Hogwarts rock charms nerdy crowd

Williams concertgoers received a heavy dose of wizard rock this Friday at the Harry in the Potters concert in Baxter Hall, where hundreds showed up to bask in their shared nerdiness and listen to indie-rock songs about Hogwarts, muggles and quidditch.

A hundred or so people, many wearing wizard hats, crowded the stage and danced wildly for the duration of the show. However, a much larger contingent merely showed up to get a glimpse of the boy wizards in action before leaving the show early. Harry and the Potters delivered an energetic performance full of obscure Harry Potter references, giving both groups what they expected, though the stalwarts clearly had more fun.

The music was stripped-down indie-rock, similar to the White Stripes, but with a cheerful, psychedelic synthesizer bouncing around between guitar and drums. The synthesizer was the wizard in “wizard rock,” its hypnotic bop recalling the sing-a-long music of childhood, when I took magic more seriously. Their music is extremely simple – every song is a few chords on the electric guitar or synthesizer set over an elementary drumbeat.

The bands’ two lead men, brothers in their twenties with matching mop-top haircuts, took turns on vocals, lending their comically atonal voices to songs like “I am a Wizard,” “Platform 9 ¾” and “My Teacher is a Werewolf.” Joe DeGeorge, the younger of the two, spent most his time at the keyboard, while Paul DeGeorge ripped into lead guitar and later lead broomstick. Brad Mehlenbacher, the band’s temporary drummer who also plays for the “rival” group Draco and the Malfoys, flayed the drums with requisite verve. If this was not meant to be an ironic punk band, I might have believed the parallel tears on the back of his shirt.
Joe and Paul never broke character, and watching them pretend to take themselves seriously was funnier the harder they rocked. The moment you tried to match their intensity, you’d start to feel ridiculous for dancing to songs about Harry Potter in the first place. The silliness took some getting used to, but by the time “Save Ginny Weasley” came on, most gladly joined in the refrain, “We’ve got to save Ginny Weasley from the Basilisk.”

However, not everybody was satisfied with the show, as some concertgoers complained about not being able to hear the lyrics. Others dismissed the entire act as a pathetic novelty, especially now that two years have passed since the last book was released. Still others thought the music was sloppy and monotonous. I cannot argue with these points, except to say that they might speak less to the band’s failing than to its style.

The only way to criticize a band that strives to be amateurish is by comparing it to other groups of its type. Then, like all bands, Harry and the Potters relies on the musicianship, songwriting abilities and stage presence of its members to attract and keep fans. I wonder if they would succeed without the Harry Potter ruse, but the fact is that they have been highly successful. The music is good enough. The performance is also good enough – Joe and Paul make up for their poor voices with fidgety punk energy and kooky antics. Their saving grace is their lyrics, not because they are particularly clever, but because they are original and because you never quite get over the fact that they dress up and only sing about Harry Potter.

The percentage of spectators in wizard hats increased as the crowd dwindled. The concert became more intimate, and a feeling of comfort and goodwill filled the room as the Harry Potter fans discovered each other and enjoyed their newfound community. Several had lightning bolts painted on their foreheads, and at least one wore a red cape. The band fed off the crowd’s energy, turning it into jumps, kicks and repeated forays into the crowd. Gangly limbs shot into the air and wriggled happily. “Maybe you shouldn’t have brought up Cedric Diggory,” Paul sang at one point. “Oh no you didn’t!” the crowd replied.

The show ended abruptly without a raucous round of applause or even calls for an encore. The Potterites had evidently had their fill and so dispersed. Those who went to the Yule Ball in Lasell were probably happy to hear danceable music again. A part of them, though, missed the warm and fuzzy vibe of the Harry and the Potters show, where they had donned their wizard caps and shared their love for the boy wizard and his imagined world.