First and foremost, to explore the history of wizard rock one must ask the question:
How did wizard rock start?
JK Rowling should be considered the inspiration behind wizard rock after mentioning an all-wizard band in her series. Called “The Weird Sisters,” they presumably play music about being wizards. Because of this it is considered a rule of thumb for wizard rock bands to play music of a similar theme, whether from a certain character’s perspective or just about being a wizard or witch in general.
The majority of wizard rock fans were most likely introduced to wizard rock by the group Harry and the Potters. Members (and brothers) Paul and Joe DeGeorge created the band in the summer of 2002 when they gave their first live performance at a cookout in their backyard. After receiving an incredibly positive response, they continued writing Potter themed music and released their first, self-titled album the following April. They began playing shows and touring, released their second CD in the summer of 2004, and successfully brought wizard rock into the spotlight.
It was at the end of 2004 that more wizard rock bands began to emerge. It wasn’t until after Harry and the Potters’ 2005 summer tour, however, that the “movement,” as it were, truly began.
In late 2004, Matt Maggiacomo (of The Whomping Willows) had been hosting a house party series in his apartment. He invited Harry and the Potters to be a part of it. A few months later in the spring of 2005, they thought it would be cool to have an entire night of wizard rock themed music. Members of Draco and the Malfoys made their debut at the concert as well. They performed an incredible set and were later invited to open for Harry and the Potters later that year. In October, Draco and the Malfoys and The Whomping Willows created accounts on the ever popular MySpace.com and contributed to the Harry and the Potters and friends A Magical Christmas of Magic holiday compilation CD. While a handful of bands existed prior to this point, over 20 were created before the end of the year after these bands hit the scene. Over 30 bands have released music since January 2006.
What most don’t realize, however, is the fact that wizard rock existed prior to Harry and the Potters. In the spring of 2000, the Switchblade Kittens wrote their song “Ode to Harry” from the perspective of Ginny Weasley, which gives it the status of being a wizard rock song. They performed the song live as The Weird Sisters a number of times, including at the very first Harry Potter symposium, Nimbus, in 2003.
It is Harry and the Potters, though, that are credited with being responsible for the phenomenal outpouring of interest in the genre or classification.
The music of wizard rock varies in a number of ways, from recording quality to genre to subject matter. It represents different things to different people. To some, it matters very little if the recording quality or vocal and musical stylings of the performers are not accutely refined. What is most important to them is the celebration of the Potter series as well as the promotion of literacy. Other individuals would rather only acknowledge wizard rock bands with exceptional musical talent.
Like many other aspects of the Harry Potter fandom, wizard rock found itself at a turning point or crossroads of sorts. Many fans found themselves becoming introspective and exploring the music and reasons behind it. One such party that did this were Megan and Mallory Schuyler, creators of the Wizard Rockumentary. In July 2006, they began collecting footage for their documentary on wizard rock and the HP Fandom. Their final product, a nearly 2 hour long DVD, has helped showcase the amazing growth wizard rock has seen over the years, and introduced new wrock fans to some of the older, original groups that helped start it all.
In addition to the Wizard Rockumentary, the movie We Are Wizards helped to promote wizard rock to Harry Potter fans worldwide as well.
Harry and the Potters have been interviewed by newspapers (online, video, and print) and music websites a number of times, as have a handful of other bands. Several have appeared on Harry Potter themed podcasts, and as the “movement,” as it is so frequently called amongst its fans, continues, it is likely that they will continue to do so.
Wizard rock has continued to thrive and grow, even as the original platform that helped spawn it (MySpace) slowly faded away in favor of newer social media platforms. Many bands are now interacting directly with fans through sites like Facebook and Tumblr, chatting with them daily using platforms like Twitter, and have been able to quickly deliver new releases to fans using iTunes, Bandcamp, and Amazon MP3 services (among others).
What’s the point?
At its most basic level, wizard rock celebrates and promotes literacy. Harry and the Potters, for instance, encouraged concert goers in the summer of 2006 to read some of their favorite books in exchange for toothbrushes (bearing their band name) with the receipt of a book report. Many bands recommend books in their blogs or on their websites, and often will perform shows in libraries.
