I honestly don’t go out to bars very often, but of all the times I’ve gone out in Nashville, probably 50% of those trips were to The Crying Wolf. It’s the only bar in town that I visited prior to moving to Nashville — its reputation preceded it.
Depending on the night, you might not notice that the long, almost narrow building has a small venue in the back. It’s the perfect room for intimate shows that still sound great and where any sized crowd feels like a party. I’ve enjoyed this room as both a musician and a fan, and that’s where I was October 9, 2019 to see my friends play in the local pop-punk bands IVEY and Borderline Natives.
IVEY is led by singer-songwriter-guitarist Ivan Ayala, who showed up just in time to plug in his guitar, sporting a Free Throw t-shirt and red sunglasses. He carries the torch of early-career Fall Out Boy so unabashedly that their debut album is titled Take This To Heart (see: Take This To Your Grave) and their set included a cover of “Sugar, We’re Going Down.” And IVEY is absolutely good enough to merit this inheritance; the song they played immediately after “Sugar” was so good, you could understandably assume that it was just another Fall Out Boy cover.
The set started with album highlight “Games” and never let up, even when Ivan gave his drummer and bassist a break to perform a somber, brand-new song with an americana twist on their typical pop-punk sound. Actually, scratch that — the word “typical” doesn’t apply here at all. Not only does the band naturally incorporate hardcore chugs and inventive drum fills into their sound, but they often move into guitar riffs and melodies that genuinely surprise. On top of this, you can add Ayala’s natural charisma, hilarious crowd interplay, and pitch-perfect singing that completely justifies his decision to forgo using any pitch-correction on his album recordings. Ending their set by throwing beach balls into the crowd, IVEY put on a great show.
Following IVEY and headlining the concert was Borderline Natives, a band that Ayala recently joined as the second guitarist and backup vocalist. Playing pop-punk with a more streamlined, alternative bent, they managed to impress for nearly thirty minutes straight. A solid set should be expected from a band that has two great singers/guitarists up front, and the way frontman Kevin Barry jived with Ayala was certainly spot-on; the harmonies were locked in and it was fun to see them trade off lead guitar riffs and solos.
However, the real strength of Borderline Natives’ set came from the incredible rhythm section; the bassist and drummer elevated the music beyond the genre constrictions you would normally expect when you hear “pop-punk.” In fact, I presume both players hail from other genres (especially the drummer, who was wearing a very metal t-shirt and who rarely resorted to the typical drum beats that most punk bands heavily rely on). Their stellar efforts proved that this once-trendy genre can still accomplish some serious rock heights. Nevertheless, the band hasn’t forgotten where they come from, as they ended their set with a fantastic and fun sing-along cover of “The Great Escape” by Boys Like Girls, ending the night on a high note where the whole crowd couldn’t help but join in.
Author’s Note: For the month of October, I have CD pre-orders available via Kickstarter. I’d love for you to consider supporting the campaign!