Despite the imminent threat of rain, fans lined up outside the HiFi Indy Thursday night well before doors opened. Nobody seemed sure who was opening for who, but all three bands on the bill had their distinct followers.
As it turned out, California-based Badflower went first. Their dark, post-grunge sound filled the space and drew the crowd closer to the stage immediately. As they played a variety of songs from their album, “Temper,” including their Billboard Top 40 hit, “Animal,” frontman/guitarist Josh Katz’s powerful, soulful vocals and expressive demeanor enthralled the audience. (Side note: the hot topic in the ladies’ room after Badflower’s set was Katz and his bedroom eyes.) Bassist Alex Espiritu, who is the opposite of the chill bass player, never stopped moving – I just love watching him do his thing. Drummer Tony Sonelli and lead guitarist Joey Morrow also gave it their all.
Greta Van Fleet, the up-and-coming band from the little town of Frankenmuth, Michigan, followed. The three brothers and their fourth brother-from-a-different mother took the stage quietly amid loud cheers from the crowd, who was clearly excited to see them. Opening with the title cut from their EP, “Black Smoke Rising,” guitarist Jake Kiska, bassist Sam Kiska, and drummer Danny Wagner set the tone for the set with a song that was reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, yet fresh and modern. Clean-cut and sporting a ‘70s-style ensemble, lead singer Josh Kiska’s charming smile belied the vocal attack he was about to launch. When his voice rang out, it was as though Robert Plant himself was in the HiFi. From low, growly tenor notes to high, plaintive wails, Josh hit every note with clarity, precision, and remarkable maturity.
The rest of the band also showed great talent. Even though their music has a lot of tricky, fast riffs, they played with skill and precision. Which is not to say that they played without passion, because they threw their hearts into their performance. Although the band has a relatively limited repertoire at the point in their careers, the set included a great mix of songs, from the catchy “Safari Song” to very retro “Flower Power,” which definitely has a San-Fran 70’s vibe. My personal favorite (and most of the crowd’s), however, was their current single, “Highway Tune.” Well, except for the part of “Edge of Darkness” where Jake played his guitar solo behind his back. THAT was freaking amazing.
Goodbye June, a three-piece band from Nashville, hit the stage last. Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, the band’s sound is old-school rock and roll, with a healthy dash of southern rock. (Think AC/DC meets Molly Hatchet.) Technical difficulties plagued the first couple of songs, throwing off the vibe a little. Fortunately, however, lead singer Landon Milbourn, along with Brandon Quackenbush on rhythm guitar, Tyler Baker on lead guitar, and their touring bassist and drummer eventually got into the groove.
Promoting the recent release of their first full-length album, “Happy Valley,” the band cranked out songs that were at times angry, at times upbeat, at times sorrowful, and at all times rock. “Liberty Mother,” which was recently featured in a Budweiser ad, brought huge cheers from the crowd. The catchy, toe-tapping number really highlights singer Milbourn’s uncanny vocal similarity to AC/DCs Brian Johnson and is the band’s most commercial-sounding song. “Oh, No” was also a crowd-pleaser, with Baker frenetically shredding the guitar throughout the piece.
In summary, three distinct bands with three distinct sounds made for a great night of kick-ass rock and roll.