But wizard rock fans and creators are involved in other socially conscious endeavors as well. At their Yule Ball in December 2005, Harry and the Potters introduced attendees to their friends from the Harry Potter Alliance. Originally created by Andrew Slack, and now run by Executive Director Matt Maggiacomo (yes, that guy from The Whomping Willows), the HP Alliance seeks to motivate Harry Potter fans to take a stand against tyranny, genocide, global warming, and more, using parallels to the book series. Inept political leaders become the Minister and Ministry of Magic, while the oppressive and tyrannical are depicted as Voldemort and the Deatheaters. 10 years after it’s inception, the Harry Potter Alliance (more commonly referred to as the HPA) is still a driving force when it comes to fan activism and fundraising for various worthy causes.
Political activism and Harry Potter are not two things that most people would think of as being hand in hand. But then, to most people, Harry Potter is a children’s book series. To the fans, however, the forces of evil represented in the books are not quite so different than those we currently face in the real world. There may not be dark wizards with unchallengable magical powers, but there are horrible people doing horrible things that use the same tactics as Voldemort and his Deatheaters. Prejudice and genocide, for instance, are commonplace in some parts of the world.
The HP Alliance has encouraged fans to stop global warming, save the Internet via petitioning the government in favor of net neutrality, and petition Warner Brothers to use Fair Trade chocolate for use in their parks.
Wizard rock and the HP Alliance bring light to the fact that the challenges and horrors Harry faces are similar (if not reflective) of those that we face in the real world. The music and the fandom celebrate standing up for what is right, making a difference in the lives of others, and putting a stop to the evils in the world. This behavior is not only proof of how well loved the characters and story are, but it is also a testament to the significance and timelessness of the series as a whole.
Beyond the great work that the Harry Potter Alliance has done for and with wizard rock bands and fans, many bands in the community have taken it upon themselves over the years to create, promote, and distribute charity compilation albums to help benefit a wide number of organizations. The Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club helped to raise well over $30,000 for various organizations in the years it was distributed, and the compilation series Wizards and Muggles Rock for Social Justice has helped raise money for groups including the HPA, This Star Won’t Go Out, and others. Other wizard rock compilations have helped raise money for cancer research, To Write Love On Her Arms, support groups, and various literacy organizations.
Where is Wizard Rock Now?
After the final Harry Potter movies were released, wizard rock’s popularity began to slightly wane. Without any more new material for bands to build songs from, new songs and albums began to appear at a slower rate. Many bands who started playing wizard rock as teens now found themselves in college (or new graduates, and sometimes even new parents) without the same amount of free time to devote to writing and performing.
Wizard rock’s popularity was helped immensely by the widespread use of MySpace as noted above, and once that platform began to fall into disuse around 2011, wizard rock fans began to find it harder to find all the music they loved in one spot.
While some fans and bands drifted away from the active wizard rock community, the genre still remained strong. Album releases on platforms like Bandcamp, and the rise of YouTube’s popularity helped to give wizard rock bands distribution like never before. Harry Potter conferences such as LeakyCon (and it’s offshoot GeekyCon) continued to feature some of the more popular wizard rock bands for attendees, and Facebook is filled with band fan pages, where musicians continually update their fans on shows and new music.
Wizard rock may never experience the levels of massive popularity it did in the years 2006-2009, but it will always have a strong backbone of bands and fans that continue to support each other in various ways. Some bands have turned to crowdfunding platforms to help them book tours and record albums, while others have branched off and offered fans unique merchandise to help fund their musical endeavors.
Some publications may like to trot out articles with a nostalgic “remember wizard rock” tone, but the fact of the matter is wizard rock never went away. Nor will it, as new bands still pop up, creating their Twitter and Facebook accounts while releasing new music on Bandcamp and Soundcloud. As long as people love Harry Potter, and want to express that love by making their own music, wizard rock will continue.