Those familiar with the Potter phenomenon only through more officially sanctioned means - the books and the movies - may be surprised to learn that a subgenre of indie rock known as "wizard rock" has sprung up around the fringes.
Harry and the Potters, formed in 2002, were the progenitors of the movement, but dozens of new bands have followed, all named for characters or objects from the books and dressed in makeshift copies of wizardly garb. The music itself is low-fi indie rock, with lyrics based on the books and their characters.
The WizardRock_Music page at MySpace.com now lists nearly 100 wizard rock bands, and a feature-length documentary - to be called, naturally, "Wizard Rockumentary" - is in the works.
Five of those bands will play the Philadelphia Yule Ball. Besides the Potters, the show will feature Draco and the Malfoys, the Potters' evil alternative; Uncle Monsterface, who pride themselves on being a Muggle (that is, a human, nonmagical) band; the Whomping Willows, named for a violent tree; and the Hungarian Horntails, a 7-year-old boy from Allentown who performs with an iPod.
Wizard rock was born almost on a whim, according to Paul DeGeorge. He and his younger brother Joe have a predilection for inventing "goofy, conceptual" bands, and the idea for Harry and the Potters sprang into Paul's head as soon as he read the first book.
Then, in the summer of 2002, Joe was booking concerts in his Norwood, Mass., back yard for friends. One day, all of the bands had canceled, so the DeGeorge brothers decided that Harry and the Potters would go on instead.
"We just sat down at the kitchen table that morning and hashed out seven or eight songs and rehearsed them for 45 minutes in the shed," explained Paul. "A lot of the songs we still play, actually, in the same form."
The Potters' first public performances were at Boston-area bookstores, coinciding with the release of the series' fifth book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," in 2003. Realizing that they now had a full set of material, the brothers decided to try booking themselves into libraries.
The Potters remained an occasional "silly side project" for about another year, until they played their first out-of-town show at a middle school in Doylestown, Bucks County. The students had persuaded their principal to invite the band to play in the library on a Sunday afternoon.
"There were 70 kids there," recalled Paul, "and half of them knew all the words to every song we played. So that's when the idea struck us to actually start touring with it."
The DeGeorge brothers headed out in the summer of 2004, booking their tour on the fly.
"We ended up playing a fair number of libraries, a lot of back yards and basements, and other oddball places like bike stores and doughnut shops and bookstores," said Paul.
As wizard rock grew, the DeGeorges befriended many of the other bands, and the first Yule Ball was hatched last year in Boston. "We thought, 'Well, we love Christmas and we love big parties, so why not put them together and have our own Yule Ball?' So we encouraged people to get dressed up and come ready to have a good time, and we were blown away by how enthusiastic people were."
Wanting to expand the concept this year, the brothers decided to add a second show in Philly, which has always provided an enthusiastic audience for them. Locally, the show is being booked by independent promotion company R5 Productions and arrangements are being handled by Potterdelphia, a group formed through Meetup.com that holds regular discussions about all things Potter.
Potterdelphia will decorate the Starlight Ballroom for the show and hold a raffle and a bake sale of Potter-themed goodies, with the proceeds to benefit First Book, a national nonprofit organization that provides books to low-income families.
Before the show, Potterdelphia will host a Winter Feast at the nearby Spaghetti Warehouse. Entertainment will be provided by yet another wizard rock band, Malvern-based high-schoolers A Lightning Bolt Scar.
Andrea Piernock-Barrish, Potterdelphia's 28-year-old organizer, sees the bands providing a service similar to the books for young audiences.
"I remember when I was a teenager, thinking, 'I may not be an adult, but I'm not stupid.' A lot of adults treat you like you're stupid. The books don't treat you like that, and the bands don't treat you like that. These are bands that you wouldn't hear on the radio, but you find one that you're interested in, and they have their influences. It starts a chain reaction of finding new music that you wouldn't have otherwise."
Harry and the Potters, who insist on playing only all-ages shows, see their influence in a similar light.
"Parents are maybe more comfortable letting their kids go," said Paul, "and not as worried about whatever other issues parents get worried about when they send their kids out to rock shows. In many cases this is the first concert they'll ever see."
Matt Maggiacomo, who performs as the Whomping Willows, summed up the attitude of the bands that have followed the Potters' lead:
"I think the key element that sets wizard rock aside from every other form of rock music is that most wizard rock bands are comprised of young people who haven't been deeply involved in the music business before, and therefore haven't had a chance to become jaded and cynical about it.
"Wizard rock is fun, and fun brings people together." *
Starlight Ballroom, 5 p.m. Saturday, $10, 866-468-7619, www.r5productions.com, yuleball.potterdelphia.com (check here for Winter Feast details).