Venue Wish Upon a Star: Medium-sized Performance Space Edition


Over the course of three issues, the Trinitonian will run articles as part of a series exploring different types of performance venues in San Antonio. The series highlights three types of venues: a DIY space, a medium-sized venue and a larger concert hall. Throughout the series, we interview performing artists, members of the venues’ administrations and members of the audiences.

This week’s edition focuses on the medium-sized venue Paper Tiger.

North St. Mary’s Street is known for its nightlife, and most evenings, the longest line on the Strip is the one curled around Paper Tiger.

Paper Tiger, a mid-sized music venue on the Strip, books concerts almost every night of the week. Without a specific genre in mind, the venue’s shows range from hip-hop and electric to punk, indie and jazz, drawing music fans of all kinds to the orange and white cinderblock building.

The venue boasts two stages. The main stage hosts larger acts, such as Yo La Tengo and Mod Sun, for a traditional concert setting, while the smaller stage caters to DIY bands, including Frankie Cosmos and Protomartyr, providing them with the quality sound and size that house shows and other small venues can’t offer.

For Tim O’Sullivan, a professor of classics who attended the Yo La Tengo show on Sept. 21, Paper Tiger is a key part of San Antonio’s music scene.

“I like this venue,” O’Sullivan said. “I’ve been coming here since I came to San Antonio, when I guess it was White Rabbit. It’s got a good energy.”

Paper Tiger has been open under its current name and management for a few years, but from 1996 to 2014, the space was called White Rabbit. The venue underwent major renovations before reopening in 2015.

“The renovations at Paper Tiger have been good because the sound is a lot better, they’ve got nicer beers, that kind of thing,” O’Sullivan said. “I also like that back room a lot. I’ve seen some really good shows in the back room of the venue.”

For performers, Paper Tiger’s two differently-sized stages help bridge the gap between small and large shows while maintaining a level of both professionalism and intimacy.

Greta Kline, lead singer and songwriter for indie band Frankie Cosmos, headlined a show on Paper Tiger’s small stage on Sept. 21, the same night as Yo La Tengo performed on the large stage.

“It feels like you’re close to everyone, and you can meet everyone, and you’re not, like, closed off from them,” Kline said. “I like where everybody knows the name of the person doing sound, the name of the person running the door. It just feels like it’s easier to be myself.”

The intimacy of the venue is a large reason why Alberto Belalcazar said he enjoys working at the bar and as the social media representative for Paper Tiger.

“I love music, and I love the people I work with. We’ve got people who are from all walks of life,” Belalcazar said. “This is San Antonio with it’s own flair.”

Located just blocks from Trinity, Paper Tiger is within walking distance for students, which is part of the reason why junior Sam Mosely regularly attends shows. It also helps that the venue is all ages and attracts acts from all over.

“It has shows from out of town, so if you have this band that you’re into from your hometown, they’re more likely to be at Paper Tiger than a lot of other venues,” Mosely said.

The variety of bands is part of the draw.

“Music should be for everyone,” Belalcazar said. “You want to walk away from the experience and be able to say you had a great time and saw a rad band. That’s the whole point.”

In addition to the written pieces featured in the Trinitonian, we are creating three supplemental videos which serve as mini-documentaries about each space. Though the story and the video can each stand alone, we encourage you to read and watch both components to get the best version of the story.