Change is in the air these days at Crown & Harp. It may get by the casual visitor of the Lower Greenville club, but the differences are easy enough to see nonetheless. Long-time Monday night DJ Tony Schwa, the man behind Cool Out, has shifted to the weekly dance night to a monthly basis (for the time being, anyway, having recently had a kid). Some new recurring events have been added (the LBJ Experience) and others waylaid (Paul Slavens' weekly appearances), while Outward Bound Mixtapes continues to settle in as a weekly staple.
But in the days ahead, there will be even more ambitious renovations taking place to the bar itself. For bar manager and talent buyer Moody Fuqua, however, it's all part of a steady build.
Crown & Harp has been owned by Neil Connell for 18 years, going back to when it was The Cavern. Connell has put his full faith into Fuqua's management ability and allowed him to have carte blanche on the booking and scheduling plans. Fuqua attributes this freedom to a mutual trust that he and Connell share with one another.
"I take in every aspect from who's playing to who have I working. I want the place to have that comfort, even the décor of the place," Fuqua explains. "As a promoter...I appreciate that I have the control here to control my staff as well. I know that that part is handled. All those little aspects really play in to the whole thing."
Fuqua understands the subtle nuance that separates a place from the status of a dive bar to that of premier destination. To those ends, Crown & Harp is undergoing two notable renovations to complement the changes to schedule and formatting, which came about more organically rather than as a deliberate change of direction. First, the old carpeting which Fuqua derisively refers to as "disgusting" is being stripped and replaced with brand-new dark carpeting to add to the Crown & Harp's ambiance.
Second, they are installing a brand-new, multi-purpose hardwood floor upstairs as well as new lighting equipment and a new custom DJ booth featuring LED lighting. The cherry on top? A smirking Fuqua says he is personally making sure that there will be a disco ball hanging above the hardwood floor. This is all being done in an effort to complement the DJs and hip-hop acts they have scheduled to come through every week, which tonight includes a visit from Rich Medina's renowned Jump N' Funk Afrobeat party.
Zeroing in on those types of shows, and on striking the right niche for the venue, is Fuqua's speciality. Born and bred in Dallas, he got his start in the music scene almost a decade ago, when he says playing in his own bands helped get his feet wet in the booking business. A few years later, he began his foray into the bar scene at the Barley House which would eventually become Bryan Street Tavern.
Fuqua, from his years of experience, recognizes that a show is a delicate ecosystem with a multitude of working parts: the performing act, the audience, the bartenders, the security, and the promoter. This kind of clairvoyance on the chemistry of a successful show is what Fuqua considers his most valuable asset.
"I think what separates me from all the other bookers in this city, is the fact that I have bar experience," he says. "I have band experience in the local scene. I speak all of the languages that make a show work." Still, he jokes that working in the bar scene for as long as he has led him to quit drinking.
He still stays busy outside of Crown & Harp, as well -- over the summer he was on tour with Ishi, for instance -- and those other influences can beneficial for the club as well. After seeing a lot of what is going on in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, Fuqua's goal is to try and bring some of those ideas to Dallas. He's adamant that Dallas' music community is criminally underrated in the scheme of the national landscape. Crown & Harp's eclectic booking is a deliberate attempt to try and reflect all many, fascinating sides that the scene has to offer, from hip hop to DJs to experimental music and straight noise. "Crown & Harp is for the heads," Fuqua says simply.
So with a battle plan in mind and reinforcements coming in the way of renovations, what's next for the Crown & Harp's general? For one thing, they have an anniversary coming up next month, and they have every intention to celebrate. "That's just gonna be a day of local music downstairs, local DJs upstairs," Fuqua explains. "It is gonna be all across the board genres. It's just gonna be an all-day party. It's gonna be free, cheap booze and it'll showcase some great artists." In other words, business as usual.