When Moody Fuqua took over as general manager and talent buyer at Crown & Harp, the Lower Greenville dive bar quickly became one of the most important club venues and cultural melting pots in Dallas. On any given night, you can hear a band making sounds you’ve never heard before downstairs and one of the best DJs in North Texas upstairs. Now he plans to do the same thing in Deep Ellum with a bigger room, the RBC.
Blue, the Misfit – one of Dallas’ best rappers, DJs, producers and live performers — will kick off the rebranded RBC tonight with an installment of Warclub Wednesdays, a DJ night that usually takes place at Crown & Harp. The party will immediately follow the Dallas Observer Music Awards ceremony at The Bomb Factory, which is just around the corner.
Meanwhile, Parade of Flesh — which is run by John Iskander, who Fuqua once worked with at Bryan Street Tavern — already has shows booked at the 350-capacity venue for next year.
It all started with Dezman Lehman, better known as local pop singer Dezi 5. “I’d been coming to RBC for a minute,” Lehman says. “I’ve played here and nobody knew about it.” Lehman wanted to use the place for rehearsal and was surprised when he was offered a Thursday night show. He liked the Deep Ellum venue, which is almost like a speakeasy tucked in behind Twisted Root Burger Co. on Commerce Street. But it was clear that they needed help. He had worked at Crown & Harp several times and Fuqua was the first person he thought of.
“Honestly it had been about 10 or 15 years since I’d seen the place,” Fuqua says. “But I always loved the spot.” It was clear that the place needed some changes and could use a talent buyer. After talking to the investors, Fuqua was quickly offered a position as managing partner. He will receive sweat equity for duties including hiring and talent buying.
“It’s Rhythm Beats Culture,” Fuqua says, announcing the new acronym. He was struggling to come up with something when DJ Menace came up with the idea without missing a beat. “When he said that I got goose bumps,” Fuqua admits. A new logo for the venue was just designed by Jeremy Biggers.
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“The point is that it’s bringing a home for black and electronic music to Deep Ellum," Fuqua adds. "It just further broadens the culture of Deep Ellum, so I’m not necessarily competing with anybody.” Just like similar size venues in the area have random hip-hop shows, RBC will have random punk and hardcore shows.
But the focus is on giving a new voice to the hip-hop, R&B and electronic scenes in Dallas. “It’s about bringing a culture to Deep Ellum,” says Fuqua. “We’re bringing it a home.” Fuqua imagines RBC as something comparable to Arnetic, the Deep Ellum spot where artists like -topic and A.Dd+ ushered in a new era of hip-hop, with more bells and whistles.
Fuqua is especially concerned with the huge electronic scene he sees burgeoning. He cites an encounter at a record store during a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina, over Thanksgiving break, where he found a Cygnus record. The employees actually asked him not to buy it because it was their last copy. After telling them he was from Dallas, they started telling him how wonderful the electro scene is here and how everyone is watching.
Fuqua also sees something else particularly special going on right now: “The music scene in Dallas, across all genres, is at a maturity that is amazing to me. Every aspect of music is really good and dense in my opinion.” This further highlights the need for a venue that is going out of its way to highlight music that may not be getting catered to.
“It’s nothing against the other clubs,” Fuqua insists. “It’s just that this scene is growing and we’re growing with it. I’m adding to what’s already here. I’m not trying to be a lone man on the block. I want to be a part of the Deep Ellum culture and just add to it.”
Fuqua immediately recognized a venue with a great foundation that just needed to be cleared out in some ways to maximize space. The best example of this is the enormous stage. “There was all this shit on the back of the stage,” Fuqua says. “I like simple and just thought there was a bunch of excess.” After tearing out panels and a drum riser, Fuqua increased the size of the stage and exposed a gorgeous brick backdrop.
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The idea of hanging up curtains was quickly abandoned and Fuqua chose to simply hang up some acoustic paneling. There is also custom lighting for the back corner of the stage, brand new projectors, and the venue’s sound has been updated. Fuqua even turned an office into a proper greenroom directly across from the stage, with a curtain sectioning off a direct path from the rest of the club.
More local liquor will be added to the bar. Another stage and bar will be built for the deck upstairs on the outside patio for both DJs and live bands. This definitely means we can expect there to be music on two stages. RBC will be very much like a larger Crown & Harp in Deep Ellum.
Not that that should be cause for concern about the future of Crown & Harp as we know it. With the help of some very talented friends, Fuqua will make sure that local music fans still have a reason to visit Lower Greenville. But right now he is trying to figure out which regular showcases will move to Deep Ellum and which ones will stay put.