It was arena rock central of gargantuan proportions Tuesday night as every square inch of LeBreton Flats was covered in a sea of people stretched out as far as the eye could see. Under another perfect summer sky at Bluesfest, a young 4-piece Michigan band named Greta Van Fleet took us on an hour-long time warp back to the full throttle sounds of classic rock.
They opened with a song that kickstarted their road to rapid success: “Highway Tune,” their first single from their debut EP, Black Smoke Rising (2017). A bluesy guitar hook, followed by an incredibly long banshee wail from the band’s lead singer, Josh Kiszka, set everyone’s jaws dropping, and when the rhythm section got to work, I felt I’d just been transported to an early seventies Zeppelin concert. The crowd embraced them immediately.
The band consists of twin brothers Josh Kiszka (lead vocals) and Jake Kiszka (lead guitar), younger brother Sam Kiszka (bass/keys), and drummer Danny Wagner, who are the newest thing to have taken the world by storm, with a refreshing sound that proves rock is still very much alive and well.
From the driving blues-rock beat of “Edge of Darkness,” the tribal rhythm of “Lover Leaver Taker Believer,” to the psychedelic flow of “Flower Power,” and riff-rock goodness of “When The Curtain Falls,” every song oozed with soft/strong textures and hard rock muscle. Josh’s sharp vocals were front and centre as he wavered from lower gravely tones to high piercing sustains that exhibited incredible lung power, range, and breath control. Dressed in floral satin, with a band of feathers around his curly locks, he reminded me of a young Mick Jagger, and absolutely owned the stage.
My favourite came with one called “Black Smoke Rising” that featured changing rhythms, stop/starts, delicious half-time drops, and a Maidenesque melody. The set ended with their second single release, “Safari Song”, laced in Zeppelin I tones, fronted with more vocal sustains and octave jumping prowess by Josh. In the short hour, the crowd was completely won over by Greta Van Fleet, whose first appearance in Ottawa had certainly garnered them another legion of fans.
For more on Greta Van Fleet, follow them on Twitter. RBC Bluesfest runs from July 5–15, 2018 at LeBreton Flats. Visit ottawabluesfest.com for the lineup and schedule. Keep checking back for more of Apt613’s Bluesfest coverage and follow us on Instagram for the latest photos.