The Playlist: A Wizard Rock Primer for Sonorus 2010 at Jammin’ Java
Back in February, a few days before the Sonorus festival was set to take place at Jammin' Java in Vienna, Va., I asked one of the wizard rock concert's organizers what spell she would use to avert the impending snowstorm. She said evanesco, the vanishing spell.
As you may recall, the snowpocalypse didn't exactly vanish, and Sonorus, sadly, had to be postponed. Luckily the concert is back on tomorrow with a slate of 12 bands inspired by J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, some well-known within the scene, some up-and-coming. We asked the organizers to curate a primer of Sonorus bands for the uninitiated—or would that be unsorted? After the jump, listen to what they conjured up.
This group from Rhode Island is one of the original wizard rock bands, and they epitomize the genre's early sound, says Sonorus organizer Matt Bufford: Silly, irreverent, scrappy. Member Brian Ross will be performing at Sonorus.
There aren't many wizard rap groups—maybe 10, Bufford says—but Swish and Flick is the biggest. A husband-and-wife duo from New York, the group embraces wizardry's dark side with a bit of a gangsta spin. Sample rhyme: "Debauchery and sin/We rep for Slytherin."
The first wizard rock bands, like Harry and the Potters and Draco and the Malfoys, were light-hearted and approachable, but in recent years, Bufford says, some wizard rockers began to erect a wall between themselves and their wizard fans. "It started getting more serious," says Bufford. “As the community got larger it was less and less easy to be friends with people in the bands." He says the Blibbering Humdingers from North Carolina are a throwback to the genre's early days—that'd be the early 2000s. "Their stuff is just so silly," Bufford says. "Having people in these bands to lighten this back up again is refeshing."
Traditionally, wizard rock bands sing songs from the point of view of the characters they're named for, but in recent years some acts have moved away from that approach. "Let's be honest," Bufford says. "You can't keep it up." Take Nagini, a New York-based singer who originally sang songs from the perspective of Voldemort's giant snake. On a more recent EP with the singer Alastor, she explored some of the male-female relationships in the Harry Potter universe: "Our Son," for example, inhabits the world of Draco Malfoy's conniving parents.
One aim of Sonorus, Bufford says, is to put newer wizard rock bands on stage with more veteran ones. Madam Pince and the Librarians are young, but they've already earned positive notices, as well as a best new artist prize from Wizrocklopedia, a site that exhaustively catalogs the genre. The song "Anthony Goldstein, You're A Jew" plumbs heavy territory—about whether an obscure character can make wizardry work with monotheism. The answer, Bufford says, is yes (at least one member of Madam Pince is Jewish, incidentally). I asked Bufford, who grew up a Southern Baptist, if he also considers himself a wizard. "No," he says. "I don't dress up in a costume or anything."
Sonorus 2010 takes place tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. at Jammin' Java, 227 Maple Ave. East, Vienna, Va. $20.