Meet the Middlers: Greta Van Fleet channels Led Zeppelin really, really well

From left: Danny Wagner (drums), Josh Kiszka (vocals), Sam Kiszka (bass, keyboards), Jake Kiszka (guitars)
From left: Danny Wagner (drums), Josh Kiszka (vocals), Sam Kiszka (bass, keyboards), Jake Kiszka (guitars)

Update: Greta Van Fleet will not be performing at the Middle of the Map Festival in Kansas City Friday, June 29, due to drummer Danny Wagner's recent wrist injury.


The hammer of the gods has been retooled.

Robert Plant howled about the mythical hammer on Led Zeppelin’s bracing 1970 anthem “Immigrant Song.” Decades later, Greta Van Fleet has stripped the rust from the neglected implement.

The Detroit band in thrall of Led Zeppelin will perform on the Crossroads KC stage at Ink’s Middle of the Map festival on Friday, June 29.

The fresh-faced Detroit band has reinvigorated a moribund hard rock scene. The meteoric ascent of Greta Van Fleet has been analyzed in dozens of podcasts and magazine articles. The headline of a profile in Rolling Stone insists that the band is “Determined to Make Rock Relevant Again.”

Since releasing its first single 14 months ago, Greta Van Fleet has transformed from an obscure Detroit bar band into a major international attraction. The band has received hearty endorsements from celebrities including Elton John and Tom Hanks and played prestigious gigs including a showcase at the Coachella festival in April.

The group recently returned home for three sold-out shows at the 2,800-capacity Fillmore Detroit. A critic for The Detroit Free Press marveled at the excitement generated by the “talented, rising young band just as it’s feeling the wind at its back and hitting its first fearless strides.”

It’s heady territory for a band that unabashedly mimics the thunderous rock of Led Zeppelin. Not only does vocalist Josh Kiszka replicate Plant’s distinctive wail, Kiszka’s twin brother Jake has mastered the epic guitar work of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. Their younger brother Sam plays the part of bassist John Paul Jones while Danny Wagner pounds the drums like the late John Bonham.

The quartet’s technical mastery is impressive, but its ability to capture the immense swagger and ribald spirit of Led Zeppelin on selections like "Highway Tune" make Greta Van Fleet more than a curiosity. The startlingly young group — the cumulative age of its four members is 82 — is likely to expand its sound as it matures. A recent interpretation of the Adele hit “Rolling in the Deep” reveals encouraging signs of growth.

Whether it evolves into a genuinely original band or will be remembered as a novelty 10 years from now, one thing is certain: Greta Van Fleet will bring the hammer down at the Middle of the Map festival on June 29.

Ink's Middle of the Map Fest

The main-stage events will take place at Crossroads KC at Grinders. Bands will also perform each night at the RecordBar, the Brick and the Black Dolphin. Friday, June 29 and Saturday, June 30. Tickets range from $45 for Friday to $200 for a 2-day, VIP pass.