ON TOUR: Julia Holter, Summer 2016
I couldn't be more grateful, nor more delighted to have taken this opportunity to spend a month of my summer driving obscene distances around Europe with Julia Holter, her band Dina, Devin and Corey and engineer/TM, EJ.
Julia's music is delicate and dynamic, intricate and textured. It challenges all of the norms of pop music and I found being there through this festival run really highlighted the gulf in class between her music/band and the majority of current, hyped performers. Intelligence, skill and honesty are both rare and hugely important and Julia Holter, her band and crew have them in abundance.
One of the shows we did at La Route du Rock in St. Malo, France was recorded and broadcast online. I think it's been captured beautifully. Check it out if you'd like an hour with us in the French sunshine listening to some excellent music - http://concert.arte.tv/fr/julia-holter-la-route-du-rock
Here is an album of pictures and notes I took from two Euro trips.
My collection of passes, setlists, flyers, posters and more from a month of summer touring.
My first meeting with Julia and her band was at Geneva Airport, following a long day of driving from Venlo, Netherlands. I'm nervous when I meet new people or try to filter into already established groups. Being outside all the in-jokes really sucks and trying hard not to be annoying often has the opposite of affect. We shook hands and I drove everybody to Fribourg (The Swiss one) where we had a hotel for the night before Kilbi festival at Bad Bonn.
Beautiful small towns that know they're beautiful and don't need carefully positioned lighting or elaborate, slightly untrue histories to convince themselves are my kind of places. This was one of those. As we ascended an endless old staircase from the riverside towards the town, Devin told me he'd like to write a book and I intend to remind him of that.
At Julia's headline show at Paradiso Noord in Amsterdam I couldn't see over the heads of the people stood on the balcony, so I held my camera up in the air, pointed it in vaguely the right direction, and snapped.
I remember seeing photographers at our punk shows in Yeovil, ten years or more ago, taking their pictures like this as a matter of course. As though looking through the finder, or whatever you call it, was somehow spoiling the art or detracting from the chaos. It's strange because as I took this photo I felt desperately uncool.
This was my view of the set at Primavera Sound in Barcelona. A guest saxophonist ran from a show he was playing on a different stage moments before and joined them for a few songs without soundcheck or rehearsal. Skills.
We arrived in town the night before in order to see Radiohead. As we were watching them I remembered I don't actually like Radiohead, so I went to see Shellac instead. I was pleased with my decision and definitely felt grateful to have even had the choice.
Backstage at La Route du Rock there was dark chocolate, white wine, setlist preparation... turtles.
No filters used on this soundcheck snap in France. That's a real, green, swathe of sunlight.
Later we established that Julia and I love Steely Dan and Devin HATES Steely Dan. We're right.
Spotting this haunted house next door to our hotel on the French coast, I thought about how cool it would be to stand on that balcony every morning, breathing in the fresh sea air, sunlight coursing through the building and warming the bare wooden floors. Then I turned around and realised the view would be an industrial estate, a McDonalds and a Shell petrol station, so I stopped thinking.
Great roof, though.
Introducing Corey. He's a true artist and an incendiary drummer, see some of his work here http://www.coreyfogel.com/
On deck of the Rodby-Puttgarden ferry, Corey worked seriously hard for this shot. He stood it out for a good five minutes whilst Devin and I fussed around trying to take the picture as he wanted it. This was my last effort, just as we were all giving up hope.
Introducing Devin. A wonderful, kind human and a brilliant bass player Check out his solo work at https://devinhoff.bandcamp.com/.
Devin's quiet determination, depth of knowledge and experience in punk rock and connections with some of my all-time favourite bands made a seven hour journey to mid-Wales, departing at 4:15am on little to no sleep not only possible, but thoroughly enjoyable.
This one was taken by my friend Luke during his last week in Gothenburg. He braved the rain to spend a few hours at Way Out West festival, before we decided that a chat in the hotel lobby was far more appealing. I spilled my drink on the sofa and covered it up with a cushion.
This big old moon was hanging above Amsterdam as we walked back to our tour bus after a few hours in the city. EJ, Corey and I were stood on a bridge over a canal (Of course) and I think we all got this picture. I'm sort of interested to compare, but I know that it's probably not worth it.
You don't often get to see inside those old apartment buildings in European cities, which is unfortunate because they're all so unique and beautifully crafted. There are so many hidden works of art. Even those gloomy, pastel blocks in Poland have wonderful and highly Instagramable features. It's a very good reason, if another was needed, for making new friends in different cities.
In this instance, my tour friends and I were invited to a top floor apartment in the centre of Amsterdam and the floor in the main entrance hallway looked precisely this great.
Later, people made uncomfortably loud music on unusual instruments and I ate chips with mayonnaise.
At breakfast in Lubeck, Germany, the bench seats were upholstered in the most regal fabric. I love the orange, dark blue and murky green combo, and the elaborate detail. It all seems too good to be sat on. But, I was hungry.
I tried to sleep on a small circular table and padded stool, pushed together in the portacabin/trailer style dressing room, whilst some loveable English gents sang Nickelback songs relentlessly and loudly in a neighbouring room. Pretty desperate measures, but I knew that immediately after the Pukkelpop show I had to drive through the night.
When I failed with the sleeping, I drove our hire car past three security gates without any vehicle accreditation, direct to the back of our stage (Reassuring), so that we could load out quickly. It still took the normal amount of time.
I caught the end of the set and snapped this 'behind the scenes' photo from stage right.
Ah yes, another 'me at side of stage' POV photograph of a Julia Holter performance. This time it's Way Out West in Gothenburg. At least you get to see a variety of different lighting effects, I suppose, and wonder why I had nothing better or more important to do.
Backstage before the final show of tour, Devin and Corey lovingly limbered up on some scaffolding in front of a giant, misty hill, in the light drizzle. Welcome to Wales.
Considering I just spent two weeks attending them, it's probably surprising that I dislike music festivals more than most. Too often bands are the afterthought and sponsors and promoters pockets are the priority. The bands have no time to set up, soundcheck and sound good, there's nowhere comfortable to sit, bad food and lots of people on drugs. Oh, and no wi-fi.
Green Man Festival crushes all but a handful of the others by being welcoming, well curated and set in the incredible Welsh valleys. As dusk dusked, Julia performed on the main stage and the view from the back looked like this.
This is a full team shot from the small blue marquee, featured in the back of the Devin and Corey photo. It was late in the evening and we discussed the pros and cons of staying at the festival an hour longer in order to see Belle & Sebastian. We couldn't all agree.
I like the near symmetry of the drinks on the table and the fact that nobody in the photo actually wanted their picture taken.
This 'leftover rider' piece was curated by Dina and photobombed by Devin.
I left Julia sat at this piano in RAK studios, London. They were preparing the room for a set of live recordings to be released in 2017.
Sometimes the subtleties of this band were lost in the huge festival fields or to an impatient audience. Hearing the set again, from a purpose built live performance space, through excellent headphones, is something to look forward to.