free-geek

because cool kids are boring

Wizard Rock Live

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So I ventured out today for my first taste of Wizard Rock in the flesh. I’ve heard from a few people who have expressed trepidation at the idea of going to a show where the crowd would be mostly kids. And not the typical punk/indie types that end up at all ages shows, but honest to god kids. Teenagers even! Who smile and laugh and aren’t afraid to dance around and look a little silly at times.

I’ve seen more shows them I could begin to count. I’ve seen shows in basements and restaurants. I’ve seen shows in bars and hole in the wall clubs. Shows in small theaters and large. And even a few shows in arenas. I even saw one show, in a small rural town, where the band set up on a flat bed truck and we danced in the middle of the street. All of these shows and I can honestly say that I can’t remember ever seeing a show with a crowd that so perfectly matched the music being played.

It wasn’t just that the kids were great, they were, but the fact that the kids vastly out numbered the adults, who for the most part tended to be parents, lent something to the show. They were kids who were allowed to be kids and, in so doing, lent a certain energy to the day.

Now may be I should be qualifying my terms here by saying geek kids. Let’s face it, you have to have a little geek in you to head down to the library on a Saturday afternoon to see a bunch of people sing songs about Harry Potter. I’m going to give the younger generation the benefit of the doubt though and just leave it at kids. You gotta have a little faith in the younger generation.

The day of the show couldn’t have been better. For those not familiar with DC in August, it typically isn’t a good time to be outside. With temps that hover in the mid to high 90s, and humidity levels that are at least that high. August is typically a time when spending a mere five minutes outside standing in the shade, can leave you drenched in sweat. At the end of a week of typical brutal August weather, things began to shift Friday night and by the time the sun rose on Saturday, we were greeted with a lovely warm day with low humidity and a little breeze now and then. In August, we call these days perfect and savor them knowing how infrequent they are.

I drove down to Vienna, VA, a suburb of DC, for the show, arriving about 25 minutes before show time. The library had asked attendees to line up outside the library so that they could get a head count of people as they filed inside. Shortly before the 2 PM start time the line started to move and we filed into the small multi-purpose room which would be the venue for the day. A few minutes after 2 the show began with a surprise set from Snidget.

I say surprise because I hadn’t seen Snidget’s name anywhere on the advertising for the show, but seeing as how she lives just south of DC, it wasn’t a huge surprise. She played for about 20 minutes, just her voice and her hammered dulcimer. This was the first hint of how perfect this crowd was. An act that is this quiet would have normally been drowned out in crowd noise as people talked to their friends and basically ignored the first act. Here though the crowd stood quietly listening to her wonderful songs. Some of the credit here does need to go to Snidget herself. Her between song banter which betrayed a high level of enthusiasm for being there helped keep the crowd focused and kept them from becoming bored. She played a handful of songs in her 20 minute set before exiting the stage. She didn’t have any CDs available for sale at the merch table, but I think I’ll keep an eye out for those in the future.

Next up was Matt, better known as The Whomping Willows. His set didn’t get off to the best of starts. He broke a string during the first song, the House of Awesome Theme Song. After the song he switched his acoustic out for the one used by Alex of the Remus Lupins. As he tried to start his second song though, Wizard Rock Heart Throb, he was sabotaged by a bad cable which kept cutting out. He fiddled with it for a minute or so before pulling the cable out of the guitar and stepping away from his vocal mic to play the song un-amplified to the small room. He was assisted in this by a group of girls off to the side of the stage, which included Anna of The Grey Ladies, who sang along with Matt. As he performed the song, Brendan, the Remus Lupins’ sound guy/roadie, set up a mic for the guitar in front of the vocal mic. Matt jumped back in front of the two mics to finish the song, only to be derailed by a feedback problem which finally killed the song. Not before the new Whompettes completed the verse that Matt was in the middle of though. The crack team of Brendan and Alex fixed the feedback problem quickly and Matt picked the song up from where he left off.

With a set’s worth of technical problems over and done with after the second song, Matt was able to complete the rest of his set with no issues. The set was solid and made only better by Matt’s between song banter. He cracked jokes and interacted with the crowd masterfully. The only possible downside to his set was that his songs weren’t better known by the crowd. His strumming guitar style of folk pop is something that screams out for sing along style sets where the crowd becomes part of the performance. Even with this one downside, the set was still great, with Matt ending his set with probably the most inspired love song in the Wizard Rock world, Draco and Harry.

