Words and Photos by Brian Mecinas
Over the past three years, few artists have emerged from the wave of online virality with as distinct of a persona and sonic signature as S. Holden Jaffe, better known by his professional moniker Del Water Gap. The 30-year old indie-alternative musician saw his career skyrocket in a near extemporaneous manner with the upswing of his 2020 single “Ode to a Conversation Stuck in Your Throat”, which remains his most popular release to date.
This single found its home on Jaffe’s subsequent self-titled debut LP Del Water Gap in late 2021, which was a triumph that has strongly contributed to the rising foundation that he continues to stand on. Further honing in his sound over the course of the past few years of growing fame, Jaffe has also had to build clarity for himself around the place in his life that he now finds himself in, one that he once doubted he might ever reach. This internal discourse is the basis of Del Water Gap’s recent, stunning sophomore LP, I Miss You Already + I Haven’t Left Yet, released on September 29th with a headlining North American tour following soon after.
The bones of the LP are formed from years of cognitive dissonance, frustration, and longing that have been slowly uncovered and processed through a hazy lens of interpersonal relationships, romantic connections, and artistic self-discovery. All of this remains unique to Jaffe’s own experiences while being packaged within a vibrant body of often upbeat yet mellow production, soulful lyrics, and the light, cool signature tone of his vocals. For the listening pleasure of his fans, Jaffe has repackaged his longing into bliss by crafting a euphoric soundscape that closely resembles the dim hotel room that his stage setup presents, featuring an older CRT television, suitcases piled onto a luggage trolley, and a simple area rug. It’s a set that is static and universally recognizable, yet holds an atmosphere that adapts from inhabitant to inhabitant.
The beauty of the LP translated successfully to live performance, entrancing all who were present over the course of an hour. Jaffe began the set with the punchy opening of “NFU”, the last of the singles to be released before the full LP. It quickly drew shrieks of excitement from the crowd and set the tone for the night with fans shouting out the song’s notably relatable chorus in unison: “I’m not fucked up, I just miss the way that we talked.” Pivoting slightly for the following song, Jaffe transitioned into the rhythmic “Losing You”, another single that preceded the full album, much to the crowd’s pleasure as he put down his guitar and began walking up and down the stage and reaching out to fans piled along the front and sides of the stage.
Closing out the initial trio of songs off the setlist was “Better Than I Know Myself”, a classic with immediately recognizable guitar riffs, directly off of Jaffe’s debut LP that. Given that it was the opening song for performances on previous tours, the inclusion felt like a subtle nod to the many people in the crowd that had been present for the last three Del Water Gap shows that had graced Phoenix over the past two years.
It was gratifying to hear familiar tracks off of previous Del Water Gap projects mixed in among the newer parts of his discography, especially earlier EPs like Don’t Get Dark and 1 (646) 943 2672. The remainder of the set saw the crowd’s energy pendulate accordingly, descending with slow hits like “Chastain”, “High Tops”, and “Quilt of Steam”, only to rise again with “Beach House”, “Glitter and Honey”, and “All We Ever Do Is Talk”. Arguably, the peak of the show was when Jaffe dropped into the pit to dance and sing alongside the crowd during “Perfume”.
The end of the show was simultaneously downcast and joyous, all of us singing our hearts out to every lyric of tracks including “Coping on Unemployment” and “Ode...” while knowing at the back of our minds that our time with the mellow star was coming to a close. Whether or not it was Jaffe’s secondary intention, the title of his sophomore LP rang true for everyone at the conclusion of the show as we immediately began thinking of the next occasion on which we might be blessed with his calm, cooling presence in an otherwise scorching, hectic city. We were missing him already and he hadn’t even left yet.