August 03, 2008

Library Program: Wizard Rock Concert


The crowd is cheering. Alex Carpenter has just done a stage dive off of a wooden book display. Bradley is jumping on Alex’s back and banging his snare drum with an incessant tapping drumstick. Teen girls are screaming. Guys are pumping their arms in the air. I am inside the library, and there are 150 Wizard Rock fans applauding the best program I have ever had as a teen librarian. Woah! Let’s back up. How did I get here?
Back in 2007, Wake County Libraries had their first Wizard Rock concert. The Kings of Wrock themselves, Harry and the Potters, visited the North Regional Library in Raleigh, NC. There was an amazing attendance. The door count that night was 700. At that moment, I knew that not only would there need to be more Wizard Rock, but that my Wizard Rock concert would need be even bigger than this one. There would be more Wrock.
For the uninitiated, Wizard Rock, or Wrock, is a movement where fans of the Harry Potter books form rock bands and sing songs based on those same books. Usually, the musicians take on a character or persona. Then they dress, act, and speak as if they are that person. The first band to come out was Harry and the Potters in 2002. Brothers Paul and Joe DeGeorge had friends telling them they looked like Harry Potter. They wrote some songs and started performing at parties and libraries. Since then, there are now around 450 bands that are part of this genre.
Since we had already had Harry and the Potters come to our vicinity, I decided to go for some of that Evil Wizard Wrock and invite Draco and the Malfoys.
The first step to overcome was finding the money to pay for this concert. With the popularity of these bands, I knew prices would be high. Luckily, I didn’t have to look hard. A local store, Camelot Treasures, was itching to have more Wrock come to the area themselves. They approached us, and asked if they could sponsor our concert. Problem solved!
I began contacting Draco and the Malfoys to ask them (beg them) to visit North Carolina. They thought they might have a chance to come play for us in the fall of 07 and again in the spring of 08, but neither of those opportunities came together. Just as I was about to abandon all hope, I received correspondence from Alex Carpenter of the Remus Lupins. I knew who Alex was. He is the “dreamboat” of the Wrock world. Girls seem to think he is dreamy. But I had not approached him about playing. After I read his email, I knew the wait had been worth it. Not only were Draco and the Malfoys coming, but with them would be The Remus Lupins, The Whomping Willows, and Justin Finch-Fletchley and the Sugar Quills: four of the hottest bands in the Wrock world. The date was set for July 6th, which was right in the middle of my two-week vacation, but hey, some things you have to make time for. This was the only date they could play in North Carolina, and they were coming to my library!
I figured that the hardest part was over, but organizing a concert is something they don’t teach in library school. There were many times when I thought, why am I doing this? This isn’t worth it. I was wrong, of course. It was worth it, but there were many logistical things to work out.
The first challenge I encountered was where to have the concert. We all know that July can be a heat wave in North Carolina, so naturally I assumed the concert would be inside. The only problem was our occupancy code maximum was 147 people. I knew the attendance would be high. I was hoping for between 200 and 300 people. I didn’t want to limit the crowd. This could be our one chance to do this. We finally decided to have the concert outside and trust that the fans would brave the heat for the chance to see these bands.
Our county has a mobile stage that departments can borrow so we quickly ordered that for our concert to improve visibility for a large crowd. Our sponsor also had a large pavilion he could bring to offer some shade and rain protection. We found a spot for the stage that would give easy access to the library back door, which would be our backstage area.
The concert would last four hours and coincide with dinner time so I found a food vendor that could sell sandwiches, hot dogs, veggie burgers, and drinks during the concert. Other things we brought in were extra trash cans, extension cords and power cords to plug in the instruments and amplifiers. Security officers would help us with crowd control and parking. We contacted local businesses to request permission to park in their lots should overflow parking be needed.
Because this would be an after hours event, we had to limit access to the building to staff and the band members. Our restrooms would not be available to the public. This meant we had to call and request portable bathrooms.
Every detail was covered. Then, some potentially disastrous news was heard. Rain was predicted for the day. Not just rain, but thunderstorms. Yikes! Would this ruin the event I had been planning for a year? No, says I.
My manager came up with a rain plan that seemed fair. We would make rain tickets. As folks arrived, the first 135 people (we had to account for staff and the bands) to arrive would get rain tickets. If it rained, the concert would be inside and those with rain tickets could attend. We were praying, doing rain dances, and crossing our fingers that it wouldn’t rain, but just in case, we had a plan.
We sent out a lot of publicity. We were in the Friday entertainment section. Then on Sunday, there was a huge surprise. Our concert was on the front page of the Raleigh newspaper. This was thanks to our public relations office in the county.

