Annie Wallach, lead singer of Tavern, exited her room on the second floor of Bobb Hall, going about her normal morning routine. She headed to Sargent Dining Hall just across the quad to grab a cup of tea. Grounded in her Spanish class later that morning, she sat and stared at the board, but mentally she was elsewhere.
“That morning sucked,” Wallach said. “Every worst-case scenario was top of the brain.”
Only a few hours and counting until Tavern's first performance as a band that afternoon. Their front woman wearily wondered what it would be like.
“This is going to blow up in our faces,” Wallach thought. “My brother is going to be there. All of his friends are going to be there. What if they think he's weird, or if I'm weird?”
When the time finally came, Northwestern students flooded into the backyard of a Maple Ave. home, crowding a makeshift elevated surface while singing along with Wallach and the rest of Tavern at the top of their lungs. The band has been a staple of the Northwestern social scene ever since. But it was only a matter of time before Wallach had her time in the spotlight.
The group’s name is born out of the first encounter between Wallach and Phoebe Feldman, Tavern's guitarist, on their first night of college. They met outside Ridgeville Tavern – a restaurant and bar in Evanston. If they ever started a band, they said they would name it Tavern to commemorate the birth of their friendship.
Now one of the hottest musical groups on NU’s campus, Tavern’s sights are set on something bigger. The band is playing its first independent concert on Nov. 10 at Good To Go Jamaican Cuisine restaurant in Evanston. Wallach said the band is rehearsing some of its originals in preparation for the big day.
Growing up in New York City, the School of Communication second-year sang nonstop in front of friends and family. She dressed as her favorite Disney princess, Belle (because she had brown hair), and sang her favorite song from her favorite musical: “Tomorrow” from Annie. The inspiration came from her mother, who, according to Wallach, would burst out into song at a moment's notice.
“It was anywhere, anytime,” Wallach said. “There would be birthday parties where I was never invited to sing. I just got up and started and that was it. And people were like, ‘There she goes again. We knew it was gonna happen when we invited her. It's fine.’”
Though she kept belting out show tunes in the shower, she developed serious stage fright in middle school.
“I tried to do some performances in school, and it became really difficult,” Wallach said. “I would shake in fear. I could feel my heart start beating really, really fast. I would get so anxious it became something I wasn't excited to do, which is what drew me away from it.”
Wallach found comfort in Feldman, who lived on her floor during her first year at Northwestern. With Feldman on the guitar, the two began “jamming out,” Wallach said, and formed a friendship through a common love for music. Feldman recalled the first time she invited Wallach into her room – she took her guitar and played “Baby” by Justin Bieber.
“She's brilliant when it comes to music,” Feldman said. “People do not realize how much she knows, just intuitively.”
This duo gradually turned into quite a jam circle with friends, friends of friends and other students they picked up along the way: Feldman, Abe Rubin and Coby Grant-Krenz on guitar, Chris O’Brien on bass, Alexis Robles on drums and of course Wallach as lead vocals. It never occurred to her when they were renting out practice rooms in Chicago during Winter Quarter that they would become a band.
“It was just people I liked to jam out with,” Wallach said. “Never ever, even up until the day of that first concert, did I want to perform.”
Grant-Krenz said he was “blown away” the first time he heard Wallach sing. Her smooth voice and charming personality made for a great first impression in Feldman’s dorm room, he recalled. Behind the scenes, he said, he's always admired her “goofy, energetic and playful spirit.”
Tavern soon became a hot commodity at fraternity parties and various community gatherings. Wallach attributes Tavern’s rise in popularity to the uniqueness of the students at Northwestern.
“I think it was so perfect here because these are the kids that would rather see live music than get drunk and dance to house music,” Wallach said. “We pretend like we're so hardcore, but people prefer a little smooth jazz over rap music.”
Despite all the success, she’s certain that leading a band is not her career-move. Wallach, influenced by female comedians she observed last summer while working at The Stand, a comedy club in New York City, hopes to write her own material someday.
But for the time being, Wallach and the band are preparing for their biggest show yet.