The Miami music scene has not been exempt from the effects of the COVID-19 quarantine. Concerts have been canceled, venues have been closed and local-independent musicians have suffered.
Now after months in isolation, in-person concerts are being held. Every venue from the Fillmore Miami Beach and the Culture Room in Broward to Lagniappe in midtown are turning on the lights again.
The experiences of three local musicians speak volumes both about the shutdown and the revivals. They responded to the beginning– and the slow ending– of the pandemic shutdown in very different ways.
One artist focused on producing his first single as a solo. Another released an album. Both have recently returned to the stage. A third artist hasn’t yet performed, but has dedicated herself to promoting her career as a singer on social media.
Mauricio Ramirez arrived in Miami in 2017 when he was 14 years old after living in Venezuela his entire childhood. From that moment, and until 2019, he worked as a backup vocalist alongside his brother Rodrigo, an urban music singer whose stage name is Doble R. When the pandemic hit in 2020 during his senior year of high school, Ramirez focused on his own music and solo career.
“The pandemic was very useful to me because I had more time to dedicate myself to my career and my projects as a musician,” he said.
Ramirez, now 18, whose stage name is Maure, spent the entirety of the pandemic producing music. He recently graduated from high school and is working to release at least two songs before the end of this year. He performed last month in an open space bar in Orlando before an audience of 100 people who applauded and demanded an encore.
“It was refreshing to interact with the public again after a long period of quarantine,” he said.
For Ramirez, the biggest challenge of the last few months has been the economic problems that have arisen at home due to the pandemic.
After losing his part-time job and being unemployed for months, he didn’t have the financial resources to produce his first song. But recently, he scraped together the cash and recorded Labia, an urban music piece, which he plans to release this month.
“I am excited to be able to return to the stages that fill me with joy and share with the public, something I know they are looking forward to,” said Ramirez.
Adrian Garcia, lead vocalist of folk band PANS, is 29 years old and has been a musician for almost 20 years. The band, he says, continued pushing forward while in-person events were on hold indefinitely.
He welcomes the idea of hosting live concerts again.
“The Miami music scene before the pandemic had a lot more shows and events happening, but that kind of came to a standstill,” Garcia said. “It’s been hard to promote some recent work I put out with my band because we haven’t been able to tour due to COVID-19.”
Their latest album, A New Wilderness, includes eight tracks featuring the mixture of digital synths, stringed instruments and orchestral percussion to create an earthy, indie folk sound.
“In many ways [the album] was a metaphor for what we think could be a post-pandemic world,” Garcia said. “It was well-received by our community, but not as much as it could have been because the avenues of promotion were limited.”
In April, Garcia and PANS were able to host an in-person listening party in Miami at Oak Garden and a live show in Orlando to celebrate the release of A New Wilderness. Their Orlando show, which required masks and social distancing, was held on April 3 at A Sound Garden in Henao Center. It sold out all 80 seats in the outdoor venue for $10 a ticket.
Garcia felt recharged and grateful for the opportunity to play out and feel support from fans again.
“What I’m most looking forward to is that cathartic feeling of being able to express my art at live shows,” said Garcia. “It’s something that recharges me and gives me life in a way.”
Another Miami musician, Nataly Fernandez, under the stage name LAIKA, felt her career was kicking off until COVID-19 led to the cancellation of events she had planned.
Fernandez, 25, turned to social media to bring attention to her music. She used Instagram as a platform to increase her exposure as an artist, promote her latest projects and earn support from listeners around the world.
“I felt like there was no point in coming up with anything if no one was going to be able to see it,” Fernandez said. “I would not have made the progress I have in the past year had it not been for me reaching out to others on social media or vice versa.”
Despite her struggles, the singer recently released a single, “Metastasis,” in February, which includes technical beats and melodic vocals.
“One thing is playing in the comfort of your home, but to perfect it and showcase what you’ve been able to create is a very satisfying feeling,” said Fernandez.
Now, with over 42% of the American population fully vaccinated, and following CDC recommendations, it is expected that venues will open their doors to crowds who have long missed concerts and live music. Popular events like Rolling Loud festival at Hard Rock Stadium from July 23-25, concerts at The Fillmore and Culture Room are planned later this summer.
“The feeling of going back on stage, seeing the audience and doing what I love was indescribable,” Ramirez said. “It feels like being submerged in water for over a year and finally surfacing, breathing and swimming after my dreams once more.”