Home / Concert Reviews / Crappy Dracula and Group of the Altos @ The Stonefly Brewery
Monday, Feb. 8, 2010

Crappy Dracula and Group of the Altos @ The Stonefly Brewery

Feb. 5, 2010

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Stonefly Brewery’s lineup Friday night brought to mind the old “Seasame Street” segment “One of These Things is Not Like the Other.” Headlining was Crappy Dracula, a Milwaukee lo-fi punk three-piece, joined by Plexi 3, a Milwaukee pop-punk three-piece, and The Gusto, a Madison punk three-piece. Breaking up that mathematical and stylistic symmetry was a fourth act: Group of the Altos, Milwaukee’s 12-piece post-rock orchestra.

With their cerebral, ever-shifting arrangements, Group of the Altos couldn’t help but stand out on a bill otherwise dominated by simple chords,’80s covers and masturbation jokes—though at their size, the group stands out on pretty much any bill. The sheer spectacle of dozen players packed onto the stage captured the attention of Stonefly’s otherwise chatty, distracted crowd, and the Altos held it for the entirety of their dramatic set.

There’s a tendency for even the best instrumental post-rock bands to fall back on certain patterns of loud/soft contrasts or build-ups and crescendos, but the Altos eschew those easy tropes. Their compositions flower in surprising ways, drawing not only from the magisterial swells or doomy riffs of post-rock mainstays like Sigur Rós or Pelican, but also from novel outside muses, like Celtic structures, tropical hues and drum-line percussive bombast. The group juxtaposed minimalist dirges against moments of uninhibited pomp and grandeur, with a several songs erupting into euphoric, Broken Social Scene-styled fanfares.

The show was ostensibly Crappy Dracula’s album release party, but by the time Crappy Dracula took the stage it was 1:45 a.m., leaving them time for only a half hour set. That was probably for the best, since Crappy Dracula is best experienced in small doses.

On the group’s debut record, Almost, there’s a wit and tunefulness that offsets the sophomoric faade of their lo-fi punk songs. In concert, though, the group is less interested in music than between song banter—and during that banter, they’re concerned only with amusing themselves and alienating the audience. They crack hammy jokes, repeat them to the point of tedium, then berate the crowd for not paying attention. For this show, they posted to the side of the stage a barely legible list of 15 rules the audience was to abide by, then periodically shouted down the crowd for breaking them.