Last month, American rock band Greta Van Fleet performed in San Diego as a part of their March of the Peaceful Army tour, bringing together fans young and old for a night under the stars.
The band, comprised of brothers Josh Kiszka (vocalist), Jake Kiszka (guitar), and Sam Kiszka (bass and keyboard), along with family friend Danny Wagner (drums), hail from small town Frankenmuth, Michigan. Although the group has gartered negative attention from fans of classic rock, they can still sell out a show, and their fans are dedicated.
This was the second time the band had a San Diego stop on their tour, playing at the Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre on San Diego State University’s campus, their first return after playing the Observatory in North Park last fall.
At 7:00 p.m., fans young and old entered the theatre, dressed head to toe in classic 70’s rock and roll fashion. Pre- show music from artists such as Elton John, The Beatles, and The Doors set the stage for a night from another decade. Indie garage band Shannon and the Clams opened, giving fans a taste of a new and experimental genre but still put on a fun and entertaining set.
At around 9:00 p.m., the house lights dimmed and smoke crept onto the sides of the stage, creating an aura of excitement with a hint of mystery. In a surprising turn of events, the group took the stage and opened their set with their biggest hit, “When the Curtain Falls,” the roaring vocals of Josh Kiszka accompanied by the energetic guitar solos of Jake Kiszka.
The setlist followed any other average rock concert order- you start with the highs, put the lows in the middle, and end it on a high note to keep the crowd wanting more long after the show is over. Although slower songs can sometimes be considered the “boring” part of the set, that isn’t the case with Greta Van Fleet.
The crowd is quiet, waiting in anticipation. The stage goes dark, for only a moment, until a single line shines down on twin brothers Josh and Jake, the latter swtiching out his electric guitar for an acoustic. The soft tune rings through the theatre, as the brothers perform a cover of “The Music is You” by the iconic Bob Dylan, a complete but smooth transition from the loud and eccentric attitude of lead vocalist Josh. The cover leads into their song “You’re the One,” as fans lit up the theatre with their phone flashlights.
Most artists talk to the crowd in between songs, and talk about the city they’re in or just how they’re feeling in general. If you go to a GVF show without knowing anything about the band, don’t expect to leave with even just knowing the member’s names. Instead of talking, the band chooses to fill their empty space with long, drawn out guitar solos (with transcendant keyboard solos by bassist Sam Kiszka and a heavy hitting drum solo by drummer Danny Wagner). It’s something that may seem dull, but their presence and attention to detail sends you on a true spiritual journey, and truly takes you to another place and time. It was easy to forget you were on a college campus in the year 2019, but that’s the fun of it all. To genuinely feel like you’re at some outdoor rock festival in the middle of nowehere in the 1970’s is an experience you can’t really find in a live music setting today, but if you allow yourself to forget the world of today, it’s a true immersion in a world so foreign to people born after the golden era of rock and roll.