Jessica Moss, & Julia Holter @ El Club in Detroit, MI

Review & photography by Daaron Donohue

The build-up

There is no real way to assign Los Angeles based artist Julia Holter in any type of music genre. Mixing elements of folk, indie pop, Post- industrial and too many more to list, the best way to describe it would be experimental art pop. Coming off the well-received “Have you in my Wilderness,” Holter found herself in an interesting stage of her career. With a lighter tone, more direct songwriting, and generally upbeat pacing, HYIMW was easily her most accessible record. Connecting with the lighter side of pop opened her fan base and radio play making her the newest “veteran” on the block. For her follow up and a 5th studio album, Julia needed to find a way to balance the darker, more ambient art pop which gave her a name, and the lighter side that fans were now aware she was capable of producing. On November 2nd, 2018 with the help of “The Aviary Band,” Holter delivered a sprawling 90-minute purgatory of haunting harmonies with expansively deep and jumbled thoughts that piece together one ongoing diary of spiritual experiences. Listening to each of its 15 songs feels like walking through an ever-changing museum of Holter’s subconscious with crumpled up Cliff notes at each display. Picking up and slowing down, building up and echoing through reverb, this was Julia Holter’s present state of mind. This was “Aviary.”

The stage

The sheer scope of “Aviary,” was something I had a hard time believing could be translated into all that comes with performing in a venue typesetting. I soon was proven wrong as the opening act took the stage. Canada based violinist Jessica Moss blanketed the audience in a beautiful and harmonious Jewish folk song. She then followed with a piece she composed with a run time of 22 minutes. I’ll admit I was quite taken back when I heard this but was surprised by the process at which the song was made. Loop pedals and floor switches peeled back layers of the piece that felt more like a journey than a longer song. Julia took the stage alone not long after that and hopped straight into the deep depths of “Aviary.” Starting with track 10 ‘In Gardens’ Muteness,’ Holter slowly drew the audience in with the echos and harmonies that filled the room. The Aviary band joined her for ‘Turn the Light on,’ followed with rolling drums and symbols accompanied by sporadic trumpets, double bass, synths, Violin, and even bagpipes. Holter’s shrill, drawn-out notes felt like a cry for help mountains away.  A mix from both “Aviary,” and “Have you In My Wilderness,” followed. Tracks like ‘Whether,’ and fan favorite “Feel You,” picked the audience up connecting with Julia word for word. The end of each song was met with thunderous applause from a packed El Club in Detroit. Holter was taken back by the reception and continued on the set. By the end of the night 4 tracks from “Aviary,”  didn’t make the set list that played as pacing for the album. Instead of delving to her back catalog for longtime fans. An encore was inevitable with “I shall love 1,” and “Betsy in the Roof,” closing out what was a magical and intimate journey through the current mind of a truly modern artist.

As soon as the encore ended most fans rushed to the back to meet the unbelievably humble artist. I had the chance to meet and take some pictures with her after the traffic died down in the back and was taken back at just how beautifully normal she was. Like she wasn’t the same person that just took everyone on such an epic, ambient & mysterious journey. It’s hard to simply just explain how a Julia Holter show feels like. The experience is unlike anything you’ll see or hear musically. Holter once said “There isn’t just one way to listen to ‘Aviary.’ Each track is like its own world, each with its own story,” which is something she expertly crafted. Taking what tragedies she sees in everyday life and making beautiful alternatives for others to blissfully escape in is an impressive feat that she will only master with time.

To catch Julia Holter on the rest of her tour visit


  1. In Gardens’ Muteness
  2. Turn the Light On
  3. Whether
  4. Silhouette
  5. Chaitius
  6. Feel You
  7. Voice Simul
  8. Underneath the Moon
  9. Colligere
  10. Les Jeux to You
  11. I Would Rather See
  12. Words I Heard
  13. Sea Calls Me Home
  14. I shall Love 2


  1. I shall love 1
  2. Betsy on the Roof


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