Tiger’s Blood Is the Booking Agency Putting the Rio Grande Valley’s Music Scene On the Map

Art by Alan López for Remezcla

“Tiger’s Blood is basically coconut and cherry syrups combined. It is, in my opinion, the unsung and overlooked hero of raspa flavors,” says Patrick Garcia of the Mexican shaved ice flavor that gave his booking agency its name. Garcia got his start playing in local bands; propelled by a desire to reach a broader audience and rile up the scene himself, he started organizing and promoting his own shows across The Valley. A music blog followed, later evolving into a booking agency that would go on to helm its own festival. Ten years in, Tiger’s Blood has featured the likes of Mitski, Cuco, Xenia Rubinos, Of Montreal, The Marias, and others alt-luminaries of the moment in venues spanning The Valley from McAllen to Garcia’s hometown of Brownsville.

The Rio Grande Valley has been plagued by its status as the center of the “border crisis” narrative promulgated by the U.S. Government. The namesake river separating Mexico and the U.S. encompasses a contested border that now more than ever has become a part of the national conversation due to The President’s crackdown on migration. Through his work as a booker, Garcia hopes to deconstruct and redefine the public’s perception of The Valley, emphasizing the region’s possibilities for a raucous music scene on par with global capitals like New York and Los Angeles. “When Mitski or Helado Negro or Mykki Blanco posts a story saying they’re having fun in McAllen or Brownsville, they’re helping to derail misconceptions about my home,” he says.

Remezcla talked to Garcia about bringing indie music’s finest to the Rio Grande Valley, highlighting Latinx and marginalized artists during these politically turbulent times, and raising up his hometown region in the eyes of the world.

What was the first big show Tiger’s Blood booked?

I feel like the first big show I did was of Montreal in 2011. They headlined this small festival I booked called GALAX Z FAIR. It went down at Cine El Rey, a historic movie theatre in downtown McAllen that was converted into a venue. I was terrified because Of Montreal’s production was overwhelming. They were very down to earth; Kevin Barnes was a sweetheart. Before they played, my iPod was on shuffle and Is This It by The Strokes started playing. I remember the whole crowd of nearly 600 people singing along to “Last Nite.” The Strokes were in a weird space during that time, but that [song is] an anthem, and the crowd belting it out together before Of Montreal went on really calmed me down and reminded me that shows are supposed to be fun.

How difficult is it to bring big indie acts like Cuco and Of Montreal to a location like McAllen? How do you pitch that?

I try to paint a picture of the region, culturally and socio-economically. We’re 90% Latinx, we’ve got two hundred miles of ranch country and a checkpoint that prevents many of the working class folks and kids from ever thinking about heading north to see their favorite bands in Austin or San Antonio. These agents say “we need to have this show be like $20” and I usually put the brakes on and explain we’re the poorest region in Texas. I don’t expect the artist to accept the show offer, but I do expect them to understand our situation, so when they’re down, it’s great.

What is the importance, for you, of bringing these acts to McAllen?

With this new wave of artists like Cuco, Girl Ultra, Omar Apollo, etc., it’s an opportunity for young people to see a possibility of themselves on that stage. We don’t see that enough. And I want that to happen as often as possible. I want a young person to see Jesika or Xenia Rubinos or Sateen and say “they’re like me; I can do this too.” When these touring artists list McAllen or my hometown of Brownsville, they’re shedding a positive light on a region that has historically been politically exploited and intentionally misrepresented.

What have you learned about McAllen’s music scene in your ten years booking for the community?

We’re a community. There could be major improvements, but there are good people always trying new things, and well-meaning older vets unlearning problematic shit. We’re a dysfunctional family that works best when things are free and when there’s a fight.

You’re booking shows in a very contested political area; what is the experience of booking shows and working in music at the border, especially now?

Before Trump, Obama was deporting at an all-time high. Before Obama, Bush began building that wall. The Mexican government killed 43 of their own students and got away with it. Trump’s rhetoric has amplified people’s hatred, including people down here who are first-generation but somehow forgot their history. It’s made me want to amplify our own artists – Latinx, PoC, LGBTQIA+, and underrepresented musicians – and try to give back. I held a benefit festival called DREAMS where nearly all the proceeds went to RAICES. I try to stay quiet, but who I book and give a platform to has become more important than ever.

How important is it right now for musicians to mobilize and be politically active?

It’s crucial. It blows my mind that we’re still seeing musicians and artists try to play “neutral” category when asked about important political issues. At the same time, it trips me out that some bands can use the politically woke consciousness narrative as just a brand; you’re not punk if you have a booking agent and complain about a low turnout crowd while you ok’d a $15 ticket in this region. During these times, it’s crucial for more artists to actually act on their art.

What was the most satisfying show that you booked and why?

Mitski playing a benefit show for the South Texas Human Rights Center will forever be a gold one for me – if she reads this, thank you. The one I always keep coming back to is GALAX Z FAIR 2014. I had Downtown Boys come through; they burned the house down. I’ll never forget seeing their singer, Victoria Ruiz, yelling “brown girls to the front!” during their set and seeing the young girls storm the mosh pit and the stage. That same show, my friends Eduardo Martinez and Alexis Bay brought in the Caravana 43 – the parents of the missing 43 students that the Mexican government killed – to bring awareness to the situation. The night closed out with The Spits, and it was absolute chaos. The band went onstage wearing Ronald Reagan Masks and just pummeled through their set while the crowd thrashed and nearly collapsed the stage. It was empowering, hot, and chaotic. It felt like a hole was torn into the universe that night.

What do you want the legacy of Tiger’s Blood to be as it continues to grow?

I want for people to know that this area is good, beautiful, and to erase that colonized, ignorant mentality that good things do not happen here. I’m not saying my shows are the good things, but if they had a great time, that could be a wake up call to start thinking meaningfully and critically about The Valley. I always try to have tables at my shows: voter registration, non-profits…the real heroes. Maybe a show attendee will talk with them, maybe they’ll register to vote. They may come away saying “man, this shit was fun”, and that’s it. I’m good with that. I’d be great if they realized “I don’t need to be thinking about my home this way, why did I think this way to begin with, what else is there? I need to look for it, I need to understand it, and I need to love it.”

What is the future of Tiger’s Blood? What shows are you working on right now?

I’m working on making sure this Cuco show at Pulga Los Portales in Alton goes off without a hitch. I’m excited to have Girl Ultra come through in September, and Gauche play in Brownsville. I also have Combo Chimbita coming through, so that’s awesome.