Churchill’s Pub in Downtown Miami is known for its indisputable reputation as the birthplace of the punk rock scene in Miami, but once a week the acoustic folk duo Raffa and Rainer invite regulars to abandon their earplugs and rock a little softer.
Located in the heart of Little Haiti, about 12 miles north of UM, Churchill’s is a Miami landmark. The bar is modeled after an English pub, complete with a rickety double-decker bus in the parking lot and an authentic British bouncer.
On Wednesday nights the mosh pit gives way to scattered groups of wobbly tables and mismatched chairs as long time friends and musical collaborators Raffa and Rainer host a night of what Raffa calls “sweet rock.” The evening comprises an open mic portion followed by featured artists that vary each week. Featured performers have included Miami staples Jesse Jackson, Rachel Goodrich and Awesome New Republic, along with touring artists from across the country.
“We want to keep quality music coming back so we have the open mic format,” Raffa said. “If someone is amazing we ask them back as a feature.” The only regularly occurring act each week is Raffa and Rainer, whose unique sound has garnered them a following of Wednesday night regulars.
Raffajo Harris and Rainer Davies were asked by Churchill’s management to host a weekly night of eclectic folk music a little over a year ago. The duo has been writing and playing together for the past four years in the classic Lennon-McCartney style of best friends turned performers.
“I just write these little songs,” Raffa said with a wave of her hand. “Rainer really knows what he’s doing. He comes in and puts layers in and makes them magical.” Most of their lyrics have the underlying theme of lost love, and are set to effortlessly hopeful melodies and Raffa’s distinctively delicate voice.
Since the birth of the Wednesday night ritual, the two have worked to build a movement of quality acoustic rock performers in Miami.
“There hasn’t been a steady scene in Miami, but it’s getting better,” Raffa said. “We want to be like a real city with a real scene.” The gentle tunes and unique atmosphere of the bar have attracted a variety of listeners, from clusters of trendy college kids, to preppy 20-something couples, to an older audience in the know and the occasional historic hippie.
“It’s got a nice homey, relaxed feel,” Rainer said with a glance around the room and an approving nod. “It’s not oppressively loud. It’s a place where people can come and talk without being bombarded.”
Stephanie Sandu, a sophomore English and neuroscience major at UM, seems to agree.
“I enjoy coming to Churchill’s because it provides an alternative scene that I often don’t find at UM’s campus,” she said. “I like how the values that are normally praised in typical Miami society, like money and beauty, aren’t worshiped here. Instead talent and originality are what people see. There is an indescribable desire for nonconformity.”
A UM senior, Johweyeh Lowenthal, has only been to Churchill’s twice but has already seemed to pick up the vibe of the pub.
“It’s like something you would find in a back alley,” he said. “It’s not flashy and commercial at all. It’s kind of grimy, but there’s something appealing about it.”
The Wednesday night crowd, the musicians, and the bar itself seem to have created a truly compelling experience that appeals to a wide array of listeners.
“I think Churchill’s offers an important space where people can be themselves,” Lowenthal said. “It’s more about the talent on the stage and the people in the audience than the color of the paint on the wall.”
Churchill’s Pub is located at 5501 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL, 33137. For more information, call 305-757-1807 or visit http://churchillspub.com/.