Everyone: Rock music is dead. Today's music is terrible. Why can't someone bring back the good stuff?
Greta Van Fleet: Hold my beer.
For someone that usually writes about animals, animal related issues, skin care or various product reviews, writing about music is not the norm for me. However, being obsessed with listening to good music is the norm for me. Music is something I cannot live without. It makes me feel whole and is as important (for me) as breathing. You can take my TV or anything I might enjoy reading, but if you touch my music, the claws will come out. As a child, I grew up in a home where my parents had a pretty amazing record collection. At a very young age, I chose to buy records with my spending money. With my own stereo in my bedroom at the age of 3 and another in the living room, I learned early-on about real music. Good music. It was always playing in our home or in the car. I listened to whatever my parents were listening to, which turned out to be one of the greatest gifts. This is back during a time when you had to actually be able to sing in order to become a vocalist or play some kind of instrument in order to be a musician. It might be a difficult concept to grasp for anyone born in the last few decades, unless they were raised in homes where their parents listened to real music from back in the day. I feel bad for people that did not get to witness some of the songs and talent that people like me grew up on. -This is something that most people my age would certainly agree with.
Some of my best memories are related to music or a specific song. I remember watching my Mom and Dad dance to "Take It To The Limit" by The Eagles when that song came out. That will forever be etched in my brain as my favorite memory. While I can't remember what I wore yesterday or the names of all my teachers growing up, I can remember every concert I have ever been to and what year it was, in great detail. (And I have been to a lot of concerts). I can remember the lyrics to pretty much any song I have ever heard. In fact, I think a large portion of my brain is probably filled with song lyrics, which is something I'm proud to say. We all know what it's like to hear a certain song from the past and how it makes us shed a tear or brings a smile to our face...The right song can get you to workout for an 5 extra minutes or will have you driving like a bat out of Hell without even noticing it. It can make you forget pain and worry, even if is just for a short time. Music creates real emotion like nothing else can. It makes you remember when __. Music offers free therapy you won't get from any other source. I am listening to music as I write this.
Real music is not created by a computer. It can only come from the heart. If you have to electronically alter or enhance your voice in any way, you are not a real singer. I have never been to a concert where the vocalist would lip sync the words and I don't want to. If your songs don't stir emotion in people, it is not real music. Years ago I gave up on listening to almost anything new because I became rather disappointed in the kind of music being played on the radio. After awhile, it all started to sound the same. They would (and still do) play the same garbage over and over again, trying to force people to listen to it. It's like trying to cram a cactus into your ear. I can't even remember how many times in recent years that I looked at the radio when some awful song came on and said out loud, "What the Hell is that?" Or something to the effect of "Kill it...Kill it with fire" in reference to certain artists that I won't name here. Remember the scene in Animal House when John Belushi grabbed the guy's guitar and smashed it against the wall? Exactly. With so many awesome songs to listen to, life is too short to listen to shitty music.
My music of choice has always been classic rock, old heavy metal, disco, classic country, soft rock gold, old R&B, and even 'decade music' of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. To be fair, I really love most of the songs made in the 90s. Some of my favorite bands are from the 90s and that was definitely a time for the best dance music. Towards the end of the 90s and into the early 2000's, music started having more of a manufactured sound. That period of time felt like a gradual 'beginning of the end', for me. Certainly not every song since that time has been bad. In fact, there are a few bands from that time frame that I do enjoy listening to. After about 2010, the overall selection became pretty poor compared to how it was 30 or 40 years ago. As the emotion was taken out of the music, the overall quality just wasn't the same. I have opted to stay in my own time warp when it came to music. I would occasionally let a new song sneak through here and there, but not often. Gone were the days of American Bandstand, Soul Train, the MTV that I grew up on, or looking forward to The Grammy's all week because I knew there were going to be some big names performing....I gave up on any music awards show decades ago. The same can be said for the Super Bowl, that used to host some of the greatest halftime performers on Earth. Not anymore. Even if those things no longer exist, I appreciate that I was able to enjoy them for a time. I will admit that I still find a lot of today's music to be pretty awful or painful to listen to. Perhaps some folks don't know any better or haven't been exposed to the real thing, so it sounds good to them?
If any of today's Top 40 'artists' (esp. pop or new country) were performing in my driveway, I would toss a box of marbles their way, turn on the sprinkler and crank up Ride The Lightening to drown them out. Genuine, heartfelt music and exceptional talent has been replaced by something I don't consider to be real music at all. I do not wish to listen to a bunch of no talent, tone deaf, auto-tuned, twerking tweakers. Sorry, it's a hard NO for me. So, here I sit in my own self-created music bubble where I can listen to what I want, when I want, and not be bothered by anything that is below my standards.
"I felt like all of the good music had already been made. That is, until I listened to Greta Van Fleet."