After The Whomping Willows’ set, the stage was next taken by The Remus Lupins. While in the past, Alex’s set featured only him with his acoustic. This time out he’s brought with him a bass player and drummer and switched between electric and acoustic guitar through out the set. The use of a rhythm section works well in the Lupins, whose most popular songs have always had a strong sense of rhythm.

While the crowd had begun the show with a quiet reverence for Snidget and then an occasional willingness to clap and sing along when they knew the words for The Whomping Willows. It was during the Lupins’ set that we were reminded this was supposed to be Wizard ROCK. It took the crowd a few songs to feel the Lupins out, though they were helped along by the previous set’s Whompettes and a few others who started dancing and pogoing with their opening number, Wizard Rock. The energy was there in the room, but was lacking a little focus for the first half of the set, with occasional dancing, but mostly just rhythmic movement by the crowd. About half way through the set, Snidget joined the band on her hammered dulcimer and the drummer moved over to sax for a great version of Remember Cedric. Shortly after this song Alex commented on the crowd’s tendency to move away from the stage during the set and implored them to move up front. The crowd quickly did so and the band launched into a new song, The Wizard Rock Twist. Bringing the crowd in closer together provided the focus that the energy in the room needed and as the new song began, the entire crowd began dancing and bouncing along. The Lupins completed their set just after 4, ending the show with a typically boisterous version of Looking For Trouble, which featured both Brandon and Matt joining the rest of the band for background vocals.

I’m not sure if it would have made much of a difference in focusing the energy in the room to have the show in a more traditional music venue or if may be there had been a few more older people there who may be had a little more experience seeing live music. I have been at enough shows though, which were ruined by crowds who were more interested in getting drunk and chatting with friends then paying attention to the band on stage, to be grateful to take what I received today.

In many ways it was fitting that the day’s show ended with The Remus Lupins. So many of Alex’s songs encourage kids to embrace their youthful tendencies and invoke youthful rebellion. Not, as some punk/indie rock bands do, for any great cause, but rebellion for the simple cause of having fun and enjoying life now and then. This tendency, which Alex shares with the vast majority of the Wizard Rock community in one form or another, puts this scene inside a greater tradition of traditional music found all over the world. The US hasn’t really seen a new take on this thread with in the musical landscape since the revival of jug band music in the early 60s, which in turn influenced much of the music that came about during the late 60s (many of whose musicians had started out in various folk groups/jug bands earlier in the decade). As the 60s faded, popular music in this country gained a certain sense of self awareness and social conscious. In exchange for this evolution though, it lost some of its youthful exuberance. That sense of fun for the sake of fun.

Now, I am not ignorant enough to call for a return to the nativity of earlier eras. To much amazing music has been created over the past 40 years, and is still being created today, for me to even entertain such an idea. It is encouraging though to see a return to this tradition poking its head up in this day in age. Hopefully, as we move forward we will find ourselves in the middle of a revival. A new form of traditional music! One that is informed by what has happened over the last 40 years and which will stand side by side with its contemporary off spring. With all that is wrong with the world today. With all the suffering and pain that we are faced with on a daily basis. Occasionally, we need music that we can sing and dance to. It recharges us and sustains us through the dark times.

And it is encouraging to see this return to tradition coming from the youth of today. Those among us who are still young enough to remember when doing something simply because it is fun to do, can be a rewarding experience in and of itself. Now that the series is over, I’m not sure how much longer the Wizard Rock scene will continue on. Hopefully though, those who have been touched by it will remember what they have learned here and take that with them as they live in the world. Hopefully they will allow that knowledge to color their future actions and will infect others with this idea. And even if WRock fades into history, hopefully it will give birth to something even grander before it fades out completely. A new tradition, to teach us new things.

“We are young and we know with world can be so much better
We are young and we’ll make the Wizarding World so much better”

Fated
The Remus Lupins

Update: Thanks to Church‘s fine handy work with the video camera, we now have video footage of both Whompy and the Lupins, mere hours before their run in with a bunch of Death Eaters.

Whompy:

Lupins:

Unfortunately, it looks like one of the Death Eaters at the show (they had Dark Marks and everything) cast a jinx on Church’s camera, so there isn’t any footage of Snidget. To bad.

Church was able to squeeze another video out of his camera. Here it is.

Written by Matt

August 11th, 2007 at 6:39 pm

Posted in Reviews,Wizard Rock