The first ever Innings Festival really knocked it out of the park. Over three days, the festival gathered spring training fans at the end of the season for a huge celebration of baseball and music.
Friday captured a younger, more rock-oriented crowd with acts like Queens of the Stone Age, Young the Giant, Cold War Kids, and Eagles of Death Metal. Bishop Briggs opened the main stage and concluded an energy-filled set with radio hit “River”. At 4:30pm on a Friday afternoon the main stage crowd was filled out, which was the first indication that Innings Festival was a success. Electro-pop wildcard Sylvan Esso took the main stage next. While lead singer Amelia Heath strutted around and danced in six-inch platform tennis shoes, producer Nick Sanborn concocted perfect sounds while set to a perfect sunset background. Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal lead rock n’ roll worship on the Right Field stage starting the set out in a clergy robe and continuing on to play with vigor for an entire hour. Fans of Eagles of Death Metal and Queens of the Stone Age were pleasantly surprised when Josh Homme took the stage to drum on the band’s finale before his set on the main stage. Young the Giant had an amazing performance that was all kinds of moody and dynamic at the same time. Lead singer Sameer Gadhia won best dressed of the day with a bright orange jumpsuit. Then Josh Homme returned to the stage for Queens of the Stone Age’s headlining set. The show opened with hits “If I Had a Tail” and “My God is the Sun” followed by many many more. The strut of Josh Homme and the stage movements of guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen resulted in the perfect rock experience and proves rock is not dead.
White Reaper, one of our favorite young Los Angeles rock bands, opened up the main stage on Saturday. It was amazing to hear the pop hooks set to the background of rock. Hometown heroes Gin Blossoms drew the biggest crowd of the day, and it was a picturesque set along the river with the bridges in the background. Originally from Tempe, the lead singer proclaimed during the early songs of the set, “We’ve returned to our hometown to kick ass and chew bubblegum. And we’re all out of bubblegum”. Local Natives’ set was a home run. They delivered a dreamy set full of harmonized choruses and aided by a sparkling light show. Between Local Natives and The Avett Brothers, The Decemberists’ set seemed to fall short. However, their cynicism was amusing and everyone enjoyed, maybe a little too much, the newer track “Everything Is Awful”. Ending the night was the energetic Avett Brothers. There was not one moment lacking of energy and the set was the perfect blend of songs full of desperation and songs full of happiness.
Sunday was the day for country. Coincidentally, it drew the biggest crowd between the three days. Counting crows was the outfielder in the game of country but nonetheless had an eager audience and delivered all of their hits. One of the highlights of the weekend came on Sunday when Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Jake Peavy stopped by the fast pitch activation to sign baseballs, help with technique, and even show off a little. Meanwhile on the Right Field stage Luke Combs was the embodiment of country and got fans to rally together to sing about exactly what you’d expect a country song to focus on, beer cans. Dispatch brought a flavor of jam rock to a day of country. They also brought some politics with them, dedicating a song to “all those high school kids leading the way, knocking some sense into the grownups”.
In the end, the festival was a fantastic experience. It was a family-friendly event that really appealed to everyone. With games galore where fans could pitch, bat, and hit it out of the park, there was no excuse for any down time and waiting around at this fest. Sponsors like Malibu Rum and Glenfiddich Whiskey offered unique experiences for fans to taste signature drinks and relax in decorated areas of the grounds, which was brilliant for everyone over 21 looking to escape crowds for a bit. This weekend was the start of something great in Tempe, AZ for Innings Festival. Nothing can say it better than Chris Stapleton said on Sunday during his set: “Baseball and music. It doesn’t get much better than that”.
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