip-hop’s most important voices on 2015’s “Hood Politics” with the line “Critics want to mention that they miss when hip-hop was rappin’/Motherfucker, if you did, then Killer Mike would be platinum.” They're not quite at platinum status yet, but Mike’s collaboration with rapper El-P, Run the Jewels, has become the most successful venture in either artists' decades-long careers. The excitement for the early Christmas release of their latest Run the Jewels 3 should make for an even rowdier set than usual. And with a feature from Trina on the album, perhaps the Fillmore crowd will be in for a surprise hometown appearance from the Baddest Bitch herself?
Virginia Key Grassroots Festival
Over the past few years, Miami has assumed its rightful place on the list of prime regional festival destinations, and the Virginia Key Grassroots Festival was one of the first to recognize the potential of the city's beaches as the ideal camping/music backdrop. For the past five years, Grassroots has offered a weekend full of diverse musical acts, including impressive heavyweights such as the Family Stone and Charles Bradley. Organizers have yet to announce this year's full lineup, but they've expanded to a week of music, including preview events at the Wynwood Yard, Lagniappe, and the North Beach Bandshell before the weekend festivities at Virginia Key.
Virginia Key Grassroots Festival. Noon Tuesday, February 21, through Tuesday, February 28, at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Key Biscayne; 305-960-4600; virginiakeybeachpark.net. Tickets cost $25 to $35 via virginiakeygrassroots.com.
Building on the success of the day festivals of the past couple of years, the North Beach Bandshell seems poised to become one of the best venues for great music in Miami in 2017. Poplife has teamed with the Rhythm Foundation to jump-start the winter festival season via FM Festival, a celebration of locally sourced food and great music. Musical guests this year include Ghostface Killah, dance-rock group Hot Chip, David Byrne protégés Los Amigos Invisibles, and Colombian royalty Bomba Estéreo. There's something for everyone. And if you're not into whatever is onstage, hey, the beach is a minute-stroll away.
FM Festival. 2 p.m. Saturday, January 28, through Sunday, January 29, at North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-672-5202; northbeachbandshell.com. Tickets cost $45 to $450 via ticketfly.com.
9 Mile Music Festival
9 Mile Music Festival began in 1993 and has become a Miami institution. If the name doesn't sound familiar, it's because the festival was previously known as the Caribbean Music Festival and Marley Fest. The festival is a Marley family reunion with a few thousand guests, and it showcases performers such as Julian Marley. It also continues its annual canned food drive as a testament to the socially conscious spirit of the Marley family's music and spirit, which was led by patriarch Bob Marley. It's also worth noting that with its Caribbean roots, 9 Mile has far and away the best food options of any of Miami’s festivals.
9 Mile Music Festival. 1 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Key Biscayne; 305-960-4600; virginiakeybeachpark.net. Tickets cost $59 to $179 via 9milemusicfestival.com.
Nu Deco Ensemble
The Nu Deco Ensemble is one of those best-kept secrets that you should catch now before the rest of the world finds out about it. The futurist orchestra, now in its second season, performs standard classical arrangements but is best known for orchestral reworkings of contemporary music. Recent performances included Daft Punk, Kraftwerk, and a collaboration with dream-pop indie violinist Kishi Bashi. The ensemble's first concert of the year will feature the music of Radiohead and Frank Zappa. Nu Deco concerts are a must-see in the coming year.
Nu Deco Ensemble. 7:30 p.m. Sunday, January 15, at New World Center, 500 17th St., Miami Beach; 305-673-3330; nws.edu. Tickets cost $35 to $50 via nu-deco.org. Season subscriptions are also available.
Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival
When the inaugural Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival was announced in 2016, organizers offered an impressive lineup. But steep ticket prices were met with skepticism. Fans wondered if a first-time fest was worth the investment. The answer was an unequivocal yes. The festival was enough of a success to return this year with an even better lineup, including Solange, Blood Orange, Usher in collaboration with the Roots, and headliners Kings of Leon. Payment plans and camping are available for this can't-miss weekend, which has the potential to become a kind of Bonnaroo of the South.
Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival. Noon Thursday, March 2, through Sunday, March 5, at Sunshine Grove, 12517 NE 91st Ave., Okeechobee; okeechobeefest.com. Tickets cost $279 to $4,500 via okeechobeefest.com.
Tortuga Music Festival
South Florida isn't known as the epicenter of country music fandom. But no one is better versed at hitting the beach with red Solo cups in tow than a South Florida crowd. This year, Tortuga Music Festival will celebrate five years of pounding the sand in cowboy boots with a lineup that includes some of contemporary country radio’s heaviest hitters. Among them are Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker, and Chris Stapleton. Though the fest is country-centric, Nelly and Slightly Stoopid will take the stage to appease the fair-weather country listeners who were dragged there by their significant others.
Tortuga Music Festival. 1 p.m. Friday, April 7, through Sunday, April 9, at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, 1100 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-828-7275; myfortlauderdalebeach.com. Tickets cost $229 to $1399 via tortugamusicfestival.com.
Chicago band Tortoise is one of the most respected and influential American bands around, and seeing it play in Miami is a rare treat. The band sits comfortably among instrumental music icons such as Explosions in the Sky, and the group's sets run the gamut from psychedelic postrock to jazz fusion to electronic influenced music. It's encouraging that a band like Tortoise is making it all the way down from the bitter freeze of Chicago to call Miami Beach home for a night. The orange and lilac Miami sunset will be a welcome backdrop for the band's psych-rock jams.
Guns N' Roses
Some people want to watch the world burn down, and when Guns N’ Roses brings its Not in This Lifetime Tour to Marlins Park, Miami might well be ground zero for the dawn of the apocalypse. The tour is a flat-out miraculous reunion of the original lineup, including Slash and Duff McKagan joining forces once again with their bandanna brother, Axl Rose. Part of the excitement of buying a Guns N’ Roses ticket is the uncertainty of knowing whether the show will go on at all; there's never a guarantee that a band brawl won't derail tour plans. It's a gamble, but that's rock 'n' roll.
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Ground Up Festival
The Rhythm Foundation hits it out of the park again with Ground Up Music Festival’s mind-blowing lineup. Jazz ensemble Snarky Puppy will play all three nights at the North Beach Bandshell, and the lineup boasts Grammy winners and living legends such as Esperanza Spalding, John Medeski, and David Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash. Ground Up leans heavily toward today’s most innovative and forward-thinking jazz artists, so there's much potential for unique, one-night-only collaborations and improvisational jam sessions. Organizers also promise interactive workshops, making this a festival to be enjoyed by musicians and fans alike.