Featured image: Jess Berry
Swan Street isn’t an ideal camping spot, but hoards of eager fans have been waiting outside Band on the Wall since midday. Brooklyn-based Samuel Holden Jaffe, better known as Del Water Gap, has his fans braving the wind and traffic on an otherwise dull Thursday.
The female-heavy crowd packs out the sold-out show from the first entry. For those old enough to wait at the upstairs bar, jazzy 7-piece TSUNA provides the backdrop to an effortlessly cool space. It’s not the cheapest night out, but you won’t find a french martini at many gigs.
When Jaffe credited his inspiration to romantic encounters and dimly lit rooms, this could have been exactly the room he had in mind. Despite the volume of punters, it’s an airy and intimate space. The I miss you already + I haven’t left yet tour marks the release of his homonymous sophomore album, with features from indie icons Clairo and Arlo Parks.
Jean Ryden opens the night, somehow filling the stage with just her ethereal presence. She brings only a cellist to support her. It’s bisexual panic personified. They’re both unbelievably attractive and my friend turns to me to confess ‘If I could be anyone, I’d be her’. Her music is soft and solemn, opening with ‘Parallel Universe’, the titular song from her debut album. Production quality in her music is high, but you can’t help but notice the absence of a live band. Whilst beautifully lit and cinematic, ‘Butterfly Effect’ has the effect of pressing play in the sound booth; the intense reverb highlights the lack of live performance.
The anticipation in the room is palpable, the gentle shifting forward accompanied by excited chatter. Jaffe bursts on stage, garnering adoring cheers, before introducing himself in his spongey Connecticut drawl. His double denim clad is a stark reminder that the indie aesthetic does not move with the times. ‘NFU’ triggers delighted screams from the audience, while Jaffe bounces around the stage like the teen icon he is.
It’s accessible indie, impossible to stand still. ‘Doll House’ is the soundtrack to every coming of age movie, eliciting the emotions of the first time you braved sticky venue floors for a man in dungarees. There’s no ‘put your hands in the air Manchester!’, but there’s a lot of real connection in the room. Del Water Gap is nothing if not likeable, singing happy birthday to an awe-struck front-and-centre fan. The distinctive nasal drone in his voice is classic for the genre.
For ‘Perfume’, he descends into the crowd, welcomed by a corridor of phone lights. Stripped of his denim jacket, Jaffe bounces between the fans, creating a very tame mosh pit. Without missing a beat, he crawls back on stage and resumes scheduled grooving. He might be a solo star, but he darts around his band, singing to each guitarist and leaping off the drum set.
The jacket makes its return for the encore, a song about unemployment that receives the loudest cheers yet. It’s no secret that the sound quality at Band on the Wall is unrivalled in the small venue scene, but Del Water Gap fills the space like he owns it. Since embarking on the solo project, Jaffe has skyrocketed into the indie scene. As the herd linger in the venue, there’s a knowing that Del Water Gap has cemented himself in the whimsical indie hall of fame.