I wish to God, someone could have recorded my reaction the first time I heard Highway Tune. Seriously. I am not being dramatic here, but let me describe it for you. Right out of the gate, hearing Josh Kiszka's voice, hit me lick a ton of bricks. I was in such disbelief and thinking this cannot be real. Not in today's world. My eyes filled up with tears. Real, genuine tears. My mouth was on the floor and I muttered something like "get the f* outta here" to myself. I even paused the song for a second, to try to process what I just heard. Again, this is coming from someone that pretty much despises any new music (which is pretty justifiable) and I was hearing real rock music for the first time in years. Perhaps this is what walking out of prison feels like?? I turned the song back on, still in shock, but was smiling from ear to ear. The band really came out swinging with that song. Then they put the camera on Jake Kiszka (lead guitar) and he just tears it up! I'm sitting there with my hand over my mouth at this point, saying "you have got to be kidding me" through my fingers. Sam Kiszka is playing his heart out on bass and dancing around. Danny Wagner is playing the drums like a savage, as if his life depended on it. I couldn't decide which part I loved more...Was it vocals or the music? The combination of both was just unreal. It was obvious these guys loved what they were doing and it all came so naturally for them. Nothing fake. Then I noticed that they were really good looking (it didn't take long to notice that) and had the coolest looking clothes. They had their own style. They weren't trying to impress anyone; they were just being themselves. Based on that first video alone, I could see they were here to fill a void in the music industry....Something that had been missing for a such a long time. I wasn't sure how old they were at that point, but I could tell they were fairly young. They just had this phenomenal talent. A level of talent that doesn't exist in a lot of seasoned artists that have been around for decades. I couldn't remember the last time I heard this caliber of music, if ever, and I was hooked. I so appreciate Greta Van Fleet bringing back the kind of music that I thought was extinct at this point. ***In an interview, I heard someone ask Nikki Sixx what was the last music he downloaded? He said, "Greta Van Fleet." Hearing that is what got me to listen to them in the first place. A life changing moment for sure. Thanks for that!
"Perhaps this is what walking out of prison feels like??"
I immediately listened to some of their other songs and loved Safari Song, You're The One, Black Smoke Rising, Anthem, Edge of Darkness and Flower Power. I listened to Highway Tune more times than I can remember. I listened to all of their songs, these are just the ones that listened to first. Then, of course, I read-up about the band to learn how they got started in music. It seems they are all self taught and have been playing music all their lives. I watched a few of their various interviews and I noticed several things that set them apart from other 'artists' of today. They are very well spoken. As in, they listen to the question being asked of them, pause for a moment to think about how they want to respond, and then give their answer. Sometimes it is a serious answer and sometimes it is a funny or goofy one, but they put actual thought into it. They each have a vocabulary that would rival most people twice their age. (It might be weird to some, but that sort of thing really makes an impression on me). I could tell they had good parents by this alone, because the way they spoke meant that someone cared. Not only did their parents encourage and nurture their talent, but they taught them how to present themselves along the way. Good parenting! This, in a world of illiterate performers that want to end every sentence with "you know what I'm saying?" (No, actually we don't, nor do we care). But I wanted to hear what the members of Greta Van Fleet had to say because I was fascinated with how creative, humble, polite, kind, and even funny they were. GVF can truly be an example to others that you can be a real rock star by staying clean and not being a druggie or a drunk. The YouTube video of them picking out old albums in a record store is one of my favorites. Again, you could tell they were raised on good music. Each of them selected albums that were made decades before they were even born! Sweet, good-natured, old souls. Hats off to their parents for raising them on the good stuff because look at where it got them today. I can't even imagine the pride their parents must feel, seeing them evolve from local performers to winning a Grammy and selling out concerts (in a matter of minutes) all over the world. All of the screaming, crying fans are very thankful as well.
If the music that Greta Van Fleet creates is the new classic rock, keep it coming. They are truly straight out of the 70s and we so needed that. Mark my word, people will still be listening to them and they will be selling out concerts for years to come. They say GVF fans range from 8 to 80. If you watch their live shows, you will see teens and even people in my parent's age range. You have people that are learning about good music now and people who remember good music, that are so happy to hear it again. In my lifetime of going to various concerts, I have never seen such a wide variety of fans. Heck, I even saw a women with a cane that was dancing! I did see some young adults and even kids, but most of the audience were experienced concert attendees. (And they all had the old concert tees to prove it). The one thing they all have in common is that they love and appreciate good rock music. Something else that I feel is worth mentioning (because I've been to enough concerts to notice such a thing) is that GVF attracts a friendly, clean-looking crowd. Meaning, other people that one would be happy to sit, stand next to, or even talk to. If that makes sense?
