Where to Find African American Music in Florida
By Dalia Colón
No matter where you travel in Florida, keep an ear out for great music, with its roots in the African American experience. Here are few spots to try...
Bradfordville Blues Club
An oak tree crashing through the roof would be enough to make anyone sing the blues. But after that setback a few years ago, the venue is in the midst of a juke joint revival. Local musicians frequent the club, both as performers and fans. Bradfordville Blues Club has also welcomed A-list national acts, including James "Super Chikan" Johnson, Grammy winner Bobby Rush, New Orleans Suspects and more. 7152 Moses Lane, Tallahassee, (850) 906-0766, bradfordvilleblues.com.
FAMU Marching 100
When Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s football team plays, it’s the band that steals the show. Since 1892, the HBCU’s band has been known for its strong drumline beats and military-style precision that gets the crowd dancing. Attracting some of the world’s best student musicians, the Marching “100” is now more than 400 members strong. 1601 S Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Tallahassee, (850) 599-3024, famu.edu/marching100.
Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge
While honky-tonks have traditionally attracted white crowds, the musicians who play there are heavily influenced by black country artists from Jimmie Rodgers to Charley Pride to Lil Nas X. Tootsies’ Nashville location is one of the world’s most respected honky-tonk bars, and its satellite bar at Pier Park brings country flavor to Florida’s Gulf Coast. 700 S Pier Park Drive, Panama City Beach, (850) 236-3459, tootsies.net.
Donald L. Tucker Civic Center
Florida State University’s performing arts center attracts students, community members and tourists alike with its calendar of A-list acts. Past performers have included everyone from Chance the Rapper to K. Michelle to the Legends of Hip Hop tour, so check the website for upcoming shows. 505 W Pensacola St., Tallahassee, (850) 644-SHOW (7469), tuckerciviccenter.com.
Ritz Theatre and Museum
The lineup is always soulful at this historic Art Deco theater in a neighborhood once dubbed “the Harlem of the South.” From jazz concerts to Gospel plays to comedy and more, you’ll always find something to lift your spirits. 829 N Davis St., Jacksonville, (904) 807-2010, ritzjacksonville.com.
Breezy Jazz Club
It’s all that jazz all week long at this upscale live music venue. To make Friday and Saturday nights easy-breezy, reserve a VIP spot with bottle service. 119 W Adams St., Jacksonville, (904) 204-5299, breezyjazzclubjax.com.
Enjoy some R&R at this sophisticated jazz club and cigar lounge. Local musicians play on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and there’s always jazz streaming in the cigar bar, which stocks hundreds of brands and even offers humidified lockers to store your personal collection. Dress is business casual. 108 S Tennessee Ave., Lakeland, (863) 210-5327, lakelandloft.com.
CW’s Gin Joint
Owner Carolyn Wilson took her cues from the days when music lovers nursed drinks and savored jazz in an upscale atmosphere. At her gin joint, live jazz acts sooth you while tuxedoed bartenders keep everyone in good spirits. Even the drink menu improvises; check out the selection of CW’s custom cocktails. 633 N Franklin St., Tampa, (813) 816-1446, cwginjoint.com.
House of Blues
Feed your body and soul with a visit to the famed music venue’s weekly Gospel brunch. Every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., Central Florida’s best talent performs traditional and contemporary Gospel songs as the audience enjoys a buffet of breakfast items, carving stations, desserts and more. Music with a side of chicken and waffles? Sounds heavenly. 1490 E Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, (407) 934-2583, houseofblues.com/orlando/gospelbrunch.
Bob Marley—A Tribute to Freedom
Get up, stand up and satisfy your craving for reggae with a visit to this entertainment venue at Universal CityWalk. Universal worked closely with Rita Marley and the Bob Marley Foundation to pay homage to the late music icon at this live reggae venue. Bob Marley memorabilia, video clips and a Jamaican-inspired menu ensure that everything is irie. 6000 Universal Blvd., Orlando, (407) 224-3663, universalorlando.com.
This indie music venue in the heart of downtown Orlando welcomes a steady flow of hip-hop, R&B, reggae and other artists. Recent appearances include Questlove, BJ the Chicago Kid, the Wailers and Jacob Latimore. 54 N Orange Ave., Orlando, (407) 246-1419, beachamorlando.com.
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County
The venue’s name is long, but the list of Gospel stars who have taken the stage here is even longer. Each year between October and May, the Arsht Center hosts Free Gospel Sundays, a concert series featuring Gospel greats with local choirs. Headliners have included Yolanda Adams, CeCe Winans, Marvin Sapp, Kirk Franklin and others. Also check out the center’s jazz concerts, which have included the likes of Branford Marsalis and Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, (305) 949-6722, arshtcenter.org.
Little Haiti Cultural Complex
Experience South Florida’s epicenter for Afro-Caribbean culture at this community gathering place that includes an art gallery, theater, dance studios and more. During the Saturday marketplace, you can shop for Caribbean art and other items while enjoying food and live music from the islands. And on the third Friday of each month, the free Sounds of Little Haiti event brings even more live, family-friendly Haitian music. The complex also offers dance classes for children and adults. 212-260 NE 59th Terrace, Miami, 305-960-2969, littlehaiticulturalcenter.com.
This 27,000-square-foot venue delivers the energy and celebrity lineup you’d expect from a South Beach club. The sleek circus-like design and upscale vibe (dress code strictly enforced) keep the fun going every night. Things get even more lit when A-listers stop by for a set. Past performers have included Ja Rule, DaBaby, Ne-Yo and more. 136 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, (305) 479-4426, storymiami.com.
The aptly named South Beach club frequently plays host to celebrity guest performers. Recent cameos have included 50 Cent, Yo Gotti, Trina and others. 1445 Washington Ave Miami Beach, (305) 677-3977, cameomiami.com.
Club Típico Dominicano
Put on your dancing shoes and prepare to dance the night away at this traditional Dominican restaurant and club. Some of the best Latin music DJs from South Florida and beyond get behind the turntables with high-energy bachata, congos and more. To keep up your strength, order from the menu, which includes authentic Caribbean favorites like longanizas (sausages) sancocho (beef soup), plantains and much more. 1344 NW 36th St., Miami, (305) 634-7819, clubtipicodominicano.com.
Ivy Palm Beach
If you’re looking for hard-to-find acts, check out this nightclub that specializes in Latin and occasionally hip-hop music. It’s also one of the spots you can count on for Haitian tunes; check the calendar for upcoming performances. 106 N Military Trail, West Palm Beach, (561) 777-0563, ivypalmbeach.com.