The children who came of age reading J.K. Rowling's Hogwarts tales are all grown up, and the saga of the Boy Who Lived ended two years ago. But Harry Potter mania shows few signs of dissipating. If anything, the fan universe is expanding.
This week alone, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" hits the silver screen, and legions of fans will congregate in San Francisco for Azkatraz, the first Bay Area Harry Potter convention. They'll play Quidditch, discuss Harry Potter canon and rock out to the strains of The Remus Lupins and other Hogwarts-inspired rock bands singing lyrics about Severus Snape, ballads to Hermione Granger and odes to dementors.
Welcome to the world of wizard wrock.
What began as a passing mention in Rowling's books — and a cameo by members of Radiohead and Pulp as a wizard band in the third movie — has turned into its own sprawling musical genre spanning musical styles from punk and rap to acoustic rock. And the movement has grown so quickly in the last two years, one can't help but suspect an engorgio charm.
By last count there were more than 592 "wizard wrock" bands, from California's Remus Lupins to Sweden's Swedish Shortsnouts and Japan's Hollow Godric. And the musicians range in age from 20-something to 5.
Wizard wrock's popularity doesn't entirely surprise Alex Carpenter. The Lupins' guitarist and singer says he "literally grew up" in a SoCal comic book store — his family owned it — and knows how passionate fans can be. The Harry Potter phenomenon, he says, goes way beyond that.
"I've been exposed to 'Star Trek,' 'Star Wars,'"" he says, "and I've never met a more creative, passionate fandom. Never seen anything like it. It only makes sense that music would be at the forefront of that creativity. Kids are really connecting and wanting to make it their own."
And they're doing it at a very grass roots level.
"People draw their own album art, record their albums in their parents' living rooms," says Carpenter. "It's a movement that inspires kids to say, 'If they can do it, I can do it, too.'""
That's how the Lupins started too. "I wrote a song about how much I hated Severus Snape," says the recent UCLA graduate. "I recorded it and put it up on MySpace."
That was it. Now Carpenter and bandmates Toby Karlin, a drummer and saxophonist, and bassist Tyler Nicholas are midway through a 53-city national tour that includes gigs at Azkatraz, ComicCon and the Milpitas Public Library. Life these days is a blur of gigs and recordings, including their popular album, "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," dedicated to their favorite Hogwarts professor and lycanthrope.
The wizard wrock movement may be homegrown, but the Internet — MySpace, iTunes, Facebook and Wizrocklopedia.com — fueled its spread. And they have fans beyond many Muggle musicians' dreams.
More than 289,000 people have downloaded Draco and the Malfoys' "My Dad is Rich," whose catchy lyrics include, "My dad is rich and your dad is dead." And Harry and the Potters, the first big-name wizard wrock band, went platinum, so to speak, when 1.3 million fans decided they had to have "Save Ginny Weasley" on their iPods.
Ginny and the basilisk
That was the song that caught Concord native Dinah Russell's attention back in high school, long before she became senior editor for Wizrocklopedia, the definitive online guide to the wizard rock universe.
"For quite some time, I didn't realize there were more bands," says Russell, now 22. "I memorized the CDs. I would walk through the hallways singing, 'Save Ginny Weasley from the Basilisk.'""
Then she spotted Draco and the Malfoys' Facebook page. It snowballed from there.
"I started seeing all the bands connected to each other and I could not stop clicking on them," Russell says.
It's a familiar tale to anyone involved in wizard wrock. They had no idea it existed and then suddenly, irresistibly, it was everywhere.
"I grew up with the books," says guitarist and pianist Christie Roberts, who graduated from Mills College this spring. "It was the last hurrah to get in the Harry Potter world."
Now Roberts performs as 142 Staircases — a reference to Hogwarts' magical corridors — locally and even while studying abroad. She played in Edinburgh, Scotland for Rowling's "Beedle the Bard" launch.
We Are Wizards
Older adults are hardly immune. Take indie director Josh Koury and film producer Miles Kane, whose documentary "We Are Wizards" delves into wizard wrock and the Potter fan world.
Initially, Kane had serious doubts about getting involved in a Harry Potter-related documentary. He'd never read the books, for one thing. Er, something about three kids, right?
By the time they finished the documentary, which debuted at SXSW last summer — it's now available on Hulu.com — Kane had his own band, MC Kreacher.
Part of Harry Potter's charm has always been that even if you were passionate about the books to a dorky degree, well, so was everyone else. In one particularly memorable "We Are Wizards" scene, a subway rolls through the night, every one of its silent riders is immersed in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."
Likewise, wizard wrock seems to have created its own self-sustaining community.
"The movement itself has gone beyond needing the books to create new work," says Koury. "They cross-inspire each other, they expand off each other's work."
At the time he and Kane started filming in 2006, there were 79 wizard wrock bands out there. Now the more-than 500 bands include the Hungarian Horntails, two brothers, ages 5 and 8, who play punk Potter.
"They kind of embodied the wizard rock movement in its community and expression and creativity," says Koury. "The kids love the books, but they're taking it to another level. Harry and the Potters had a show — 20,000 people! — and the Hungarian Horntails opened for them."
Now the wizard wrock community gathers for events ranging from a Vallejo barbecue for the NorCal wrockers to large scale, formal Potter conferences such as LeakyCon and Wrockstock, a four-day music festival in Potosi, Missouri. Russell went last summer and describes it as a Hogwartsian nirvana: four days of music with 12 to 14 major bands, including The Remus Lupins, on the main stage.
Carpenter and his band are everywhere these days, including Azkatraz, where organizers Heidi Tandy and Lee Hillman say they've tried to blend hot names and up-and-comers.
Roberts' 142 Staircases will be playing the late night "wizard whisper parties." The music is soft, the hour late and "everybody cheers by raising their hands, like sign language," says Roberts, so as not to disturb other guests at the Parc 55 Hotel, which serves as Azkatraz headquarters.
And fans will attend workshops at Zeum, play Quidditch, and stroll around Union Square.
"You're likely," says Hillman, "to see people in robes and cloaks walking around. Folks might look twice."
Reach Jackie Burrell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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