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The Legend is Born: Greta Van Fleet Delivers a Transcendent Performance at The Bowery

Pop Break Live: Greta Van Fleet at The Bowery Ballroom

Words & Photos by Anthony Toto

Throughout my life as a music writer and consumer, I have seen some incredible young bands perform live and showcase that special type of talent that leads to long-term success in the music industry. However, I have never seen a band with such unlimited potential and pure unyielding generational talent, especially at such a young age quite like Greta Van Fleet. The word “transcendent” itself feels like an understatement to classify the majestic energy in the air during Greta Van Fleet’s performance at the Bowery Ballroom on December 6, 2017.

Think along the lines of Guns N’ Roses at The Ritz in 1988 or Metallica at the Roseland Ballroom in 1984, historically significant bands that put together iconic shows in New York City that cemented their legacies for generations to come. One look across the Bowery Ballroom: there were teenagers, twenty-somethings, and adults of all-ages gleaming in excitement to witness a band that has rightfully taken the music world by storm.

Greta Van Fleet is currently in the midst of their first national headlining tour and have performed at sold-out venues across the country. They have either added second dates or moved their shows to larger capacity venues to satisfy the demand. Supposedly, there were hundreds of people standing outside of the venue last night trying to scalp tickets. Anyone who was fortunate enough to witness either one of Greta Van Fleet’s performances at the Bowery Ballroom will talk about these shows for years to come: in the same vein as those who saw Guns N’ Roses and Metallica make their mark in the Big Apple.

This band has quickly drawn comparisons to Led Zeppelin considering the blues-ridden ferocity and unrelenting hooks within their musical delivery, which in theory is the highest compliment a rock n’ roll band could receive. However, I will personally attest that typecasting this band as some sort of sequel to Led Zeppelin is not true by any sense. This four-piece from Frankenmuth, Michigan has only started to scratch the surface of their potential and their maturity as performers, songwriters, and musicians will see them succeed in any genre or style of their choosing.

Based off the strength of their newest material, unreleased songs that will likely appear on their debut LP such as “Mountain of the Sun,” “You’re The One,” and “Lover Leaver Taker Believer,” the foundation that is being built resurrects the crossroads aura of Robert Johnson’s blues and the Michigan spirit of Motown with their love for soulful grooves.

From the opening notes of “Talk on the Street,” the crowd screamed at deafening volumes of jubilation and not once did that energy level dissipate throughout the night. In my opinion, that was the most impressive feat of their performance and proved how this band is cut from a different type of cloth: they only have two EP’s to their name and most of the crowd either saw them or heard some of their newest material for the first time and meanwhile, we were all hooked from the get-go.

Vocalist Josh Kiszka is an anomaly: his stage presence and interaction with the crowd was insightfully witty, charming, and musically jaw dropping. Again, allow me to emphasize that I have seen HUNDREDS of iconic bands, shows, and performances, and in terms of Josh Kiszca’s incredulous range: the only vocalists in the same type of company were Chris Cornell, Myles Kennedy, and Brandon Yeagley. Josh Kiszca summons his howling warcry with such effortless command: he has a decorated background in theater, which I believe has taught him how to hone the full spectrum of his range and take the crowd into the palm of his hands.

Here’s an example: I interviewed bassist Sam Kiszka before the show and hung out in the basement of the Bowery Ballroom for about a half-hour as the group finished up their rehearsals. I kid you not, the roof was actually shaking from the echoes of Josh’s voice upstairs. I sat there by myself with another bartender and we both looked at each other and said, “This is insane.”

The term “youth” should be applied to this band in the most complimentary way possible: just observing their body language throughout the show: it was a great feeling to see a few hard working kids with a look of pure joy and excitement on their faces. They genuinely appreciated every aspect of the crowd’s Beatles-mania worthy participation.

Guitarist Jake Kiszca is the heart and soul of Greta Van Fleet: in terms of his stage presence, he is constantly moving to the grooves of his riffs with iconic poses in the vein of Jimi Hendrix and Slash and those moments where he leaned on his brother’s shoulder and sang backup vocals: the image itself was reminiscent of Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. His solo’s were not only perfectly executed, the vibrato, grit, and freedom within in his note selection made the crowd scream at the highest volumes during “Highway Tune,” and “Safari Song.”

Check out Pop Break’s review of Greta Van Fleet’s latest EP, From the Fires.

Bassist Sam Kiszca reminded me of Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler in terms of how his fingers ran rampant across the fretboard and rumbled with such a delicate balance of aggression and jazziness. He might just be the most talented member of this band as he is only eighteen-years old and effortlessly shifted between his bass and M103-organ. During “Edge of Darkness,” both Sam Kiszca and drummer Danny Wagner showcased their dynamic chemistry as a rhythm section, which felt like a knockout combination as the hanging notes within the main riff and drum beat reverberated from their instruments like a tidal wave.

Danny Wagner is an honorary brother of the Kiszca’s and grew up with the guys in the band: his snare hits are the source of this band’s brute and muscle. There were moments during their performance that felt reminiscent of Audioslave in terms of their funk-ridden nature and reckless power, which was commandeered by Wagner bashing the hell out his cymbals and drum kit.

There is an old saying that goes, “Timing is everything.” Well, Greta Van Fleet has arrived at the opportune time. In a music world consumed by the digital age, they are truly old souls at heart, which feels so refreshing and humanely relatable in the most commedable way possible. Believe me when I say that Greta Van Fleet is a must-see live act. If one has the opportunity to catch them in a small club setting, make it a priority to grab your tickets as soon as possible since a band of this ilk, historically speaking, only comes around once every few decades.

The excitement surrounding Greta Van Fleet is beyond well-deserved and the sky’s the limit in terms of their future musical output. As a crowd that was in complete harmony and unison at the Bowery Ballroom,” truer words were never spoken as Josh Kiszka sang the words “All my brothers we stand/ For the peace of the land,” however, we were not an army apart, we were all drawn together by this band’s heartfelt talent and once-in-in-a-lifetime musical authenticity.


Talk On The Streets
Black Smoke Rising
Edge of Darkness
When The Cold Wind Blows
Flower Power
You’re the One
Evil Is Goin’ On (Howlin’ Wolf cover)
Mountain Of The Sun
Watching Over (dedicated to Tom Petty)
Lover Leaver Taker Believer

Highway Tune
Safari Song

Anthony Toto
Anthony Totohttps://pathbrite.com/AnthonyMToto/profile
Anthony Toto is a senior writer and social media manager for The Pop Break. Works in the music industry and interviews prominent artists, bands, and musicians. Longtime guitarist, Rutgers Graduate, and wholeheartedly believes in the ethereal power of music.

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