When I tell people that I listen to music written about the Harry Potter universe, their reactions range from “look how cute” to “look at this nerd”, and yes, Wizard Rock is both adorable and very nerdy. It’s full of lyrics like “this isn’t Hogwarts/this is a concrete box/and the pictures on the walls are never gonna talk,” and WRock shows often feature people fist-pumping with wands between their fingers and giant stuffed basilisks being thrown into the crowd. It’s goofy, and ridiculous, and sometimes a bit cringe-worthy. But over the past year, I’ve learned that Wizard Rock is not just a fad or a joke: it is immensely, indescribably important.
If there’s anything that Harry Potter has proved, it’s that things labeled immature or “for kids” are often hugely influential, and full of meaning. WRock is no exception. In 2009, Lauren Fairweather released “It’s Real for Us,” an album that switches back and forth between the perspectives of Lily Evans and Severus Snape when they first meet. This is a very influential and emotional time in the characters lives, when two outcasts realize that they are not alone. The album is true to that, and is utterly sincere, which lyrics like “I just can’t wait to go and see/so many people just like me/cause all I’ve wanted for so long/is to find a place where I belong.” The album preaches anti-bullying and the magical feeling of finding acceptance.
In 2005, a man named Andrew Slack decided that he wanted to use the influence and power that he knew Harry Potter had for good. He organized a small benefit concert for his idea that would become a charity called “The Harry Potter Alliance.” Paul and Joe Degeorge, the brothers who make up the Wizard Rock band “Harry and the Potters” took this opportunity to do a good thing for the little guy, as Harry himself would, and played at the benefit. At this point, Harry and the Potters had released three albums and been on several tours, and their fanbase led to the benefit having a much bigger audience than it would otherwise. Harry and The Potters’s fans, and the HP fandom in general, caused the charity to pick up speed. Since then, the HPA has used the passion of fandom to raise thousands of dollars for dozens of causes, including literacy, United States immigration reform, economic justice, mental health, and climate change, and their partnership with the DeGeorges has led to more impactful projects. In 2009, the DeGeorges created a Wizard Rock album about social change called “Wizards and Muggles Centered Around Social Justice.” It featured songs from a multitude of Wizard Rock bands about social justice, and the proceeds were split between Marriage Equality Rhode Island and The Harry Potter Alliance.
This album was released over six years ago, but Wizard activism shows no signs of stopping. In summer 2015, Steph Anderson of Tonks and the Aurors released the feminist power anthem “Yes All Witches.” The song is loud, rebellious, and unapologetic, with the lyrics “We are the voice of a generation/Let me hear you Hogwarts nation.” The song and Anderson’s tour of the same name were dedicated to women in fandom. When the song is played in concert, a strange and beautiful atmosphere is created, one where eight year old girls in Hogwarts robes joyfully sing about taking down the patriarchy. It is, quite frankly, magic.
At a Wizard Rock show in May, I felt that magic. The small club was full to the brim with happiness. Complete strangers clutched each other with excitement when their favorite acts walked on stage, and danced together when their favorite songs were played. Performers jumped around on stage until their Weasley sweaters were soaked through with sweat, and their infectious energy never depleated. When performer jumped into the audience, they caused an uproar of hugs and tears throughout the entire audience. Paul and Joe DeGeorge stayed in character as Harry Potter Year 7 and Year 4, respectively, for their entire set, but during one moment of pure quiet, a fan screamed “I LOVE YOU JOE!” and all of a sudden, they both stopped acting. Joe scanned the crowd to find the fan, and when he did, he pointed to them and said, with utmost sincerity, “I love you too.” When Potter fans come into the community, they are undoubtedly looking for something to make them happy, and find one of the most caring and supportive subcultures ever created. The Harry Potter franchise is long over, but the fan’s story is just beginning. In the words of Harry and The Potters: “the one thing we’ve got is enough/to save us all/the weapon we have is love.”
Written by Julia Unger resident writer and explorer of Geekdom