It’s a well-known fact that Harry Potter fans (also known as “Potterheads”) are a creative bunch. This is illustrated in the rise of Wrock—Wizard Rock—and the wildly popular phenomenon of a few simple yet brilliant puppets. When I turned out on Monday at the Troubadour in West Hollywood to the joint tour of punk rock band Harry and the Potters with the Potter Puppet Pals, I could still feel the love for all things Potter going just as strong as ever. Fans waiting for the show to start wrapped around the side of the building and came decked out in their finest wizard robes and memorabilia, wands in hand. One couple I met even dressed in a unique style they dubbed “Wizard summer-wear”, pairing a top hat with cut-off cargo shorts.
The opening act, The Potter Puppet Pals, were created about 9 years ago by Neil Cicierega—an internet-famous comedian, filmmaker, and lead singer of the band Lemon Demon. They started out as a series of flash animations and later evolved into a series of live-action puppet shows posted on YouTube and their own website. If you’ve ever heard of “The Mysterious Ticking Noise” or “Bothering Snape” then you know that these puppet skits have become nearly just as popular as J.K. Rowling’s series itself. I have to admit, I have never heard anyone cheer for puppets quite as loudly as I did at this show. They are celebrities in their own rite.
The main puppets include Harry (naturally), Ron, Hermione, Snape, and Dumbledore. Cicierega performed the show with his friends Alora Lanzillotta and Ryan Murphy. What makes these skits so great is how each character is an exaggerated parody of him or herself. Harry is extremely full of himself and kind of a jerk, Ron is something of an airhead, Hermione is a know-it-all, and Snape is like a sad clown. Dumbledore however, is just off-the-charts crazy and likes to run around naked. The show was a pleasant surprise, as all the skits except for the two mentioned above were completely original. Highlights of the show included the trio enjoying some Wizard Treats on the Hogwarts Express, Harry casting a spell that caused him to enter our universe and meet J.K. Rowling (Cicierega disguised as the author, wearing a blond wig), Snape feeling sorry for himself with a song called “When You Are Snape”, and Harry facing Voldemort in the end, their battle ending in a group hug.
Harry and the Potters are Paul and Joe DeGeorge. Their tagline is, “We Sing Songs About Books!” On their website, they describe themselves in the following way: “Imagine if Harry Potter quit the Quidditch team and started a punk rock band.” –A band which they started 10 years ago, playing their first show in their parents’ garage. Since then, they have played shows all over the U.S. and internationally, doing it all on their own without any support besides that of each other and their fans. They came on stage looking like Harry Potter on a typical school day, complete with grey wool sweaters, ties with the Gryffindor red and gold, and those famous Potter glasses. To the average person who isn’t a Potter fan, this might look just like a couple of Buddy Holly look-alikes… but then they start playing their guitars and the punk sound just starts streaming out. Which of course is the trifecta of what makes them so unique- the look, the music, and the fandom.
Harry and the Potters got the crowd pumped up to songs like “Stick it to Dolores” (about getting back at one of Hogwarts’ most evil professor/administrator), “Voldemort Can’t Stop the Rock”, “SPEW” (about Hermione’s Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare), and “Song for the Death Eaters” (a great song for solidarity of friendship, love, and beauty in the face of evil). They also Potter-ized a few existing songs, turning “Louie Louie” into “Luna Lovegood” and changing the lyrics of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. What the brothers lack in singing ability, they more than make up for in a passion for rock with a sound similar to the Sex Pistols. I liked seeing that even the bartenders were getting into it, smiling with amusement at the Potter mania surrounding them while beginning to headbang to the drums. Drumming was provided by a young guy calling himself “Summertime Santa” (he wore a Santa hat and a t-shirt and shorts) who fit right in with the band even though he’d only been playing with them for 5 days, I later found out. The guys also put a little extra variety into the show by inserting a comedy set of awkward silly puns, especially geared towards Potter fans: “What is a Hufflepuff’s favorite instrument? A Cedric Didgeridoo!”
After the show, fans once again lined up outside the theater to re-enter for a chance at autographs and merchandise. We were waiting for what seemed like nearly an hour, but we did use that hour to make friends with other Potter fans. Once back inside, there were CD albums, t-shirts, postcards, jewelry and other swag, but there was one last bit that set this show apart from the materialistic side of entertainment: The HP Alliance table. The HP Alliance was co-founded by Harry and the Potters and according to their website it is “an organization that inspires social activism based around themes from the Harry Potter books.” Rowling herself has endorsed the campaign, saying it exemplifies the values of Dumbledore’s Army from the book. The combination of humor, music, and activism for positive social change is what sets Potter fans apart and makes them special. And boy, can wizards rock.