Harvest Records celebrates its 15th anniversary with Transfigurations III

BRONX BOMBERS: Funk/punk band ESG will make its Asheville debut on Aug. 24 at The Orange Peel as part of Transfigurations III. Photo courtesy of the band

After bringing Transfigurations II to Marshall’s Blannahassett Island in 2014, Harvest Records owners Mark Capon and Matt Schnable return to Asheville venues for Transfigurations III. The celebration of the store’s 15th anniversary kicks off Thursday, Aug. 22, at The Mothlight, then shifts downtown for the next two days with shows at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts (a veteran of the inaugural Transfigurations in 2009) and new collaborators in the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Grail Moviehouse and The Orange Peel.

“We always want [the lineup] to be diverse. We always want it to be a good picture of what we listen to and what our customers listen to,” Schnable says. “That really informs decisions on who we decide to book. And our personal taste, too.”

To help cultivate the artist list for Transfigurations III, planning for which began a year ago, Capon and Schnable leaned more heavily on staff suggestions than they did for prior editions. They started a spreadsheet and asked their colleagues to add bands they’d want to see, thereby reflecting the interests of every employee.

“It’s nice to have other input because they’re all younger than we are. We’re getting old, and it’s hard for us to keep up with all the new bands,” Schnable says. “You don’t feel as isolated. Me and Mark get in our zone, and sometimes you can’t see the fullest picture; then you bring in employees who help with that.”

Capon and Schnable say that multiple times they were gung-ho about a certain artist before being questioned by a staffer — second-guessing for which, in hindsight, they’re thankful. And, while previous Transfigurations did not include hip-hop artists, that will change when staff favorite Danny Brown takes to The Orange Peel stage on Friday, Aug. 23.

“In all of our years of promoting shows, we rarely did hip-hop shows. The main one that comes to mind is El-P, and there were probably other [acts who] blended genres over the years,” Capon says. “It feels like an exciting step that reflects all of our tastes here and is a fun leap into trying to pack out The Orange Peel with a big hip-hop show.”

Closing out Transfigurations on Saturday, Aug. 24, at The Peel is ESG. Harvest staffer Casey Ellis suggested the funk/punk band, which Schnable says felt random since the group is generally associated with the ’80s and had seemingly ceased touring. However, a quick look at ESG’s website revealed that it does play the occasional show, which its members book themselves.

In what Capon calls a “refreshing experience,” he and Schnable were able to quickly and directly make a deal without going through the usual hierarchy of booking agents and managers. He attributes this “noble shit” to ESG’s players being born and raised in the Bronx and adds that the band has received the festival’s most enthusiastic responses from customers.

Schnable points out that there’s a good chance people have heard a sample or had exposure to ESG’s music through other artists — mostly likely a portion of “UFO,” which Capon calls “one of the most sampled songs in modern music.” But because of the band’s general obscurity, its participation feels like an ideal record store booking.

Transfigurations III will be the first time ESG has performed in Asheville and will likely be its last. Upon signing on to the festival, Renee Scroggins (lead vocals/guitar) told Capon and Schnable that the show is among the band’s final in the U.S.

“This is actually the first time in our 41-year career that we got to perform so many domestic shows, but 2019 will be it domestically, and [we’ll be] wrapping it up internationally early 2020,” Scroggins says.

Now based in Atlanta, Scroggins says she and bandmates Nicole Nicholas (bass/backing vocals), Nicholas Nicholas (percussion/backing vocals) and D7 (drums) aim to make these last few gigs special simply “by just having fun and performing danceable music for the audiences.” Once her touring days are over, her artistic plans consist of continuing to write music and stories, building on a legacy that includes numerous noteworthy achievements with her band.

“Performing with The Clash at Bonds in New York, performing the closing nights at The Paradise Garage [in New Jersey], performing at Radio City Music Hall, Glastonbury [Festival] — so many places and memories [stand out],” Scroggins says. “Just going all around the world and having people singing ESG’s music.”

The significance of Transfigurations III as the celebration of a record shop’s anniversary is also not lost on Scroggins, who’s quick to identify two such key businesses that made an impact on her personal life.

“99 Records, which was an independent record store/label in New York in the ’80s, and Factory Records in the U.K. — they both had a great deal to do with introducing ESG to the world,” Scroggins says. “The independent record store is still a very important resource for artists.”

Integral in keeping that relationship with musicians intact, the Harvest owners remain humbled by the support they’ve received from their customers. They’re also tremendously thankful for their fellow neighborhood small businesses, whose sponsorship of Transfigurations is crucial to staging each festival.

“When we were getting open 15 years ago, in 2004, we couldn’t even imagine what the first month was going to look like,” Capon says. “Not to toot our own horn, because it’s as much about the community as it is about us, but it’s still pretty … I don’t want to call it ‘miraculous,’ but it’s still a pretty amazing feat to have a store like this 15 years later, and it says a lot about the people who come in here.”

WHAT: Transfigurations III
WHERE: Various venues, harvest-records.com/transfigurations
WHEN: Thursday, Aug. 22-Saturday, Aug. 24. $10-$35 per show

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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