Broadway’s ‘School of Rock’ guitar wiz to headline Allentown’s Blues, Brews & BBQ
Date: Mar 08, 2019
A 15-year-old blues guitar wizard who has starred on Broadway and garnered the attention of John Mayer and others has been added as a headliner for Allentown’s 12th annual Blue Brew and Barbecue festival in June.
Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, who had the role of guitarist “Zack Mooneyham” in the Tony Award-nominated Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway play “School of Rock the Musical,” will perform on the main stage at the festival, set noon-10 p.m. June 8 from the 500 block to the 800 Block of Hamilton Street.
Niederauer joins previously announced rising blues singer and saxophonist Vanessa Collier as headliners at the free event.
“We are just thrilled,” said Miriam Huertas, senior vice president for the Allentown Chamber of Commerce, said regarding Niederauer. “He’s amazing.”
In all, the festival will have about 20 acts performing 23 sets on six stages, Huertas said.
In addition to material he has written, Niederauer plays songs by such guitar greats as Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Despite his age, Niederauer has performed in some of America’s most legendary venues and with some of the most prominent musicians of our time: He’s shared the stage with Gregg Allman, Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers; Buddy Guy; Stevie Nicks; Lady Gaga, Gary Clark Jr., Tedeschi Trucks Band and more.
He appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” at just 10, and since has been on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “Good Morning America” and “The View.” At 12, he was cast in “School of Rock the Musical.”
He also played with pop opera singer Sarah Brightman at The Phantom of the Opera’s 30th Anniversary celebration, and in NBC’s live broadcast production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He’s had a recurring role on the Netflix series “She’s Gotta Have It.”
Collier, who blends funk, soul, rock and blues with passionate vocals and soulful instrumentals, like Niederauer is a fast-rising blues star. Her three albums in five years have gotten her nominated for five Blues Music Awards.
In January, she was nominated for The Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards for Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist and Instrumentalist of the Year — Horn. She was nominated in the same categories in 2018, after the release of her latest album, “Honey Up,” and in 2017 got her first nomination for Instrumental — Horn Player of the Year.
Also performing will be Slam Allen, who was harmonica legend James Cotton’s bandleader for nine years; 23-year-old New York guitar sensation King Solomon Hicks; traditional blues guitarist James Armstrong; and Philadelphia singer Deb Callahan.
Also, Pennsylvania roots and blues singer Nick Andrew Staver, Philadelphia singer Norman Taylor, New Your State Blues Hall of Famer Chaz DePaolo, northeastern Pennsylvania’s Phyllis Hopkins Trio and Philadelphia’s Little Monkeys.
The lineup also will include Lehigh Valley and regional favorites, including the Craig Thatcher Band featuring Pete Fluck, The BC Combo, Supra Ayers Blues Band, Jack Adams Band, The Groove Merchants, Tavern Tan and the Chaz DePaolo Band and young singer-songwriter Pentley Holmes.
More acts will be announced, said Huertas, who has been the event’s producer for six years.
This year’s festival “represents the most impressive blues lineup to date and includes a variety of true blues legends who have never appeared in Allentown before,” Huertas said.
In addition to music, the festival will feature food — including all styles of barbecue — crafters, vendors, and family-friendly entertainment including a kids’ area for art and other activities.
In recent years, Blues Brews and Barbecue has packed downtown Allentown with more than 20,000 people. As in the past few years, the event’s main stage will be on the grassy area at PPL Plaza.
This will be the first year since 2014 that the festival won’t increase its physical footprint. After having the same layout for its first seven years, the festival in the past five years has more than quadrupled in size.
Blues Brews and Barbecue is presented by the downtown Allentown Business Alliance, City Center Allentown and the city. It strives to bring in new and diverse Blues musicians from around the country and to keep blues alive in the Lehigh Valley.