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July 19, 2007

Harry & the Potters: Starlight Ballroom, Philadelphia PA 07.18.07

Hp071807_01_3Philadelphia's Starlight Ballroom is located in an area that one usually does not take children to: blocks of dilapidated factories, trash-strewn parking lots and forgotten railways. Inside this space (which is known alternately in the Asian community as the nightclub Polaris) is a completely different story.

Bedecked in decorations that look as if they were plucked straight out of someone's Sweet Sixteen (pictured left), the Starlight Ballroom took on an inviting, kid-positive glow. So kid-friendly, in fact, your correspondent was unaware that the show had an earlier-than-usual start time for an all-ages gig. Even though I may have missed out on Math The Band (the girl working the door referred to them as "crazy") and the Hungarian Horntails, I couldn't have been better timed to catch Harry & the Potters.

Yes, there's a band based on the book series that has spawned films, but this shouldn't come as a surprise -- we live in an age where it's difficult to think of art and commerce as existing as anything but in tandem with each other. Formed by brothers Joe (Harry Year 4) and Paul (Harry Year 7) DeGeorge in 2002, this Boston-based duo have struck upon a magical formula where the art and commerce elements play out against and with each other in a way that never feels greedy or capitalistic; the effect is something quite empowering.

Young children rushed up on stage endlessly, never once shooed away by the two Harrys nor security guards, the audience screamed like there were 10,000 people in the space, and towards the end of their show, the Harrys asked us to pogo and play air guitar. Everyone gleefully complied. It is a rare pleasure to find a show where one can let their geek flag fly without fear of retribution. It was a far cry from my own years as a teenager.

Hp071807_02"The Man" had no place at tonight's show either, and the Harrys played it smart by making their definition of it a very slippery slope, one which can be applied to a variety of authority figures -- members of the government, mean teachers, Voldemort, and so on. But rather than spike the message with pessimism and hopelessness (the cornerstones of punk, I suppose), they asked the audience to remember that love (and its logical progression, optimism and activism) is far more powerful.

And yeah, I know I'm sounding totally emo here, but if a so-called "non-believer" (I've never read the books or watched the movies, I'm afraid) can walk out of these performances feeling phenomenal, then Harry & the Potters transcend whatever conceptual gimmick they've come up with in the first place.

But did they rock? Heck yeah. For a band that consists of two, sometimes three, members the Harrys managed to keep their sound feeling full thanks to simple variety -- lots of short, fasts bursts of punk-inspired energy as well as lengthier pieces that evoke the Modern Lovers (not the only hometown heroes referenced this evening; Aerosmith's Steven Tyler received a shout-out as well) not just sonically, but thematically: dating, the awkwardness of growing up, love, and life. While these topics were geared primarily towards a young audience, it isn't hard for older folks to glean something useful.


Harry & the Potters & the Super-Excited Philly Crowd: the next book title?



Harry fixes a broken string, the other Harry tells a story and a gang of photographers look on from the side.


Kids everywhere, rarin' to bumrush the stage!


Told you they were ready to hit the stage.


More kids on stage! I wasn't kidding!


Your saxaphone is Harry's guitar.


Click, click, click: cameras galore!



Harry's hyper enough as it is -- the camera can't catch up to him!

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Ned R.

Haha, sweet stuff (in all meanings of the term). They kinda seem like they'd be a classic next step up from the Wiggles.


the hungarian horntails are also 'wizard rock' - a recent salon article on the subject: http://www.salon.com/ent/feature/2007/07/14/wizard_rock/?source=whitelist


yeah, i know who the hungarian horntails are -- i just missed them last night.


great article! i've heard of that group but just wrote them off as, well, "schtick"-y. i'll definitely check them out though.


that sounds like a pretty great show. i wonder exactly how many wizard rock bands there are - apparently austin has one of its own called the mudbloods. maybe somebody could organize a festival.

muhal richard abrams

Nice post. And if it's awesome that they shouted out the modern lovers. If I ever have kids, they're gonna grow up on Jonathan Richman.


they didn't give a shout out to the modern lovers -- only steven tyler. musically & thematically, they touched upon similar points.

Tobias Carroll

...best Van Pelt reference ever.


toby, someone should take away my nj driver's license -- i can't seem to locate the van pelt reference *anywhere*. i am a disgrace to our state.

Raised By Bees

This post reminds me that I really need to see this band.

Michael Tom

Not that long ago, R5 put on a "Yule Ball" at the Starlight with a massive group of Harry-Potter-themed bands (with Harry and the Potters were headlining, of course). That was a little bit too much; I think I'd be annoyed at the proliferation of Harry Potter-themed bands if I was part of Harry and the Potters.


there is something heart affirming in harry and the potters. reacting to product with expression. punk is like the shortwave radio allowing the small guys to shout out loud with megawatts. when i was 11 or twelve me and my friend's were so into the dead milkmen that we wrote companion/parody songs to theirs. they were all snotty and cruel and we never recorded them but we had lyrics and drawings and practiced singing them in the streets while we skateboarded. the one i remember best was about a hippie and his voltzwagon bus sung to bitchin' camaro. it is inspiring to see the kids are so ambitious.


Now if only Draco and the Malfoys can do a duet concert with Harry and the Potters, my fangirl fantasy will be fulfilled.

Also, those guys are cute!

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