A Look Back at Brandon Niederauer “TAZ”

Lions on The Moon Set


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By Barry Brandow

Mountain Jam has many extra experiences to offer. Aside from the amazing musicians and four straight days of music, you can also wake up to Ratboy Jr playing music for the kids at Healey Hall. You can take part in a yoga class led by Michael Franti or attend a photography seminar given by the highly accomplished music photographer Jay Blakesberg.   You can also ride the Mountain Jam sky ride over the crowd for a mere $6.00. One of the newer things Mountain Jam offered for installment number 11, is the chance to ride in an actual TIME MACHINE and see the FUTURE OF ROCK AND ROLL! FREE…at NO extra charge!   This one time opportunity was scheduled for 4:15pm on Sunday at Healey Hall when the band Lions On The Moon with special guest Eric McFadden was scheduled to perform.

Since the “Dark Side of the Mule” set Friday night, the performance I was looking most forward to the rest of the weekend was catching this phenomenal group of young, talented musicians. In fact, the number one item on my Mountain Jam “bucket list” was to meet and have my picture taken with the 12 year old guitar wizard who is affectionately known as Brandon “Taz” Niederauer.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

My wife had gotten a head start and arrived at the hall 30 minutes before set time to secure a spot front and center on the rail. As I entered the venue 15 minutes later I can hear my name being called from across the room. When I looked up and over, there was my wife standing with the budding superstar I had hoped to meet.   My eyes widened as wide as they could get and my jaw dropped.   With the biggest smile on my face I approached my wife and Brandon. While we shook hands I expressed how thrilled I was to meet him and how awesome I thought he was. He said “Thank you…Nice to meet you too” He laughed when I told him that meeting him was FIRST on my bucket list, ahead of hugging Grace Potter and being on the rail for Gov’t Mules “Dark Side” set. (I’m still waiting to hug Grace.) ‘Taz’ was an extremely nice young man, and posed for a picture with me that I will always cherish.

Video by Barry2theB

If you’re not yet familiar with the band Lions on the Moon, you will be very soon. They are a band that consists of 4 of the most talented young musicians on the music scene today. With an average age of 13, this band is serious. They play with enthusiasm, maturity and passion rarely seen with younger musicians…and even some older. These AREN’T young musicians mimicking and pretending to be “rock stars” — these ARE “rock stars” in young musicians bodies playing brilliant original music as well as noteworthy covers. The band was brought together by Col. Bruce Hampton, who has mentored music greats like Derek Trucks, Jimmy Herring, and Oteil Burbridge. Known for discovering young talent, Hampton found the bands 13 year old lead singer/songwriter Nicky Dylan Winegardner and thought he’d be a great fit with the prodigious 12 year old guitar player Brandon ‘Taz’ Niederauer. After adding Brandon’s extremely talented 14 year old bass playing brother Dylan Niederauer to the mix, the three outstanding musicians gelled quickly. Now in search of a drummer the threesome pursued 15 year old accomplished and “Darien’s Got Talent” winner Henry Thomas. After several jam sessions they knew they had their man and a phenomenal band as well.

Although their set was scheduled during the Mountain Jam favorite Michael Franti’s performance, Healey Hall started filling in with many eager music fans wanting to take a “TIME MACHINE RIDE INTO THE FUTURE.” After a quick sound check the four young artists along with Eric McFadden, the seasoned veteran and guitar virtuoso who has played with music icons such as funk legend George Clinton, got ready to go. From the first song, an original called “Only Fun”, you knew this was no ordinary kids band and we were all in for something very special. As the drums, bass, and vocals performed flawlessly, it didn’t take long for the 12 year old guitarist to display his talents and shred his first solo of the set.   Every jaw dropped in amazement. Even Eric McFadden had a look of both disbelief and delight. For their second song “Party Gras”, Lions on the Moon invited friend and talented vocalist Delphine De St. Paer, who was sporting a foot boot from an injury, to join them on stage to lend her radiant voice.

