For music lovers, one of the best things about a Florida getaway is checking out the dynamic local nightlife. Whether your style is kicking back at a beach bar while a local band croons Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville,” showing off your best salsa moves at a Latin club or listening to some cool cats jam at a little-known jazz spot, you’ll find your niche in this musically diverse state.
The Green Parrot Bar, Key West
Despite being one of the oldest watering holes in town, the Green Parrot is also one of the hippest, at least according to its devoted local following. That’s mostly because of the funky live music scene that ranges from Latin to rock to reggae. Genre is unimportant, as long as the crowd can get down to an intoxicating rhythm and work up a thirst for the Green Parrot Root Beer Barrel, the signature drink.
Those who aren’t nocturnal creatures can still get their groove on at a “sound check,” a 90-minute session held from 5:30-7 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays.
For an evening big on Florida kitsch, catch ukulele night.
The (misspelled) sign above the bar best sums up the vibe of this fun, quirky dive, “No Snivelling.”
El Tucán, Miami
Sophisticated supper clubs featuring live entertainment may feel like a thing of the past, but El Tucán, a relative newcomer to Miami’s Brickell neighborhood, has revived the glamour of 1940s Havana with glitzy cabaret shows.
Inspired by the world-famous Tropicana Club, a fixture in the Cuban capital since 1939, El Tucán stages performances that are simultaneously graceful and daring. Dancers in feathers, sequins and little else strut across the stage to sultry Latin rhythms. The show is followed by a live music set often defined by pounding percussion. It wouldn’t seem remiss if Desi Arnaz appeared banging a conga drum and singing “Babalu.”
The pulsating sounds of Cuba bring the audience to its feet. Soon, the dance floor is filled with twirling, hip-popping couples dancing the samba or the merengue.
Music feeds the soul, but Latin-style tapas feed the body. An $85 prix fixe menu showcases innovative flavor profiles so delicious, it may distract you from the show. Nondiners can catch the performance from an upstairs bar.
Square Grouper Tiki Bar, Jupiter
The Square Grouper Tiki Bar is probably best known as the filming location of the music video “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere” with Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett, but this oceanfront drinking spot has lots to offer even when lesser-known names take the stage. For locals, part of the fun is wondering what’s going to be served next on this ever-changing musical buffet. (Haven’t heard of Jupiter? It’s about a half-hour north of West Palm Beach.) There’s a second location in Fort Pierce, about 50 miles north of Jupiter.
One weekend, the crowd might be dancing to a unique country-rock fusion band, and the next, it could be singing that mellow Bob Marley classic, “Stir It Up,” with a dreadlocked reggae group.
No matter who is playing, it all sounds better with a Dirty Monkey, a concoction of vodka, Kahlua and banana liqueur.
Bottom line, the place is funky and fun.
The Florida Orchestra, St. Petersburg
The Florida Orchestra turned 50 in 2017, but it’s no old fuddy-duddy. In many ways, the largest professional orchestra in Florida seems younger than ever, thanks to new music director Michael Francis. The dynamic Englishman has coaxed his musicians to soar to new heights artistically, earning him accolades from Tampa Bay audiences.
Francis enjoys international acclaim, having demonstrated his considerable talents as conductor in European, Asian and North American cities, and, now, the tri-city area of Clearwater, Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Francis believes in a “balanced diet” when it comes to music. Naturally, he has a passion for classical, but he also embraces contemporary music, conducting the works of Rachmaninoff and the score to the Harry Potter movies with equal enthusiasm.
B Sharps Jazz Club, Tallahassee
B Sharps celebrates the jazz luminaries of today and nurtures those of tomorrow. Big names like Wynton Marsalis occasionally grace the stage of this intimate listening room that accommodates only about 100 people, but local cats, mostly music students from Florida State University, come to earn their chops.
They may be young, but some have an extraordinary talent and stage presence that makes people sit up and take notice. That ordinary college kid riffing his heart out could be an award-winning jazz master someday. Club owners Clarence and Geraldine Seay have seen it happen, and they pride themselves on offering a venue to the budding talent in their community.
Jazz musicians can’t simply memorize a piece; they have to think on their feet. The ability to improvise while being attuned to other band members is paramount, and it takes lots and lots of practice. B Sharps offers a supportive audience of jazz lovers who want to see young players succeed.
This isn’t a bar where music is background noise to chatter and laughter. When musicians take the stage, patrons are all ears.
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