Rock isn’t dead, but like America as a whole, there appears to be a demographic crisis on the horizon. While legacy acts like The Rolling Stones, Metallica, Dead & Company, and Queen—as well as long-time arena-fillers like Phish, Muse and John Mayer—continue to shine in the live touring arena, the genre’s up-and-coming generation seems nowhere to be found.
But that doesn’t mean the scene is without young talent. Within a week’s span, music fans in Los Angeles were treated to Saturday-Sunday sellouts at the Hollywood Palladium by Greta Van Fleet and the headline tour debut of Brandon “Taz” Niederauer at The Mint.
Following some searing support from fellow baby-faced rockers in Mess of Wires, Taz took to the stage at The Mint for a blistering set that spanned nearly 90 minutes—on a school night, no less. From the moment he started plucking along with his seasoned, skilled backing band, the 16-year-old New Yorker looked and played the part of a budding rock star.
That Taz not only held his own while performing classics while giving them his own ripping spin was intriguing enough. He brought both a distinctive edge to a cover of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” with a welcomed interlude of the Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain” popping up amid the Paul McCartney-penned classic.
He ceded the role of lead vocals—but didn’t give an inch on his guitar—while wailing behind singer Serena Fortier on a rendition of Bill Withers’ “Use Me”. He played right into the all-too-easy Jimi Hendrix comparisons with a face-melting facsimile of “Fire”. He even mixed in refrains from Bob Marley’s “Wait in Vain” in the middle of his own song, “Find A Way” as well as a reading of Santana‘s Latin-infused “Soul Sacrifice”.
As great of a jukebox as Taz makes, it’s those originals that will give him an opportunity to lead rock music toward its first centennial. From the uplift of “My Revival” and the intricate string work of “Where I Belong” to the funky flickery of “Paralyzed”, the talented teenager showed off a repertoire worthy of the 12-stop tour that he’s currently on.
Granted, Taz didn’t need to play at the 130-person-capacity club on Pico Boulevard to validate his skyrocketing career. He’s already parlayed his love of the movie School of Rock into a role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway adaptation, appeared in NBC’s live broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar and in Spike Lee’s Netflix series, She’s Gotta Have It; flexed his ax on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, The View, and Good Morning America; and shredded alongside legends like Buddy Guy, Stevie Nicks, Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, Derek and Butch Trucks, Oteil Burbridge, George Clinton, Gary Clark Jr., Robert Randolph and Karl Denson, among many others. Really, then, the kid was already well on his way.
But to truly be a rock star, especially in today’s streaming-obsessed world, requires at least the capacity to command a crowd, if not inspire an entire tour. To that end, Taz is well on his way.
So while it may be years before he cracks the Pollstar concert charts, rest assured that Taz is doing his part to keep the music alive for an audience that might otherwise care only about mumble rap and incessant bass drops.
Below, you can check out a gallery of photos from the show courtesy of photographer Brandon Weil.
For a full list of upcoming Taz tour dates, head here.