Two brothers — both named “Harry” — ask the crowd at New York’s Knitting Factory, “Who’s the man?” Fans shout back names, and the younger of the two says, “Voldemort? Rupert Murdoch? You’ve got the right idea. Let’s stick it to the man.”
They start playing air guitar and laugh, “Bring harmony to the universe!” before kicking into their showstopper, “The Weapon.”
You might be thinking: Sure, Rupert Murdoch, but Voldemort? What kind of show is this?
Fans of the Harry Potter books and movies have done something magical — and practically unheard of — with their devotion: They’ve turned it into song. Yes, there have been songs inspired by other cult books and movie series (think Led Zeppelin and “Lord of the Rings”), but wizard rock isn’t a song here or there or even a concept album. It’s become a genre.
“There is nothing like this anywhere,” said Brian Ross of the band Draco and the Malfoys (the Ween of the scene). “I try to equate it to ‘Star Wars,’ because that was the equivalent when I was a kid. If only there were bands playing songs about being Luke Skywalker and fighting Darth Vader, I would still be going to those shows today.”
Instead, wizard-rock bands play songs about Harry Potter fighting Lord Voldemort — and every other scenario from the books. For every Potter character, there is a corresponding wizard-rock band, singing from that character’s perspective. Harry and the Potters (which features the two “Harry” brothers), for instance, have songs about saving Ginny Weasley from the Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets as well as from romantic rival Dean Thomas (see “Harry Ramone? Iggy Voldemort? Band Splices Punk With Potter”). Draco and the Malfoys, who started as a joke response to Harry and the Potters, taunt Harry about his hero complex and ask Voldemort to wipe Harry out once and for all.
“I call it wizard angst,” said Jace Crion of the Texas band Talons & Tea Leaves. “My parents weren’t killed by an evil wizard, but people relate to all that teenage angst.”
“At some point, you’re going to identify with Harry,” said Devin Overman of the Owl Post. “People really like the concept that this world is just not enough — we have to find something else.”
And find they do. There are bands singing from the point of view of “Potter” plants (the Whomping Willows), animals (Nagini) and inanimate objects (such as the Leaky Cauldrons or Ministry of Magic). With the music all over the spectrum, from folk to electronica to metal to hip-hop, sometimes even within the same band, the only thing that unifies the genre is that “Potter” perspective.
“There’s 200-something bands, and they all want their own character,” explained Matt Maggiacomo from the Whomping Willows. “Draco and Harry and Moaning Myrtle were scooped up right away, so you start picking Tom Riddle’s diary or whatnot. For instance, I developed my character by thinking about what the Whomping Willow does and what it means, and I realized it’s protecting an outcast — so [the tree] itself became an outcast who is reaching out. I would say the Whomping Willow is a kind of misunderstood character and falls into a lot of passionate love affairs and does a lot of whomping. It really just has to find a girl who likes that sort of thing.”
Not everything that wizard rockers sing about is directly from the books or movies. The Parselmouths, for instance, designed their characters to be stupid, superficial girls from Slytherin who do and say inappropriate and (sometimes) mean things — as if Sarah Silverman were a student at Hogwarts. “We’re evil, but we’re girly,” said Parselmouths singer Kristina Horner. “Our parents were Death Eaters. We’ll get our tattoos someday, but we don’t even know what’s going on. It’s so over our heads.”
Playing stupid is just an act. A lot of the bands started out as jokes, but they’ve started to take it seriously (especially Siriusly Black, a wizard rap act). On an indie level, bands are recording albums, shooting videos, touring, putting together compilations and, like Harry, trying to save the world. Via collectives such as the Harry Potter Alliance and charity compilations such as “Wizards and Muggles Rock for Social Justice,” there’s a strong push in the wizard-rock world to connect issues in the book to those in the real world.
“Literature is open to interpretation,” Maggiacomo said, “but you can relate Voldemort and his movement to what’s happening in Darfur. The theme of purebloods, it’s pervasive.”
“With the Ministry of Magic denying Voldemort’s return, denying a great danger to the community, you can see the parallels,” said Harry and the Potters’ guitarist/singer Paul DeGeorge. “Our songs, like the books, are really about the real world, so that people can find meaning to it outside of the fact that it’s about Harry Potter.”
Maybe that’s why there are so many love songs for Ginny Weasley — you don’t have to read “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” to understand the theme of young lovers stymied by forces beyond their control. As Alex Carpenter of the Remus Lupins puts it, “Have you ever met Layla? I don’t think so, but you can still enjoy Eric Clapton.”