Le Guess Who? 2015: Day One – Julia Holter, Rats on Rafts, and More | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Julia Holter

Le Guess Who? 2015

Le Guess Who? 2015: Day One – Julia Holter, Rats on Rafts, and More, November 19th, 2015

Nov 24, 2015 Rats on Rafts Photography by Laura Studarus Bookmark and Share

I’ve attended two previous editions of Le Guess Who. So heading to Utrecht didn’t hold the same level of surprise for me that it did my fellow journalists/friends on their maiden voyage. This isn’t to say that I didn’t romanticize my time in the Netherlands’ fourth largest city. Winding streets, mini canals, holiday decorations—it was like being in the inside the model villages my stepmother creates around Christmas. Even if it was really cold. (Southern California girl, reporting for duty.)

The festival itself was predictably unpredictable. (As attendees might recall, this is the same event that eschewed St. Vincent as a headliner in favor of dynamic Turkish protest singer Selda.) Over the four days I would see hip-hop, rock, and things so experimental the critics have yet to invent new meaningless subgenres. But for the first night, I took it easy. Well, easyish. Along the way I learned that I’m late to the party on an indie darling, that Germans know how to rock, heartache still sells, and the Dutch are crazy y’all. Let’s blurb it out.


Confession time: It took seeing Julia Holter in the cavernous Janskerk church to realize that I’ve been underestimating the Los Angeles singer/songwriter. (Perhaps it’s because I’ve made it my life’s work to be in my hometown as little as possible.) Who knew that her fourth album Have You in My Wilderness is a study in the art of breathtaking elegance—full of layered piano lines and the musician’s emotive sing/speak? (Who knew—other than, say, her legion of fans?) Holter opened the show with a cover of Karen Dalton’s “My Love My Love,” a song that she dedicated to the victims of the Paris attacks. It was bittersweet, tear-inducing moment. (Having formely lived in Paris and currently working in music, I doubt I’ll ever be able to eloquently express my feelings on the subject.)


The Notwist has been around since 1989. And their brand of atmospheric noise rock (think Sigur Ros with less pixy dust and more xylophones sawed at with bows.) still sounds relevant. The six band members each played multiple instruments, creating an absolute cacophony of sounds. It was augmented by one of the weekend’s most impressive light shows. My fellow journalists cried. I starred contemplatively into the middle-distance. (In case you’re keeping count, that’s two sets, two incidents of tears.) The German group was brought back on stage for a two-song encore, one of the few bands at the festival to be given such an honor.

(Side note: “Casino” is a writer’s anthem. “To say I’m not here for the money is just another word for broke.”)


I’ve always had a bit of a touchy relationship with Majical Cloudz, insomuch as I get a bit uncomfortable when music starts sounding like confessions I’ve scrawled in the pages of my diary. (Too real! Too soon! Too much!) This is bedroom-recorded music made for bedroom listening. (Alone, unless your significant other is turned on by nihilism.) frontman Devon Welsh performs like any moment he’ll be asked to get off stage. (Either that or he’s really good at Woody Allen-reminiscent awkward silences.) He does however have an emotive baritone—a perfect match for the cathedral venue and far and a way the most interesting element of his music.


Our evening ended with Rats on Rafts, holding it down for rock fans at Ekko. The Rotterdam-based four piece have fans in Franz Ferdinand—and it’s easy to see why. The descriptors all come with a string of exclamation points. Youth! Enthusiasm! Pop hooks delivered with garage attitude! It was a near-perfect set, tarnished only slightly by a drunken audience member who jumped on stage for reasons unknown. (It didn’t look like he was going in for a hug, to say the least.) Interestingly enough, the festival program did note that the band is known, “vitriolic outbursts that optimizes their live shows.” Given that, it would have been almost possible to believe the stage invasion had been a stunt—had it not been for the (rightful) outrage of bassist Florian Veenhuis. We shouldn’t have to say this, but seriously guys, be cool at gigs…okay?

Check out day one photos here.







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Roland Rats
April 26th 2019

I really love the band Rats on Rafts - they are awesome. I’ll have to catch them next time they are on tour.