Book the tour. Pack the gear. Get in the van. Play the show. Pack the van. Drive to the next city. Play the next show: Touring isn't easy, but at least some bit of routine makes having a home that's not a house slightly more comfortable.
Tell that to Harry and the Potters. The band of Massachusetts brothers Paul and Joe DeGeorge playing guitar-synth indie rock, the Potters disregards the rules of touring. The band's current run is its first time playing outside of libraries and in real rock clubs, like the Bowery Ballroom, the 40 Watt Club and, in Carrboro, Cat's Cradle. But instead of showing up and plugging in, The Potters asked fans to show up early, decorate the venue and bring the toys, props and games to turn the show into what it hopes is "the best show ever." With volunteers changing at every show, each gig will be a unique experience.
And, frankly, would you expect anything less from bands called Harry and the Potters, Math the Band and Uncle Monsterface on a tour dubbed, "Unlimited Enthusiasm Ltd. Presents Camp Jump & Yell for Girls, Boys, Young Adults & Wizards, 63 Ring Juggling Fire Pony Bear Circus, Truck, Boat and Rock Show Exposition"?
"We've sent all the venues a rider that sort of explains what's going on," says Paul DeGeorge, who plays the musical role of Harry Potter during his seventh year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His brother is the fourth-year Harry. "We're expecting some kids to come who are really enthusiastic, but they have some interesting ideas."
The DeGeorges, it seems, want to move beyond audience participation altogether. They desire interaction, a do-it-together approach that lets the band fuel the audience, and vice versa. As the tour name suggests, these will be rock shows with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, sock puppets, videos, face painting and Kool-Aid. It's meant to mimic the last night of summer camp, complete with a talent show, concert, sing-a-longs, dancing, screaming, making new friends at the last moment and being sad when all the fun is over. To those ends, people should dress up, jump rope, play four square in the parking lot and bring decorations. Perhaps someone will bring a sack full of kazoos. Everyone else will play them. Maybe bubbles will be blown. Some fans should bring snacks for the crowd. And all the people should dance.
"Hopefully, nobody passes out or faints from malnourishment or dehydration because it's going to be that extreme for sure," Paul DeGeorge warns, albeit playfully. "Carb up the night before."
But the bands aren't asking only the fans to do the work: Hoping to keep the energy and awesome factor high on all 38 dates of the Unlimited Enthusiasm tour, all three bands have been brainstorming ideas since February. Audience members will get to wear nametags, so they can party with their friends and not strangers. And, though, Paul DeGeorge doesn't want to reveal everything about the show, he does say it may involve a variety of animals. And, of course, when the band members aren't onstage, they'll join the audience to watch the other bands. Paul DeGeorge's got a plan for that, too.
"I really had meant to start doing aerobics three months ago," he says, "because Math the Band's set is really intense, and it's really fun to dance to, and I worry that if I dance too much I'm going to be too winded for our set ... I'll be so fit by the end of this tour."
Indeed, all of the bands are danceable and intense, qualities that help their music, much like that of They Might Be Giants, move beyond boundaries of kid or adult music. Though its members sound like demented school instructors singing about exercise, the water cycle and werewolves, Math the Band pushes synthesizers to the limit, shooting out short bursts of energy. Uncle Monsterface's signature song may well be "I'm Sorry (but Your Princess Is In Another Castle)," a Mario alt-pop anthem complete with original NES sounds. Naturally, Harry and the Potters' lyrics focus on the Harry Potter universe: "Save Ginny Weasley," a song about a basilisk, asks, "Are you petrified of being petrified?"
Paul DeGeorge worries that, even though The Potters continues to explore the Harry Potter universe, parents may shy from bringing their kids to rock venues. But what's summer camp without a bunch of excited kids? "Why would we ever ostracize kids from seeing us play when that's the whole reason we're playing it—for kids to see live rock and roll when they otherwise may not ever?" asks Paul DeGeorge. "We'll probably lose some of the younger kids with parents maybe less comfortable bringing them to rock clubs because it's obviously louder, and it's a different environment, but we try to make it really clear that the show is family friendly."
A troupe of local volunteers is working to ensure the Carrboro show is friendly, too. The owners of Camelot Treasures in Cary are lending a hand, as are several local students and one medical support assistant from UNC Hospital. So how can you help make this the best show ever? The really ambitious could bring a bed sheet with a camp backdrop painted on it—or an actual tent, even. Personally, I'm not going to forget the sunscreen, and I might even pack some bug spray. I'll be bringing some bubbles and some spirit beads. Jump and yell loud enough, and you may earn one for yourself.
Harry and the Potters, Math the Band and Uncle Monsterface play Cat's Cradle Tuesday, July 1. Tickets are $10-$12 for the 6:30 p.m. show. For more information and to volunteer, visit unlimitedenthusiasm.com.