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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Del Water Gap enraptures Madison’s indie pop scene

The indie pop sensation delivered a performance his audience will never forget.

Indie pop musician Holden Jaffe, known by his stage name Del Water Gap, made his long-awaited return to Madison on Wednesday, performing a setlist of hits from his self-titled EP and sophomore LP “I Miss You Already + I Haven’t Left Yet” at the Majestic Theatre. 

Del Water Gap’s opener, fellow indie artist Kristiane and bassist Kelsey, called for the audience to lose themselves in their serene 30-minute set. Notable songs included “Cry Baby” from Kristiane’s 2022 EP “State Lines,” and closer “Wish I Could Be Your Girl” from her debut album “I Miss Myself, Sometimes.” 

Kristiane also sang a cover of Lana Del Ray’s “Video Games,” an enthusiastic hit among the Majestic’s overwhelmingly alternative audience.

But the calm, soothing feel of the tour’s opener was quickly replaced by frenetic head-banging and high-stepping from Jaffe and his band — guitarist Nick Cianci, bassist Zach Esposito and drummer Ross Hodgkinson.

Del Water Gap’s studio setup consisted of an old-fashioned cable TV with a neon sketched horse in a bowl cut alongside dazzling strobe lights changing in color every song. Images projected were similar to visualizers used in YouTube releases of his songs, such as distorted black-and-white faces for “Quilt of Steam” and grainy VHS clips for “All We Do is Talk.” 


The Majestic’s crowd of alternative teenagers were swept up in Del Water Gap’s sweaty curls and shiny upper lip, crying as he sank to his knees during “Glitter and Honey” and “Beach House” or enthusiastically screaming along to the upbeat “Don’t You Know Me” and “Dollhouse.” 

However, his intense performance was lost on the theatre’s VIP balcony of mostly middle-aged adults, who were seated and removed from the set’s most vivacious moments. 

Notable instances of Del Water Gap’s crowd work included a game of rock-paper-scissors with a sign-holding fan requesting he play “Don’t Say Nothing” from 2019 album “Don’t Get Dark,”  — which ended with him playing the song despite her losing —  entering the wild, jumping audience while singing “Perfume,” and inspiring roaring support from attendees by mention of his partnerships with LGBTQ youth-centered organizations. 

Del Water Gap faked the crowd out and left stage with his bandmates after melancholy set piece “We Will Never Be Like Anybody Else” before returning in full swing to perform his hit single “Ode to a Conversation Stuck in Your Throat.” 

The show ended with Del Water Gap finally exiting in earnest before his supporting band’s final hurrah, letting Cianci and Esposito play extended riffs as Hodgkinson concluded the beat.

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The American leg of the “I Miss You Already” tour ended in mid-November at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles as Del Water Gap prepares to kick off 2024 with international venues in the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Ireland.

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