Review: Harry Potter fans unite for Harry and the Potters at Transitions Art Gallery in Tampa

13

July

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In a recent episode of ESPN’s The B.S. Report, pop culture journalist Chris Connelly called the phenomenon of Harry Potter “the Beatles for the twentysomething generation.”

He’s right, if you think about it. Few things in history have had as seismic an impact on pop culture as the Beatles, but Harry Potter is one of those things. The books transmogrified literature. The movies attracted even more fans. So huge has Harry become that an entire genre of bookish, fan-fiction-style music, dubbed “wizard rock,” spawned in his honor.

The most famous wizard rock group? Harry and the Potters, a Massachusetts brother-brother duo who dress, and act, exactly like Harry Potter (minus the actual magic, of course).

With Florida exploding in a fit of Harry Potter mania this week – what with LeakyCon at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 on Friday – Harry and the Potters paid a visit to Tampa Bay Tuesday, performing at a library in Clearwater in the afternoon, and Transitions Art Gallery at the Skatepark of Tampa that night.

And so, as Deathly Hallows reviews begin trickling out, it’s worth asking: With the Harry Potter franchise coming to an end, can the novelty of wizard rock be far behind?

Short answer: Not if Harry and the Potters have anything to say about it.

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The vibe at the night show was exactly as good-naturedly geeky as you might expect, with bespectacled fans in Gryffindor scarves and ties singing along to lyrics about Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. And musically, Harry and the Potters exceeded all expectations.

It’s tough to pin down their influences. Not because they’re obscure, mind you, but because there are so many. Among the artists whose DNA you could hear in their setlist: Matt and Kim, Camper Van Beethoven, the Refreshments, the Kinks, the Ramones, Clinic, Elastica, They Might Be Giants, Eels, Pavement, the Doors and the Presidents of the United States of America.

Those are all pretty great bands, right? Well, Harry and the Potters are a pretty great band.

Wearing matching Hogwarts-style uniforms, Paul DeGeorge (guitars) and brother Joe (keys) trade lead vocals all night, and if you had to pin it down, you’d say Paul’s songs hew a bit toward alternative mod rock, while Joe’s veer more toward punk and even hardcore. All of it, of course, is utterly PG, if not G. The music was loud, and the performance frenetic, but if you turn down the volume, it’s music a toddler could enjoy.

The brothers perform with frenzied energy, even when they’re singing about lesser characters like Fleur Delacour, Dolores Umbridge or Teddy Lupin. Some of the jokes only make sense if you’re familiar with the Potterverse, such as in The Human Hosepipe, an imagined conversation between Harry and his former crush, Cho Chang: “Maybe you shouldn’t have brought up Cedric Diggory, because I’d rather not talk about your dead ex-boyfriends over coffee.” But since most everyone there was a diehard fan of the franchise, the references all made sense. (And besides, that lyric would work in any number of punk songs.)

So, does the novelty wear off? Not really, since the lyrics aren’t always intelligible. The music and energy sustain every song until the end. A Matt-and-Kimmy pop song like Felix Felicis is impossible to resist, no matter which school the Sorting Hat assigned you.

And the brothers’ showmanship trumps all. After soundchecking in their street clothes, they changed into their costumes and stuck to the “We are Harry Potter” gimmick all night. They ventured into the crowd on several occasions to thrash, dance and pass the mic to fans. And on Save Ginny Weasley from Dean Thomas, Joe pulled out a red-and-gold saxophone and did his best Big Man (and we don’t mean Hagrid).

It is an odd form of performance art – not necessarily satirical or subversive, but it definitely requires a leap of faithful fandom. If you’re willing to make it, you can easily lose yourself on the dancefloor. At Transitions, a group of shirtless dudes thrashed and moshed all night, but they busted out the lighters during the emo ballad Dumbledore. As well they should have – it was quite a lovely song.

Harry Potter may be ending, but as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter proves, it really isn’t going anywhere. And as long as Harry is part of the real world, The Boy Who Lived will live on in song. Harry and the Potters – and their ever-increasing fan base – will make sure of that.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

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[Last modified: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 1:21am]

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