The Band: Harry and the Potters, July 26 2012. Here’s a piece of advice: when you are finally, FINALLY comped tickets to see an admittedly unknown band by a small record label and you boast about it to your best friend over dinner with your two families, do not follow up with, “Incidentally, that’s the same night Harry and the Potters are playing in town.” The children at the table went completely mental over the fact that HATP, the duo that pioneered Wizard Rock (other band in this genre: Draco and the Malfoys) would be in the same general area code with them. Free tickets scrapped, Family 5 Pak tickets purchased, so that we might hear Joe and Paul DeGeorge from Cambridge MA play punk rock hits like “Save Ginny Weasley” and “Let’s Drink to Aragog.”
The Venue: Slim’s, San Francisco. While this venue has a great rep, it also books a high ratio of bands I have never heard of, many of whom have the word “Deathkill” in their name. So this is the first time I’ve had reason to visit the roomy, dark club which is illuminated by some Game of Thrones-looking chandeliers. The bar extends down one entire wall and around the corner which I think is a sure sign of a club that knows its business. Especially on a night where a lot of the adults drove a minivan full of wannabe Hufflepuffs to the show and needed something slightly stronger than Butterbeer to gird their loins for the night.
The Company: The aforementioned best friend Maria, her two youngest kids, and my 11 year old. Disaster nearly struck in the car outside the gig, when Maria’s daughter asked that her mother draw a Harry Potter lightning bolt on her forehead, and this is what Maria did to her.
Honestly, woman, how many times do you need to see Harry’s iconic bolt to get it right? Luckily a little maternal spit-on-finger took care of the problem and we could exit the car.
Who was missing? My eldest daughter, who is visiting her grandparents out of state. “I can’t believe you are going to the concert without me,” she wailed on the phone earlier in the day. “It’s my life dream to see Harry and Potters!” I pointed out that she told me her life dream had been to see One Direction. “I know, but I did that, so I have a new life dream!”
The Crowd: Let me relate a conversation of two young techie businessmen who walked past the line of summer-in-San-Francisco-shivering audience members that snaked around the building before the doors opened. “What IS this?” said Tech 1, mystified. “I don’t KNOW!” said Tech 2, and they scurried away before they caught a case of it.
Did they mean the girl wearing a garland of Gryffindor-colored flowers in her hair? The pimply youth in his “Muggle” tshirt? The kids wearing the “Occupy Gringotts” shirts? The tiny boy dressed like a Death Eater and clinging to his mom’s hand? The median concert goer was a 17 year old girl who is on both debate team AND student council and wishes she’d been born earlier so she could have watched “My So-Called Life” when it first aired. A sweeter, more earnest flock of geeks there never has been.
The Opening Act: First out was a really fine punk rock band called “The Home Alones” who all wore red turtlenecks and were named Kevin. Bam. Seriously, these guys were so fun and full of energy that if you had changed the lyrics of songs like “Fuller, Easy on the Pepsi” or “I Made My Family Disappear” to something more anarchical, you’d have thought you were hearing the second or third act on the bill of an awesome punk rock festival. Though Maria and I wondered afterward – if any of these musicians wanted to try out for a different band, how loudly would they proclaim, “I was Kevin #3, from the ‘Home Alone’ tribute band the Home Alones!”
Then came what was, for many in the crowd, as big a draw as the headliners: the Potter Puppet Pals puppet theater. This started as a comedy web series that went überviral and is the brainchild of the very young and very talented Neil Cicierega. He turned the J.K. Rowling characters into 18 inch high felt puppets and imbued them with the character traits more appropriate to their fictional backstories. Therefore Harry is an arrogant ass, Hagrid is a mumblemouth drunk, and Ron talks like a puppy on helium. Neville is played by a butternut squash. Hard to explain, but it was clever, and hilarious. Even if your kid subjected you to "The Mysterious Ticking Noise" video a million times, you couldn’t help but laugh.Age Humiliation Factor: Not for me.
Obviously I was there as the 21+ chaperone. When that much of the crowd is under 17, you really can’t be bothered by holding down the other end of the bell curve.
Cool Factor: High.
At least according to the kid on the other side of the country who didn’t go. Don’t worry, honey, I got Neil Cicierega’s autograph for you.
Worth Hiring the Sitter? No need, you’re not hitting this show without the kids.
For Harry Potter fans, this tour is a must. The good news is that even as you are laughing at the lyrics in songs like “The Economics of the Wizarding World Don’t Make Sense” (why WAS Harry’s wand only seven galleons? And how come people kept giving him top of the line broomsticks when he had a vault full of gold over at Gringotts?) you may find you are totally enjoying the music, which hearkens back to the best of college garage rock. Thank the kids for dragging you out for a night of wizardly hair shaking before you magic them off to bed.The tour is moving east – if you’ve ever peered into the dark recesses of your purse and whispered “Accio Housekeys!” you should certainly take the kids and check it out. Did you ever form a tribute band in your youth? Do you think it was a natural mistake for me to wonder aloud why so many kids came to the show carrying a single drumstick before I figured out – oh right, WANDS? Let me know your thoughts in the comments field – I could talk music with you all day long.