With a 'Whole Lotta Love' for Led Zeppelin, Greta Van Fleet brings its own classic rock to Fargodome
Michigan group on "cosmic and explosive" tour, says guitarist Jake Kiszka
FARGO — Growing up in Frankenmuth, Michigan, a town of about 5,000 located 30 miles north of Flint, Jake Kiszka says he and his brothers had to look around the house for musical influence.
“We really had no significant musical influence going on in the town. There was no music scene. We had what was at our fingertips,” he says. “What we did have was pop radio on the school bus and that was a shocking contrast to what we were listening to at home.”
At home their parents listened to lots of music, mostly from the 1970s. Those sounds and styles — particularly Led Zeppelin — influenced the guitarist, his singing twin brother, Josh, and their younger bassist brother, Sam, who formed Greta Van Fleet . The group, rounded out with drummer Danny Wagner, plays the Fargodome Friday night, Sept. 23.
Just like Led Zeppelin, Jake says the biggest influence on the band was old school blues guitarists.
“That was the one influence we all shared. We were all blown away,” he says. “When you put on that Robert Johnson record, we looked at each other and said, ‘How do we make that?’”
There were instruments around the house so Jake picked up the guitar at age 3 and used the albums as his education.
“I have gone through a lot of chapters studying musicians,” the 26-year-old says. “When I was really young it was Jimi Hendrix. Then it was Eric Clapton. You’re capable of almost thinking like them. You get to know someone through their music.”
And of course there was Jimmy Page. The first Led Zeppelin song he learned to play was “Whole Lotta Love,” listening to it on headphones on the bus, then hurrying home to pick up his guitar. By 12 he had tried playing his guitar with a violin bow, a rite of passage for all Page pupils.
The brothers formed Greta Van Fleet in 2012 and released their debut album five years later. In 2019 they were nominated for four Grammys, winning Best Rock Album for “From the Fires,” which included the hits “Black Smoke Rising” and “Highway Tune.”
Still, the group faced criticism from some who said they sounded too much like Led Zeppelin. Among those who spotted similarities was Led Zep singer Robert Plant, who GVF singer Josh acknowledges was an influence.
Loving Led Zeppelin is nothing new. The group has been covered by stars from Tori Amos to Frank Zappa. Jimmy Page even joined the Black Crowes for two nights of songs he made popular and other blues favorites and it was released as an album in 2000.
The quartet tried to move past the criticism with last year’s sophomore album, “The Battle at Garden’s Gate,” and Jake is seeing the excitement in crowds on the group’s first arena headlining tour.
“It’s been really exciting to see the people come out in droves,” he says. “For the first time in a long time we’re playing collectively at the highest levels. It’s really cosmic and explosive.”
He says the next album, which is already in the works, will be another musical step forward.
“The path we’ve taken hasn’t been intentional, it’s an organic path of its own. The next will be one of the most powerful records we’ve ever done,” he says.
Earlier this month the group has come under criticism from its home state fans after canceling two Michigan shows in Flint and Ypsilanti due to “production and logistical issues,” according to an announcement from the group. Jake wouldn’t elaborate on the reasons.
“The cancellations were out of our control. That’s really disappointing,” he says. “What’s important is that we’ll be playing those markets again and playing something new and exciting.”
There may be an even more profound sonic departure before album three comes out. The group’s hometown Frankenmuth is known for Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, which calls itself “The World’s Largest Christmas Store.” That, coupled with the group posting a Christmas playlist has prompted fans to wonder if a holiday album is in the works.
“Should we do one? We should probably do one,” Jake says with a laugh. “It’s possible. We’ll see how many people we can piss off.”
If you go
What: Greta Van Fleet with Houndmouth and Robert Finley
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23
Info: Tickets range from $49.50 - $79.50, fargodome.com