Video by Gary Niederauer

Several times throughout their set LOTM invited another friend to the stage for a few songs. Proving that the future is ALSO very bright for the women of rock and roll, 16 year old blossoming star musician Lara Cwass added her impressive guitar skills. Showing passion, maturity, and awe-inspiring ability, Lara made the most of her moments in the spotlight. One of the things that I found most compelling was the genuine reaction of the seasoned and brilliant guitarist, Eric McFadden, as he watched in awe of the talented artists he had the pleasure of sharing the stage with. Even when someone in the front row jokingly said “Hey Eric, try to keep up” he smiled, laughed, and replied “Yeah…I know” “I’m trying”.

About half way through the set, Nicky Dylan Winegardner passed the vocal baton to his bandmate and lead guitarist Brandon for the bands’ first cover tune, Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile. With veteran confidence Taz belted the lyrics like a pro and traded guitar leads with the experienced McFadden. As he had done throughout the set Taz took command, directing bandmates like a veteran hall of fame quarterback calling signals at the line of scrimmage, even cueing Mr. McFadden when it was his turn to play. He then stepped to the forefront for another face-melting solo at the edge of the stage. It was especially inspiring to see him close his eyes, throw his head back, and feel the music he was playing. I got a real kick out of watching him bounce and bob with enthusiasm during his solos.  After seeing the young talented musician guest with several accomplished musicians like Gregg Allman, Eric Krasno,  and Gary Clark Jr…(to name a few), it was impressive to watch him orchestrate the stage with no fear whatsoever.  I also liked when he pretended to freeze and needed Eric’s help to play the final notes. The huge crowd in Healey Hall was mesmerized by the display of skilled showmanship and roared with admiration.

As much as I was fascinated by the musicianship and tightness of the band, I was equally fascinated by the craftsmanship and quality of their original material that encompassed most of their set. I found it to be as good or better than much of the original music being written by older bands with much more experience. Not being familiar with the lyrics I can’t express my opinion in that regard, but whatever the lyrics were worked very well with the music they were playing.   I look forward to the release of their first studio album coming out soon.

Video by GoPro

To complete the brilliant set Lions on the Moon invited Lara Cwass back for one more song.   Nicky, wearing an Allman Brothers t-shirt, paid homage to his favorite band and hinted to the last tune. When bass player Dylan Niederauer started the signature bassline, everyone guessed we were about to hear a version of “Whipping Post” we would never forget.  Winegardner sang with experienced passion as he had throughout the set…nailing the bluesy vocals almost effortlessly.  ‘Taz’ then directed his fellow guitarists into a semi-circle while each musician traded leads on his cue. It was extremely impressive to see each command their moments to shine, playing with sincere passion.   Each time Lara took her turn she would close her eyes and grin while feeling every note she played.  Getting his moment to shine in the spotlight, bass player Dylan took the reins and ran bass lines and runs like a consummate professional during his solo. I’m sure conveying pointers he’s gotten from many of the prominent artists he’s played with, Brandon directed his older brother to turn slightly so the audience can watch his inspiring effort. Drummer Henry Thomas took full advantage of his moment, confirming to everyone that he was a hands-down obvious choice behind the kit. His professional fluidness and skilled timing were evident throughout the set as well as his inventive solo.   After Nicky belted the final verse that even would’ve made Gregg Allman proud, the band played the final notes of the classic rock anthem. The crowd rumbled with a thunderous applause and begged for more. We all could’ve watched them play all night.   After the set ended the band took their well-deserved bows. I waited for the chance to tell Taz and his bandmates how much I enjoyed the show and how excited I was to write about what we all just witnessed.  They thanked me and gave me an autographed set list that I will frame with the picture we took and hang it on my music room wall.

This awesome TIME MACHINE ride had come to an end. Everyone in Healey Hall was completely blown way. All the friends that my wife and I encouraged to watch this set instead of Michael Franti expressed their gratitude and confirmed that they had made the right choice.

Thanks to Lions on the Moon I can say with great confidence that the future of rock and roll is alive and well….and in very good hands!  I highly recommend to any and every music lover to find these guys on your local music schedule and enjoy this inspiring group of young musicians! For show dates in your area and band information go to www.lionsonthemoon.com.

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