Monday, November 5, 2007

More Fieldnotes!

Note: All quotes from forum posts are [sic].

Because Wizard Rock is an unusually web-based scene, I’ve decided to focus my ethnography on the online Wrock community. As recommended to me by my commenters, I checked out the Wizard Rock forums at the HP Alliance (http://thehpalliance.org/). At the Fan Discussion forum (http://thehpalliance.org/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=22), one thread discusses good names for Wrock groups. Three posters say that while they would like to form bands, they’re not talented enough to do so, which suggests that there are some standards for talent in the Wizard Rock scene. One post suggests starting a rap group called the Hogwarts Homies. Poster Tonks22 says “I can’t rap…but maybe I can manage WRap?” to which poster Giant Squuidy responds with “Anything with that W in front of it is a whole different story! In the real rap world the Hogwarts Homies would be mocked for their lack of talent. but in the wrap world, they would be cherished!” Another poster said that she registered a Myspace account for a band she hasn’t started yet so that nobody would steal her name.

On a topic about The Remus Lupins, posters discuss the longevity of Wrock. They all agree that Wizard Rock will continue to be popular even though the Harry Potter series is over, though maybe not forever. Poster Nefret says “Wizard Rock is a lot like Dumbledore. It “will never be gone as long as were here” it’s “love is keeping us alive”” Giant Squuidy says “The fandom is totally something I’ll annoy my grandkids with. “Back in the day, we used to sing about BOOKS.”” While these fans accept that Wizard Rock may die out eventually as Harry Potter’s popularity wanes, they maintain that their affiliation with Wizard Rock will be a permanent part of their identities. There’s also a mention of how the The Remus Lupins had money and equipment stolen from their tour van. Fans are being encouraged to support the bands by buying their merchandise and donating money. After the theft, the website Wizardrock.org apparently donated half of what they made from selling merchandise to the band.

The thread “Wizard Rock stole my heart…Share your story!” discusses how fans learned about Wizard Rock and what it means to them. Two posters say that Harry and the Potters was their first Wizard Rock band, which makes sense as they have the most mainstream recognition out of any Wrock band, two posters say that they discovered Wizard Rock through online Harry Potter forums, and two posters specifically mention that they used Myspace pages to find new Wrock bands. Most of the posters include very passionate declarations about their connections to Wizard Rock: Phlogiston describes Wrock as “unprecedented love” and Gingeroot calls it “cathartic” and “love.” Nefret’s post reads “I was just talking about this today with someone, Wizard Rock has made me the person I am today. Because of Wizard Rock I am better able to deal with my anger management issues, I'm a more social person, I'm no longer afraid to sing in front of others, and I'm happy. Wizard Rock is one of the few things that is guaranteed to lift my mood. As cheesy as it sounds Wizard Rock has changed my life and made me a better person.” Dinahsaur, the original poster, says, “Now, four years after I first listened to Harry and the Potters, I am not just an avid Wrock Fan, I am an avid Wrock Fangirl... a very noble cause, in my opinion!” This distinction seems to imply a higher level of fandom, as the term “fangirl” usually applies to someone who is almost romantically devoted to a subculture. She also quotes the Whomping Willows song “Wizard Rock Heart Throb,” saying “As we know, wizard rock fans are the sweetest bunch of fans and most of them are girls” This raises a new question for me—to what extent is Wrock a “girl” genre?

The I.W.R.U. forum of the HP Alliance website (http://thehpalliance.org/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=44&sid=b0b8b34f0f61697264c7d8e125459b54) features posts from notable Wrock musicians Whompy (Matt Maggiacomo) of the Whomping Willows and Harry Potter Year 7 (Paul DeGeorge) of Harry and the Potters. Paul’s topic is “How to Book a Rock Show,” which strongly suggests playing in unconventional venues and having your own equipment for what Paul calls “DIY shows.” About getting paid for shows, he says “It’s okay to ask for money, and it’s also okay to play for free.” Matt has a very long post entitled “Why DIY?” in which he states that “Wizard rock is a rare example of a successful DIY movement.” He emphasizes the role of the Internet and Myspace in building the movement, and praises Wrock fans for not focusing on musical ability and being devoted to and participatory in the scene. He also says one extremely interesting thing about Wrock fans that I want to investigate more: “It’s rare that you’ll come across a wizard rock fan who believes himself or herself to be a “bigger” wizard rock fan than other fans. This is probably because wizard rock bands are extremely accessible to fans, and we show our appreciation to ALL of our fans on a consistent basis. Competition among fans is something that plagues virtually every music scene known to humankind – and yet, it’s almost non-existent in wizard rock.” Is this sentiment in opposition with Dinahsaur’s fan/fangirl distinction that I mentioned earlier? In support of DIY recording, he says that “What most bands don’t realize is that all labels, even the smallest indie labels, have some sort of an agenda.” He is optimistic about the power of Wrock DIY, saying that “If enough people sign on to this methodology, the end result could be a legitimate revolution that would shake up the music industry and (maybe) render corporate record labels an obsolete relic of the past.” He frequently reiterates that Wrock fans and musicians have very high levels or interaction, as well as established and new Wrock bands. Finally, Matt and Paul both post on a thread entitled “Self-releasing a CD.”

15 comments:

Church said...

Are you reading Henry Jenkins? He has had a bunch of posts (too many, really) about gender and fandom, and he specifically goes into the female-centric character of HP fandom. Bring a canister of salt, but definately check him out. (henryjenkins.org)

Church said...

Online mag you should take a look at:
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Alex Spoto said...

Wrock rappers? Wrap music? Your research has clearly unearthed what seem to be countless of these Harry Potter themed musical groups which span genre, style, and skill-level. This got me thinking... what is the true essence of Wrock? The guys who founded the genre--Harry and the Potters--seem to be making music with a different intention than say Draco and the Malfoys, the Sectumsempras, or DJ Luna Lovegood. Harry and the Potters seem to put forth this pseudo-political "stick it to the man" message guised in Harry Potter lingo and jargon ("Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock" and others...). Most of these other bands cite Harry and the Potters as a major influence (everyone's gotta pay their dues to the original Harry and the Potters!) but seem to be a product of HP fans' nerdy perversions. Is there are a dividing line between the original Harry and the Potters group and the rest of the Wrock scene? Who really defines the wrock scene/aesthetic? Is it Harry and the Potters or all the other wrockers? Good, thorough work with finding all of these wrock groups--it's amazing to see where people have taken this Harry Potter rock band concept and more often than not, I find myself thoroughly amused.

Eva said...

church--Thanks for the links!

Alex--I'm definitely interested in seeing whether what you call the "stick it to the man" mindset is common among fans as well as performers, and to what degree it is present in the larger body of wrock musicians. The "essence of Wrock" is also something I'm trying to get at, though I'm not sure if I'll be able to locate a single defined purpose that unites the scene...it'll probably be more of a set of commonalities and themes in a scene that has very diverse musical output.

James I. said...

Hi Eva,
I really love this project and the response you are getting to it. I had two questions though...You mentioned in your posting that wrock fans had mentioned that they'll tell their children about wrock when they're older and say that "we sang about books." It made me wonder if there has ever been any pop explosions (mini or not) surrounding literature before. Also, I'm wondering if you are going to portray wrockers as an interpretive community of the orginial texts, the Harry Potter series, or as a more tightly woven subculture that has developed. It's widespread nature makes me lean towards the former, while the website's donation to Remus and the Lupins might suggest a subculture at work.
Keep up the good work!
James i.

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