Standing majestically in halos of crimson, amber and vintage white, Cine El Rey welcomes the surreal pageantry of 17th street, – a glowing jukebox fueling the bustling prom of honky-tonk boots, teetering stiletto heels, sloppily-cool skinnies and over-worked suits.
Cigarette smoke peppers the air; melodies of clinking glass and flirtatious laughter soften the heavy dark.
It is a vision of all that is night in deep, south Texas.
Leaning in silhouette against the warm and worn theatre bar is Patrick Garcia. Effortlessly cool and timelessly charming, his soft brown eyes wander wistfully from the artists sprawling carelessly along the porch to the boisterous dancers undulating to the sounds of The Collective Unconscious.
Like one of the artworks hanging high on the theatre walls, he exudes a protective pride that is both content and hopeful for what has yet to be.
“I was born into it.”
Driven by resplendent memories of weekends spent with his mother, uncle and grandmother in Brownsville, TX, Garcia’s desire to share innovative music with the Rio Grande Valley is rooted deeply within the confines of his heart.
“My uncle grew up in the 1960s, and was born mentally handicapped and with epilepsy,” Garcia shared. “When he came home on the weekends, my family would do their best to take care of him [and] I’d try to do my part.”
Home-grown on glistening vinyl copies of A Hard Day’s Night, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Pet Sounds, Garcia’s childhood inoculated his musical sensibilities with an ever-flowing soundtrack of melodies and harmonies.
“We had a record player set up for [my uncle] so he could have a constant stream of music,” Garcia reminisced. “He was obsessed with his record collection… he liked it loud, and he liked it all the time.”
Permeated by the effects of being perpetually enveloped in songs that defined an entire generation, Garcia naturally developed a curiosity for musical performance.
While he traveled on a 16-hour road trip to New Mexico in 8th grade, he became entranced by the musings of Jimi Hendrix’s Ultimate Experience.
“I looked out the window and saw these big red blocks and small canyons cascade on the horizon as we got closer to El Paso,” Garcia recalls. “I had never seen geography outside of the plains of South Texas, and here was Hendrix, saying that he’d chop down a mountain with the edge of his hand… it was powerful.”
Using the journey as a catalyst for his All-American, adolescent ambitions, Garcia soon convinced his grandmother to loan him a ragged, old flamenco guitar. With its strings flipped upside down and a rusty metal plate that gouged his wrists as his fingers and palms careened up and down its neck, the hand-me-down kept his company for hours on end. “I eventually joined friends in high school and played like, System of a Down and Metallica covers,” Garcia recounted. “Somewhere down the road, [I] was asked by Rob Godinez of Yoink! to join The Young Maths.
[I’m] still kinda not sure why.”
In what can only be described as a musical connoisseur’s fairy tale dream, Garcia spends much of his present romancing the Rio Grande Valley music scene by way of his talent-buying agency, Tiger’s Blood.
According to its website, Tiger’s Blood is a cultural platform with energies focused on spotlighting alternative forms of live music and visual arts. Offline, this is manifested by way of shows and festivals that blend touring and regional talent. Online, visitors can peruse an occasional album, EP or track commentary in addition to artist reviews.
Aside from planning and promoting a plethora of fantastic shows at venues like Simon Sez, The Flying Walrus, Suerte and Thirsty Monkey, Garcia is most notably known for his undeniably extraordinary effort in creating GALAX Z FAIR, the Valley’s superlative alternative music festival. “I had always wanted to book a festival, but wanted there to be a fun dynamic to it that set it apart from others,” Garcia expresses. “I wanted art present… live art… as well as music, so when I got offered Of Montreal to headline [in 2011] and booked TUFF TOWN and Bradley Wilkinson to do live art, it all synced.”
Three years in and miles ahead of the Valley norm, GALAX Z FAIR is well poised to become a mecca for locals seeking a divergent spring break experience.
Twenty-three talented musical groups performed at this year’s festival during the week of March 10th. Headlining acts for 2014 include Against Me!, Miniature Tigers and Twin Shadow, all of which are set to rock the sturdy walls of Cine El Rey.
Towering above south 17th street dressed in magnificent art deco, Cine El Rey continues to take its place as one of the Valley’s longest lasting entertainment houses. At almost 70 years old, it surpasses the lifespan of its neighboring venues by decades and has survived the countless trends, alterations and transformations the city has undergone over time.
From its inception in 2008, Garcia’s love affair with Cine El Rey continues to flower and flourish as his partnership with the iconic theatre’s charitable co-owners becomes more meaningfully refined.
“I had been booking shows under a different production back in 2008,” explained Garcia. “I had landed a band I felt could draw a big crowd, so I arranged to meet up with the venue owners, Bert and Isaac Guerra.”
Although the show was a huge success, Garcia’s passion for music and grassroots ideals pushed him to reconsider his future endeavors.
“I remember talking with Bert about how I didn’t feel I was being honest to the type of music I really appreciated,” Garcia disclosed. “They have a lot of compassion with what they do, and appreciate those doing it for their own honest, aesthetic values.
Juxtaposing the historical and cultural narrative of Cine El Rey with a contemporary experience excites and invigorates me, so whenever I have an artist I really like, I always do my best to sell the theatre.”
Of the coming musical acts, perhaps the most anticipated by Valley residents of all ages and walks of life is The Zombies, who are scheduled to perform at Cine El Rey on May 3rd. Despite booking this first-rate, worldwide sensation, however, Garcia remains unpretentious.
“Landing the opportunity to host the Zombies still evokes a surreal feeling, and it definitely means a lot, but to be honest, I try not to measure ‘success’ with the size or draw of the artist I book,” stated Garcia. “I view every touring artist I work with on a similar wavelength.
I have a lot to be grateful for, and the owners of Cine El Rey are owed much of that.”
Loving what he does and enjoying every ounce of satisfaction, Garcia is the seminal poster child for creative progress in the Rio Grande Valley.
Pausing for a brief moment to take a final survey of the burgeoning crowd in the lobby of the monumental theatre, he smiles peacefully, saunters quietly back into the entanglement of socializing bodies and continues making history.