As San Antonio leaders meet in board rooms to plan how to re-create the city’s authentic culture, Danny Constante and his partners with Si Dios Quiere, LLC are making it happen on the St. Mary’s Strip.

The Squeezebox, Constante’s new cantina and music venue located at 2806 North St. Mary’s St., is now open for business.

That’s right, gente. The Chicano soul of San Antonio is back on the Strip. And Danny Constante has the chops to make the authentic real. He has a bachelor of arts in Mexican-American Studies from the University of Texas at San Antonio and, like many of us, drank la cultura at gone-but-not-forgotten spots like Saluté, Tacoland, and the original Bar America.

Constante’s other venues, including Hi-Tones, La Botanica, Phantom Room, and Faust Tavern, have a habit of becoming more than just watering holes; they become community meeting places, each with their own distinct audience.

“Squeezebox will be different,” Constante said at the cantina’s opening night as he sat under the glow of a “Puro Pinche Blues” neon artwork by Joe Avila. “Here, we will all meet together.”

Constante’s spaces create a cultura onda where old-school resonates with any age. “The jukebox will be free and stocked with classic 45s,” he said.

Constante is not alone. Aaron Peña, Ryan Dietrich, Osvaldo Ordonez, and Julio Lopez round his Si Dios Quiere, LLC partners at The Squeezebox. Plus, he has support from the community: Squeezebox was shoulder-to-shoulder capacity on opening night on Friday with a continuous flow of gente showing their ID cards at the door. Cover was $5.

The Squeezebox is all about the music. Eva Ybarra, la reina del acordeón, and el maestro de conjunto, Santiago Jimenez, Jr., played to a tight dance floor of swinging nalgas on opening night.

Couples dance to the conjunto music of Acordeón Eva Ybarra. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.
Couples dance to the conjunto music of Acordeón Eva Ybarra. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

Julio Lopez, a member of Latin rock band Los de Esta Noche, said he wants to focus on making The Squeezebox a safe place that is focused on making musicians and the audience happy.

“I double-parked in the lot to save Eva a good space,” he said.

You feel the Chicano vibe as you walk in the space. What was once a wholesale florist shop is now a Mestizo reflection of San Antonio.

Christopher Montoya, a 23-year-old self-taught artist, designed The Squeezebox logo featured prominently on a side-wall of the stage. You may know his work; he has created several iconic San Antonio murals, such as the Selena mural on South Flores Street, that become favorite selfie spots. The Squeezebox visitors also can rest their $2 Lone Stars over tables hand-painted by Montoya.

The accordion motif continues throughout the space. Original accordion reliefs hang on the walls, all vintage Hohners salvaged by Constante via eBay purchases. Look out for evolving art walls in the coming weeks, such as a large Vincent Valdez print that will hang across from the bar.

Recuerdo is an image of my grandfather. I did it in 1999 when I was away at art school, home-sick for San Antonio,” Valdez said while enjoying the occasional breeze on the patio opening night. “I called Danny when I heard about Squeezebox. He’s innovative. He knows who he is and where he’s from. He’s not loud, he’s the most focused guy I know.”

Constante says artists have been calling, wanting in on the action.

Jim Cullum has his piano ready off stage right. Prepare for Thursdays with the jazz man starting July 7. Doors open at 9 p.m.

More conjunto is lined up, of course. Rio Jordan, the sons of acclaimed accordion player Esteban “Steve” Jordan (q.e.p.d.), will play on Saturday, July 9. The venue will feature classic old-school DJs like Rae Cabello during the week, and will host live music on weekends.

The Squeezebox is the new home for San Antonio’s roots music, an old-school vibe where we can all appreciate a cultural legacy created long before its doors opened.

Check it out.

Top image: From left: Denise Hernandez and Melody Ann dance to Eva Ybarra’s music.  Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

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Marisela Barrera

Marisela Barrera is a Chicana creating Tex-Mex stories on stage and in print. She has a BFA in acting from Southern Methodist University and MA/MFA degrees from in creative writing, literature, and social...