It’s hard to tell what had concocted such a good vibe at the Studio at Webster Hall on Thursday night, but knowing the Pancakes & Whiskey crowd, the crisp shots of Jameson from the bar may have had something to do with it. The showcase for the night, which we were stoked and appropriately buzzed to present, featured indie rockers FOXTRAX at the top of the bill, back in the big apple for the first time post-tour to record their new record. With the help of openers Del Water Gap and Ryan Egan, they quickly sold out the show and stuffed the room, the young audience lively and loud as they got their drinks and friends in order before the show.
Ryan Egan, looking cool in white loafers and a matching white button-down, faced the age-old challenge of appeasing a headliner-obsessed crowd — but he and his deft band had no trouble there. Buried in their enveloping riffs, the NYC-based singer surprised the new listeners in the room with his high-impact vocal passages and slow-building tracks, including the memorable “Finest Hour,” which showed off the best of his dynamic range.
Following a big swell of applause, local alt-rock band Del Water Gap delivered a badass set of their own that was packed with personality — including an anecdote from frontman S. Holden Jaffe as he took in the sold-out venue. “We used to do this thing when there were no people at our shows,” he laughed as he reminisced. “We can’t do it tonight, ‘cause there are too many people here, but we used to put everyone in a half-circle and play spin the bottle.” Clearly, stretching out a sparse crowd would not be an issue on this night, and Del Water Gap dove headfirst into the music, visibly enjoying the packed house as they played. Their immersive set was punctuated by Jaffe’s witty, relatable lyrics and the band’s intense impacts, which culminated in a bright finish on their closing track, “Let’s Pretend.”
Excitement was already high for FOXTRAX, the power-packed trio made up of Ben Schneid and brothers Jared and Jon Stenz, who were celebrating their homecoming NYC show after a string of adventures on tour. But when they sank into the first notes of “Waiting For You,” the energy totally exploded — Jared bursting into action on bass, Jon all smiles, stealing the show as he flipped his sticks and beat up on the set, and lead singer Ben stealing it right back with his charismatic stage presence. FOXTRAX, who, satisfyingly, push the boundaries of indie rock to its grungiest edges, are also a band that just fucking loves playing together — a quality that seems to drip from their every note and drown their fans in its warmth. The three continued to grab The Studio’s attention with “Nothing Lasts Forever,” and “Adrift,” followed by a gripping run of “Go It Alone” straight into “Dark of the Night.”
It was a futile battle to try not to dance as FOXTRAX served up old favorites from their first release, The Cabin, as well as forthcoming tracks from their new EP, which they’re recording with producer Ben Roulston this June. The catchy melodies of “Grey Morning,” “Sign of the Times,” and “On the Run” tugged everyone’s arms into the air, and they stayed high as the crowd clapped and danced to “I’ll Be Back For You,” “Everything’s Changing,” and “City of Lights.” By the time FOXTRAX delivered their untethered, feel-good encore of “Underwater,” Ben had balanced tiptoe on the bass drum, leapt off of it like a diving board, and knocked the snare clean off the set, to the thrill of their fans. In the ultimate twist of the night, their performance left us with a buzz so wild, it seemed for a moment that the whiskey we’d drunk earlier had almost been unnecessary. (Almost).
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley