Greta Van Fleet Wows Sold Out Agora Crowd

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August 1st, 2018

Frankenmuth, Michigan may exist somewhere peripherally on your mental radar as that little town that celebrates Christmas all year-round.  Well, that designation may soon change, causing the mayor of that town northwest of Detroit to plop a new sign at its corporation limits, "Home of the World's Fastest Growing Rock Band."

Playing a gig here at the Grog Shop a little less than a year ago, Greta Van Fleet had a small following after the release of their first EP, Black Smoke Rising.  About two weeks after their Cleveland gig, fellow Michigander Bob Seger let the young outfit open for him on a few of his dates.  And, wouldn't you know? They blew up quicker than a July Fourth firework in a drunk guy's hand.

The quartet, consisting of the Kiszka brothers: Josh on lead vocals, Jake on lead guitar, and Sam on bass, are joined by Danny Wagner on the skins. Josh and Jake, fraternal twins, are 22 years old.  Sam, the bass player, is 19 and drummer Danny is 18.  Normally I wouldn't mention how old a band is, but this warrants special attention; this foursome sounds like they've been playing together for years and have talents that border on the virtuoso.

Having been called a "glorified cover band" to "the next best, big thing in Rock music," the reality lies somewhere smack dab in the middle. Sounding much like early '70s Led Zeppelin, they have a sound that's both unique and strangely familiar. Josh, as the band's frontman and spokesperson, has a lot of Robert Plant wrapped up into that voice of his with a bit of Geddy Lee tossed in for good measure.

Their latest tour, a whirlwind that has left a wake of "Sold Out" banners at almost every show this summer, has been one of the most-anticipated concerts of this year.  The Agora show, announced in March, sold out within twenty minutes.  The amazing thing?  They haven't even released a full-length album yet.  Building on the success of two EP releases, early 2017's Black Smoke Rising and From the Fires, released six months later, the band has quickly built a core following desperate for good, old-fashioned Rock.  

Last night's Agora show, complete with newly-installed air conditioning, was something to behold.  First, the line to get into the sold-out venue stretched all the way around the block.  Resembling a May, 1977 line to see Star Wars for the first time, fans were all smiles while waiting in that serpentine symphony of movement. Props to the Agora staff; there were no issues and their security crew made sure the line moved swiftly into the historic theater.

The evening started off with Aussie import CLOVES, born Kaity Dunstan, a twenty-two year old singer/songwriter.  Playing a rather uninspired forty-minute set, she warmed the crowd up for what was to come.

Fashionably late getting their start, Greta Van Fleet took to the stage about ten minutes after their 9:15 go time.  That, of course, only seemed to build the anticipation.  Stage hands cranked up the fog machines and incense burners set the scene with aromatic odors reminiscent of the late 1970s.  Josh, in full hippie regalia, made his way to the mic stand.

Opening with their first chart-topper, "Highway Tune" set the mood for the rest of the set. Josh's vocals, accompanied by brother Jake's fantastic guitar work, really made me see what everyone has raved about:  These guys are Led Zeppelin's heirs apparent.  "Edge of Darkness," from their second EP, reinforced that notion.  As the evening progressed, everyone in the crowd was singing along with the band.  It's amazing how much of a following this little band of millennials from Michigan has accrued.  Can you imagine what'll occur when their actual full-length album drops later this year?

Playing a seven tune set with a two song encore, the only disappointment of the night was that it was a fairly short show; the whole thing clocked in at a little over seventy minutes. But the crowd didn't seem to care, they had witnessed something special: An actual phenomenon.  Some bands sizzle quickly and fizzle just as fast.  Others linger for years, decades even, at the mid-level range of success.  This band, a little foursome of youngsters, has a boatload of talent.  I feel lucky to say that I've been with them from the beginning.  And I think I'll be writing about them for quite some time to come.

Review and Photos by Brian M. Lumley 

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