“We’d just play through it…”: Greta Van Fleet on the biker gang brawls at their early shows

Greta Van Fleet in 2023
(Image credit: Neil Krug)

Greta Van Fleet like to imagine that their music exists in a realm that they call “The Infisonicosm”, a sort of GVF multi-verse taking in all the influences that the US rockers have soaked up in their lives. But the early days of the band from Frankenmuth, Michigan, were much more of an earthy affair. In the new issue of Classic Rock, they tell writer Bill DeMain how many of their early shows were at local dive bars frequented by biker gangs where, as they were playing, things could get a little bit tasty.

“We played at White’s Bar in Saginaw a lot,” bassist Sam Kiszka says, “and there would be a biker gang at the bar, and then the rival biker gang. They would be kind of standoffish for a while, then start beating the shit out of each other. We’d just play through it.”

The biker gangs came to appreciate the soundtrack to their brawls, they recounted. “One of the biker gangs said: ‘Hey, come to our place out in the woods, guys, and play for us. And if you ever need us, we’ll take care of you. Now, play us some more Hendrix!’” says drummer Daniel Wagner. “Once they liked our music, they offered us a kind of protection almost,” adds guitarist Jake Kiszka.

Now you know – don’t mess with Greta Van Fleet because they might get their double-hard biker mates on you. The venues they play are a little more refined these days, however, with an upcoming tour taking in a date at iconic New York venue Madison Square Garden. In the new issue of Classic Rock, the band look back over the 10-year road that’s taken them into arenas and stadiums and take us behind the curtain on how they made their ambitious new album Starcatcher. To read the full feature, order a copy here.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.