A History of DJ Tony Schwa's Legendary Party The Cool Out, Which is Back at Crown and Harp
You could hear it from the sidewalk, salsa, disco and funk seeping through the Cavern's grimy walls, wrapping itself around your legs and jarring your equilibrium out of its drunken stupor and back to it's natural positioning.
This was The Cool Out in the mid 2000's, when a night out in Dallas was like a scene from a Bret Easton Ellis novel, and probably serves as the setting for your best drunken hook-up memory. After a two-year hiatus and venue change, The Cool Out has returned on Mondays at The Crown and Harp.
Who would have guessed that those tropical sounds, curated from the fingertips of DJ Tony Schwa and Big J, traveled in Biblical fashion from a small record store in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
In the mid to late '70s Schwa's father operated Sid's Records, specializing in salsa, disco and funk. And how did a small record store with a emphasis on coastal and European grooves end up in a blue-collar Pennsylvanian town?
"He's Puerto Rican, it's in our blood," he says with a laugh.
There's no escaping the music, not they would even try.
"Some of my earliest memories are of him DJing breakdancing competitions at parties and places like Showbiz Pizza way back in the early '80s," says Schwa.
The sounds of his father's record store influence his sets today.
"I was probably a nuisance, running around touching shit that I shouldn't be," he says. "But that's how it was, at weekly family functions with uncles, my brother and I would breakdance while they played records. My dad played a major role in who I am today."
For Sid Schwa, music was part of his children's rearing, as integral as how to throw a football or change a flat tire.
"My father always had music playing in the house, he took my family to see the Jackson's Victory Tour in '84 when I was like seven-years-old and it blew my mind."
Once Schwa became older, there was no other choice but to pursue music. He first got into DJing in '97 from a roommate, who eventually gave it up. He cut his teeth as a house DJ until he moved to Dallas in 2005 when he decided to focus on learning as much as possible about the sounds that his favorite producers were sampling. Fellow Dallas DJ legend, Big J of The Clever Monkeys heard Schwa play at a party once and approached him about forming a weekly residency.
"I was eager to get my name out in Dallas" he says. "We looked at a few places and decided on Upstairs at the Cavern. We had the format and the venue, now we just needed a name. I racked my brain for about a week and it just hit me, Cool Out! The rest is history."
Unfortunately that history is a bit clouded. The initial Cool Out team suffered a messy break-up in 2011 when Schwa moved The Cool Out to Bar Celine and Big J remained at (the former Cavern) Crown and Harp for Upstairs Monday's. Schwa declined to comment on Big J, hinting that there has been no reconciliation between the two former friends.
In an interview with the Observer in 2011, Schwa cited during construction over the venue's name-change Crown and Harp bar managers "continually switched venues on Schwa and his partners in DJing, sometimes forcing them out of their upstairs home and into the downstairs portion of the venue -- and often at the last minute. It was kind of the nail in the coffin."
But Crown and Harp has rededicated itself to live music lately, and Schwa's ready to come back. He credits Moody Fuqua, manager at the Crown & Harp as a pivotal reason for the return. "I'd been wanting to resurrect Cool Out for a while and was scouting for venues when he reached out to me. He's a great dude and his timing was impeccable."