Under the Couch hosts AutoVine, Foreign Breakfast

Campus music venue Under the Couch hosted a free (for students) night of music with bands AutoVine and Foreign Breakfast on Saturday, March 7.

With double bass firmly in hand, AutoVine started the evening’s performance with several folksy tunes that caught the attention of the dozens crowded into the dark, cozy music hub run by the Musician’s Network.

The snug feel promoted by the venue’s “underground” atmosphere succeeded in its attempt to be intimate without becoming claustrophobic. Moreover, AutoVine’s lounge-like vibe was a fair complement; indeed, with some refinement, AutoVine’s sound would not have been out of place in any classy lounge or nightclub.

The four-piece group consisted of Foroud Azimi, Kuan Tong, Brian Palmer and Catherine Quesenberry. All first-year students, the quartet met and discovered one another after coming to Tech, though Azimi and Tong were prior friends from high school.

Quesenberry, lead vocalist, possessed an easygoing, dynamic presence on stage. Despite her warning that she was still recovering from a cold, her voice managed to easily carry the interest of the crowd with all of the charisma of a traditional lounge singer, and with all of the talent of music artist Regina Spektor (a comparison she modestly disputed).

AutoVine’s eclectic lineup of music included songs about breakups, vegetarianism and Russian cuisine. They also played a selection of covers, including a particularly lovely cover of Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am.”

Besides covers, some of their original work was quite interesting. Once they really got going together, they had a very wonderful, quirky sound that musically resembled the perennial folk-rock band Beirut.

Still, they needed practice. Though the four were all individually quite talented, there were several instances where they had trouble keeping time with one another. Nevertheless, one has to expect that for a group still in its early stages there is still much untapped potential.

As AutoVine closed out their performance, a good portion of the crowd dispersed out into the night. This turn of events was simultaneously unfortunate for those that left and an unabashed turn of good luck for those that remained, because for the remainder of the evening the 30 or so left in the room would be treated to the impressive and thoroughly enjoyable music of Foreign Breakfast.

From the outset, it was obvious that Foreign Breakfast was going to be a little louder and rock a little harder than AutoVine. The ensemble group, consisting of Nathan Reed, Elizabeth Reed, Josh Reed, Ben Reed, Brian Norton, Mark Barbier and Joseph Barbier, have been playing together in some fashion for several years. The Reed family, especially, has deep roots in music.

“We grew up playing together in bands and churches,” said Nathan Reed, a second-year ID major, the youngest brother of the family and de facto frontman.

The band in its current incarnation was started when Reed was recovering from surgery last spring.

“I was stuck in bed, so I picked up a guitar and just started writing,” said Reed. “I played for Ben and asked if he liked it, and he did.”

Since last spring, Reed has written over 50 songs, and judging from the selection Foreign Breakfast played, it’s clear he has no shortage of musical inspiration or ability.

The on-stage artistry, though, was by no means concentrated in a single person. At some point in the evening, each member of the band had their own stunning display of talent. From alt-rock to folk-rock to almost Christian rock, Foreign Breakfast appeared unafraid to venture into any of the various musical crevices they found. They even featured an amazing bluegrass mandolin interlude, as surprising as it was beautiful.

The real treat of the evening, though, was the closing performance. Quesenberry, on accordian, joined Foreign Breakfast onstage to play an ensemble version of a song of hers, about chocolate dessert.

For a subject so trivial it was a tour de force, proving that people so gifted can literally sing songs about anything and have it be eminently listenable.

Overall, it was a phenomenal evening of music from two great local bands that definitely didn’t disappoint.