featuring George's Left Ear, Bella and Le Strangers, The Whomping Willows, Justin Finch-Fletchley and the Sugar Quills, Lauren Fairweather and The Blibbering Humdingers. 6 p.m., April 5. $10. The Space, 295 Treadwell St., Building H, Hamden, (203) 288-6400, thespace.tk.
Fandoms love to expand and explode in peculiar ways. Etsy, a website where regular folks can sell their handmade wares, is full of fan recreations and pieces inspired by a bunch of popular books, movies and TV shows, and that's not even scratching the surface. Fan-fiction, where fans themselves re-imagine characters in different roles/relationships/storylines is insanely popular, and often weirdly sexual. (No one is safe from the clutches of fan-fiction. I used to read a particularly lengthy one about Hanson way back in the day.) What is it about fans of Harry Potter that, while also venturing down every other well-explored avenue of fandom expression, turned them to music?
Wizard rock, or "wrock," a genre where thematic content takes precedence over musicianship, encompasses a wide range of Harry Potter-inspired bands, songs and stage personas. Each wizard rock band is different from the next, but the music really isn't what's important, even though each band's original tunes all center around the same thing. What drives the genre is a mutual love and understanding between these bands and their fans: We are all deeply affected by Harry Potter. And Connecticut, for some reason, seems to be a kind of hub of the action, as will be seen at an upcoming wizard-rock fest in Hamden.
It all started with Harry and the Potters, two brothers from Massachusetts who each portray Harry during a different year of the series. They wrote a bunch of songs from Harry's perspective, played live shows at libraries and ended up launching something much bigger than anyone could've predicted after their start in the early 2000s. The 2008 documentary We Are Wizards, directed by Josh Koury, rips the lid off the Harry Potter fandom rabbit hole. Harry and the Potters and the wizard-rock phenomenon are explored in depth. Wizard-rock participants are showed ranging in age from elementary school to adult-professional and everything in between.
It should come as no surprise that The Space is hosting a wizard rock-themed show this week, entitled Weasleystock. It takes place on the night of April 5, in honor of the birthdays of Fred and George Weasley, who turn 34 this year. Well — spoiler alert — George would have. R.I.P., Fred. The Space, overflowing with knickknacks and tchotchkes, is the perfect local spot to repeatedly host wizard-rock shows.
If you've seen We Are Wizards, you're already familiar with Matt Maggiacomo, aka the Whomping Willows. The Willows take their name from a menacing willow tree planted on the Hogwarts grounds to protect the opening of a passageway leading to the Shrieking Shack. Harry and the Potters are directly responsible for Maggiacomo's foray into wizard rockdom, inspiring him to put together an all-wizard-rock house show after playing a gig at the suggestion of another local band. And thus, wizard rock got a little bigger. Of the six bands on the Weasleystock bill, two call Connecticut home and three, including Maggiacomo's Whomping Willows, are from our next-door neighbor, Rhode Island.
Connecticut's offerings on the bill are George's Left Ear, named for the ear cursed off George Weasley's head during a battle with Lord Voldemort in Book 7, and Bella and Le Strangers, a play off the name of Bellatrix LeStrange, a Death Eater once called a "bitch" by Mrs. Weasley. These two bands share members, and Weasleystock will be the first show for Bella and Le Strangers with their seven-piece line-up. Mastermind Emma Brice got into the wizard rock game by writing her own "evil-wizard rock songs," as she puts it. When she wants to extol the virtues of the good side of the story, she writes as part of George's Left Ear.
Rounding out the New England element are Justin Finch-Fletchley and the Sugar Quills and Lauren Fairweather. Justin Finch-Fletchley is a character who misunderstands his encounter with a parseltongue-speaking Harry in Book 2, but eventually comes around to fight the good fight. Sugar quills are common wizarding-world candies. Lauren Fairweather's spin on Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me," called "I Want You to Womp Me," sums up wizard rock pretty nicely. The Blibbering Humdingers, the most southerly of the night's offerings, hail from North Carolina. A husband-wife duo, they cleverly put a spin on wizard rock with their cover of Blondie's "Call Me," called "Call Me, Arthur." It centers on Arthur Weasley's love of Muggle artifacts and their possible uses. Arthur and Molly Weasley are the parents of Fred and George, and Harry's best friend Ron. Songs coming from the perspective of particular characters is quite common in wizard rock.
While wizard rock shows are pretty common in Connecticut and New England, we aren't the only area of the country to enjoy the musical talents of Harry Potter fans. Wizard rock showcases are common at Harry Potter-themed conferences around the U.S., and wizard rock bands are no strangers to the lure of touring. We're just lucky to be so close to wizard rock's roots.
As a fan myself, appreciating the efforts of these musicians comes naturally, even if their musical styles wouldn't normally catch my interest. The connection to the material is what keeps wizard rock alive and well in the hearts of Harry Potter fans almost five years after the series' end in book form. For many of us, the end of the series felt like what we imagine normal people experience at the end of a particularly rewarding degree program, or after the death of a loved one. There is a deep sense of loss.
"Harry Potter is so much more than a book series," says Brice. "It has created a whole subculture, and many of the fans use it as inspiration for creative outlets such as music, art, and fanfiction. Many people use these creative talents to raise awareness and funds for charity organizations. Our newest song, 'Vicious Circle,' which we'll be debuting at the show, was written for an Anti-Bullying campaign compilation CD entitled Not All Slytherins Are Bad."
Don't discount the sharing of love and community at wizard-rock shows just because it was spawned from a children's book. Local wizard-rock fans are still in the game because of the enthusiasm of the players. A friend of mine has seen Harry and the Potters perform, and he had this to say about the experience: "They have so much energy on stage and it's just so much fun. They obviously don't take themselves too seriously." I think that sentiment holds true for the entire genre. Harry Potter is something that is so deeply loved by all of these musicians; it's hard to imagine any of them going at it with half a heart. Emma Brice puts another spin on why they do what they do: "The most gratifying thing about being in a wizard rock band [is that] you can walk into a show anywhere in the country and know at least half of the people in the room." Community is community, no matter what inspired it, and that's what you'll find at Weasleystock.
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