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Greta Van Fleet Returns to the Bay

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

This week on August 8, I was supposed to cover the GVF show at the Oakland Arena. I had been looking forward to it for ages. Then the day before the show, I tripped on a guitar case at a party and broke my arm. It changed my plans and I sadly couldn't shoot that show, (or any others in the near future). I even tried figuring out ways I could still shoot, I changed my big lens for a smaller, lens and thought I could shoot it one handed. But the pain and severity of this fracture, and from what the orthopedic surgeon conveyed, I realize shooting now is impossible. Also after running it past a few concerned friends, they all agreed it was not worth taking the chance of perhaps getting bumped into and further damaging myself. Gutted I had to miss this show, but also knowing this injury is not permanent and I would hopefully see GVF again, I had to come to terms with this decision and go with the popular advice of the people that had my best interest at heart and miss this one. (As I rarely miss a show!) So instead, I'm re posting this blog to celebrate this awesome bands' return to the bay area, I'm reviving this blog from September 2018, from the first time I shot them at the Masonic in San Francisco. I remember the show fondly, the band really rocks old school style and puts on a great show. I look forward to seeing Greta Van Fleet next time they play the bay. The Music Soup looks forward to covering the next one. Love this band!

Imagine London circa 1970, music history was being made if you were anywhere near a New Yardbirds/Led Zeppelin concert. This was a new unique harder rock sound. Wind the clock forward 48 years and you have Greta Van Fleet. Four guys in their early 20s from Michigan. Three of the four are brothers, two of the three are twins. They consist of, vocalist Josh Kiszka, guitarist Jake Kiszka, bass and keys Sam Kiszka, and drummer Danny Wagner. There is no mistaking that they do sound a lot like Led Zeppelin and sometimes they sound like Rush. At times I even heard some Yes in their sound. But they are not a cover band nor do they try to be another Led Zeppelin or Rush. Though they do play like Page, Bonham and Jones...and Josh sounds a lot like Robert Plant, and even has many mannerisms that mimic Plant to a tee. GVF songs are all originals and in my opinion, excellent. Makes me think if Led Zeppelin were still writing and making music together, songs like these may have been in their catalogs of today...who knows. What I do know is that this gig reminded me of concert going days of my youth. Queueing up in the early morning waiting for the doors to open to run in and get my place closest the stage. When I arrived at The Masonic there was a queue formed a block from the venue and it went down the street and around the corner. There were many people waiting for their place by the stage, just like the days in my youth. Something I'd not seen at The Masonic before. Something I haven't seen in years at any gig. The couple at the front of the line had been waiting there since 10am.

"Dorothy" opened the show. Dorothy Martin a female powerhouse from LA leads the band with metal riffs and a giant rock and roll sound. She entered dawned in a sparkly silver cape and played her set to the max. This was the second time I've seen her and both shows were excellent. The first time I saw her she was headlining at The Independent, and my pals, Kingsborough opened for her. Dorothy, the band formed in 2014 and consists of Jason Ganberg on drums, guitarists Owen Barry and Eli Wulfmeier, and bass player Eliot Lorango. Rolling Stone deemed them "a band you need to know," and named them #14 on their 50 Best New Artists of 2014 list.

Then, Greta Van Fleet entered and the anticipation was at a high. I felt the buzz in the room. Josh Kiszka, the lead singer came out in silver spandex trousers with white loafers and a navy blousy shirt with rhinestones and white feathers hanging from his hair. I know they're from Michigan, and they are younger than my own children, but I thought he needed some advice in his choice of attire. It just didn't look that cool. But who am I to say? He has oodles of talent and no doubt he probably has no trouble getting the girls. Perhaps back in the day they were saying the same thing about the hunky Robert Plant.

During the show, Josh's twin brothers were like bookends on either side of him. Jake on Guitar and Sam on bass and keys. The drum kit looked tiny, especially after Danny Wagner came out who looked to be like a tall guy. He seemed to tower over the kit. I'm told it was a similar drum kit to John Bonhams. All four were superb musicians and really seemed to enjoy themselves onstage. Jake even played his guitar behind his head for a good couple of minutes in the second song. The guys gave it their all and put on a killer show. Their songs are great. Some I recognized from the radio. "When the Curtain Falls" is the title of the single that's getting lots of spins at the moment.

I primarily listen to WXRT (Chicago), and they've been playing this band for a while now. I even heard them mention the GVF gigs in Nor Cal. They played three in a row. Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco. Many of the people I talked to had attended all three. I hung out with one guy who had flown in from Portland to see this show. I love that dedication!

During this midweek show at The Masonic I truly felt as if I was in a small audience of something that in time would be huge. In a couple years they'll be playing stadium gigs. Yes, they are that big! And they are that loved. Their audience is the most enthusiastic I've seen in many years. See them now if you get a chance. Or see them in a couple years at the stadiums. But if you're a music lover like will see them at some point. Cause yes, they are THAT good!

© Cheryl Alterman Photography 2018

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