As Greta Van Fleet’s tour brings them closer to their New Jersey performance on May 18 at the Stone Pony Summer Stage, I started reminiscing about their show at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ just a short year ago. I was photographing and reviewing the show; so in addition to getting pictures of the guys in action, I also spent a lot of time watching the crowd. I love it when you can visibly see the effect a band has on its fans. And the crowd’s reaction that night was unlike anything I’d ever seen at a concert before!
Their NJ performance last year was stellar and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that as great as they sound in their recordings, they are even more extraordinary when performing live. I remembered that as I watched the fans, their reactions took my breath away. I saw listeners from multiple generations passionately singing every word to every song. People were high-fiving and hugging each other in celebration of this classic rock sound we’d all been craving for so long. The raw emotion demonstrated that night really struck a chord in me and I realized that I was part of a much larger demographic … the Greta Van Fleet Army.
The Greta Van Fleet Army (GVFA) consists of a massive contingent of adoring fans who regularly share information with each other about the band, forge friendships with each other, go to concerts together, create fan art, share concert photos, and all wholeheartedly embrace Greta Van Fleet’s musical message of peace and unity. They are quite a special group and it feels like you’re with family when you’re in their presence. Most of them say they immediately fell in love with the band from the first song they heard. Many staunchly challenge and refute the tiresome comparisons. There are a ton of fans that travel from different continents or states just to see the band perform live. It was for these reasons that I just had to talk with these “super fans” about their love for Greta Van Fleet, as well as hear about how the music has affected them.
For those who are unfamiliar, the band Greta Van Fleet formed in Frankenmuth, Michigan and is comprised of brothers Josh, Jake, and Sam Kiszka and longtime friend Danny Wagner. In their short tenure as a band, GVF has earned the 2019 Grammy for Best Rock Album, with two additional nominations for Best New Artist and Best Rock Performance. They’ve achieved three consecutive No. 1 singles on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart and successfully grasped the number one spot atop the Billboard Top Album Sales Chart in just the first week after the release of their current album Anthem of a Peaceful Army (Republic Records, October 2018).
The band has won the Best New Artist Loudwire Music Award and won the 2019 Rock Song of the Year for “Safari Song” from the iHeart Radio Music Awards. Their Spotify account shows approximately 2.5 million monthly listeners, and they have accomplished musicians like Elton John, Slash, Joe Satriani, Robert Plant, Ted Nugent, and Alice Cooper singing their praises. I don’t care if you like rock music or not. When industry professionals, fans, and fellow musicians alike are noticing, responding, buying, and digging your music this early in your career, you’ve struck music gold and have shaken the epicenter of a genre. No matter what your musical preferences, you just HAVE to respect that.
As far as the Greta Van Fleet Army is concerned, the accolades and awards are not why we love this band. We love their throwback rock and roll sound that is unfiltered, pure, and new. We love them for their insistence on unifying people through music. We love their musicality, maturity, confidence, and talent which is something typically seen in only the most seasoned, successful bands. We love how these young artists so effortlessly take the music that’s inside of them and share it with the world.
In an interview with WDHA Radio, DJ Terrie Carr asked Jake Kiszka what it felt like to have such a wide-reaching impact. His answer is a perfect example of why this band is so endearing. He said, “There are a lot of chapters in people’s lives. Everyone is in a different chapter. You know, our voice, our evolution, our way of looking at rock and roll; that’s part of unity where you can bring a lot of people together. It’s amazing to see parents and children and grandparents [at our shows]. It’s amazing. I mean, that’s love. It’s amazing.” (Click here to see the entire WDHA interview.)
I think the best way to describe the solidarity of Greta Van Fleet and their fanbase is through some of the lyrics of their song, “Anthem”:
With the news there’s something every day
So many people thinking different ways, you say
Where is the music?
A tune to free the soul
A simple lyric, to unite us all, you know
Greta Van Fleet’s show at the legendary Stone Pony on May 18th, can’t come soon enough, and I’m sure we will all be blown away by the music. What I’m also sure of is that we will be arm-in-arm with our fellow fans, unified in our love of classic rock and roll. The music of Greta Van Fleet is the ANTHEM OF OUR PEACEFUL ARMY!