You are either born to sing or you're not. Josh Kiszka was born to sing. What a gift he has! That guy has a falsetto with a range like I have never heard. Danny Wagner is a multi-instrumental guitar, piano and drum player. He was a lifelong family friend that joined the band because they needed a drummer. Jake Kiszka (Josh's twin) has been playing the guitar since he was three years old. Sam Kiszka learned to play bass and then keyboard at a very young age. It seems the band gets a lot of push-back from people that think they are trying to be the next Led Zeppelin. Guess what? Everyone's favorite band is probably a fan of Led Zeppelin! Their parents raised them on a stellar collection of music. If you really listen to Greta Van Fleet's songs, you will hear all kinds of possible influences. Right off the top of my head, Cream, Rush, The Who, Pink Floyd, Dio, some possible Ozzy, Van Halen, The Doors, and even The Eagles come to mind. I am no expert, I just hear subtle hints of bands other than Led Zeppelin. What appeals to me the most is that this band sounds like themselves. They sound like Greta Van Fleet.
In a world with so many songs lacking in originality, GVF writes their own lyrics and music. Imagine that. The songs have actual meaning and purpose. -They are trying to get their message out. Their songs are about humanity (or possibly the lack thereof) and they are bringing people together with their music. You can hear their "peace, love & unity" motto in the songs. It's pretty obvious that they value relationships, are trying to promote peace among people, and want to remind everyone that there is nothing more important than love. I like what they stand for. They have more talent and creativity than most of the other bands out there performing today. It should also be noted that Greta Van Fleet has the similar numbers (or more in some cases) of views/likes as some of the Led Zeppelin songs on YouTube. Considering the short amount of time they have been around compared to how long Led Zeppelin has blessed us with their music, I would say that's pretty cool. You can't argue with success. Robert Plant says he is a fan and gives them his endorsement. If that's not a compliment, I don't know what is? That said, I would kill to hear them play Immigrant Song, Misty Mountain Hop, or even Kashmir. Why? Because it would be awesome!! Because they can!! (They are the only ones that can). They would totally nail it. But I get why they probably won't.
If you have not seen Greta Van Fleet in person, you really need to go. My husband and I both agreed that they put on one of the greatest concerts we have ever been to. This band sounds even better live. You cannot truly appreciate Josh's powerful voice and stage presence by listening at home. How he can sing like that (and for two hours straight) is like something not of this world. Josh could sing from the pages of a phone book and people would pay to listen. They truly put such heart and hard work into their music. I noticed several people, even men, getting teary eyed during a few of the songs. I must admit, I was one of those people. Speaking for all of us emotional folks, we were in awe of Josh hitting the notes that no one can hit. I saw people looking at each other and saying "Oh my God" over and over again. We were impressed with Sam's superior bass playing as well as his incredible keyboard solo. I don't think anyone in the audience even blinked when the attention was all on Sam. He is a true force to be reckoned with. He seems totally unaware of how good he actually is. Sam plays two keyboards at the same time. Even if you have been playing keys for decades, he is better than you. Danny is a beast on those drums. He hits them like they owe him money. He definitely brought the thunder with his drum solo. (I have only seen 3 drum solos that impressed me that much). And Jake...Where do I even start? This total bad ass has such command over the audience and people were hanging on his every move. He runs that stage. When Josh yells "Do it Jakey" be prepared to see Jake take over. For those that don't know, he drops his guitar down over his shoulders and plays it backwards. I haven't seen anything like that since Jimi Hendrix. His energy is not to be believed. For a band that has only been popular for a few years, the chemistry among them is perfect. They anticipate what one another is going to do and the whole thing is flawless. If they already possess this kind of talent, I can't imagine what they will be like years from now. So, while this is the only thing I have written about any band, ever, I wrote about GVF because I think they deserve it. Seeing them in person was a dream come true. The tickets were a birthday gift from my husband. I can't even remember how many times I said thank you. I will happily accept GVF concert tickets for my birthday for the rest of my life.
If you read the comments under GVF videos, the general consensus is that people are happy, excited, thankful and grateful to hear music like this again! There are more "thank you for bringing back real rock 'n' roll" comments than a person can count. I truly hope this band outsells any pop artist out there and helps bring rock music back to the forefront. Instead of comparing them to other bands, let's just listen and enjoy their music. If GVF has any critics out there, I'm glad the band chooses to rise above them and keeps playing music their way. That's the great thing about music...You can listen to whatever you want to. I know I do. I am so thankful for this phenomenal band. They are truly a diamond in the onion patch of today's music industry. I don't have to wish them a lifetime of success because that is already going to happen. If they ever decide to stop making music, at least modeling is always an option. On a personal note, I must give kudos to their wardrobe stylist (love their style), their dentist (they all have beautiful, perfectly white teeth), and their esthetician (because I am one and I can tell when guys take care of their skin). *I am formally requesting a list of their skin/hair care and teeth whitening products.
"I am so thankful for this phenomenal band."
I'm sad Greta Van Fleet hasn't been here all these years, but I'm thrilled they got here as quick as they could. In a world of mediocre songs, music competitions with 'winners' no one can remember, and musicians that cannot form a coherent sentence, I'm thanking God for Greta Van Fleet.
*Most of this was written a long time ago. I updated it after we saw GVF live.