The day of the concert came, and I was psyched. The stage arrived and was set up. The sponsor came and set up their booth and the pavilion. The vendors arrived. The potties were in place. Extra staff came to help. Then the crowds began to arrive. It was everything I dreamed. People of all ages were at the library to hear these bands.
The concert began at 5 pm. Everything was running smoothly. It was hot, but we expected that. Then, a little after 6:30 pm, the rain started. The bands wanted to keep going outside. They were excited about the crowd we had. At this point, there were around 537 people watching the show. What’s a little rain? Then, the thunder began to roll. Yikes! Everyone ran for their cars, and some rain for the library door. This was when a little chaos occurred. I wasn’t sure if the bands were coming inside. One thing was certain: everyone was getting wet. Thankfully the pavilion was protecting the bands’ instruments.
We opened the doors and got everyone who had tickets inside where it was dry. The bands wanted to wait for a bit to see if the rain would stop. It didn’t, of course. While the bands made a decision, a few up and coming Wizard Rock bands entertained the crowd. Hawthorn and Holly of Charlotte came equipped to perform, as well as the Blibbering Humdingers (also known as our sponsor, Camelot Treasures).
After about 30 minutes, the show was ready to go on. The bands decided to perform with a short list of instruments: acoustic guitar, bass, and a snare drum. The Whomping Willow finished up their set. Draco and the Malfoys took the stage, and The Remus Lupins followed. This is where the magic started. I am not sure what it was. Was it the fact that it rained but the show went on? Was it that the crowd had shrunk, creating a more intimate show? Was it that the band was forced into using different instruments, causing them to use a larger dose of creativity? The Wrock could not be stopped. Whatever the magic combination was, it couldn’t have been a better show. The audience gathered in the center of the library. They were attentive and laughed at all the right moments. There was swaying, singing, a little dancing. The bands were having a blast. Later, they remarked that it was one of the most fun shows they had ever performed. Even the security guards were smiling.
One memorable moment happened that is worth an extra mention. Draco and the Malfoys had just performed a funny number called Hippogriffs Deserve to Die. Scott, our sponsor from Camelot Treasure, had a stuffed hippogriff he was animating during the number. In a moment of sheer randomness, at the end of the number, Scott threw the hippogriff at the “Dracos.” One of the guys decided to kick the hippogriff. It arced and landed perfectly on the skylight and promptly got stuck. The crowd went wild. People were screaming, laughing. It took some work to get that hippogriff down, too. Click here or the link above to see the actual footage. But that will not be forgotten anytime soon.
Throughout the event, the band was courteous and professional. I was very impressed with their demeanor throughout. They handled a stressful situation with grace. And they were even trying to comfort me when I was stressed out. The concert was everything I had dreamed.
If you are considering having a Wrock concert at your library, do it, do it, do it! Who knows if this craze will live or die. But if the rates to have these bands keep going up, it will only get more expensive as time goes on. Find a sponsor, and do it! Good places to try are bookstores, small local costume shops, and any stores that specialize in Renaissance or fairy tale merchandise.
Want to know more? Click here for some photos. Or click here to read my manager's take on the event.

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