Baseball caps, fanny packs, and Incubus and Pearl Jam T-shirts filled the ever-growing crowd outside the gates to Tempe Beach Park. People danced in place as they waited for security to search their bags and let them through.
Clouds and rain teased the crowd into worry for a cold, dreary day; however, the sun prevailed presenting a bright day for people to enjoy the bands at the Innings Festival.
Created by the organizers of Lollapalooza, Innings Festival brings Spring Training and music together for Arizona residents. This year’s festival was March 2 and March 3 at Tempe Beach Park to serve another round of baseball and rock n’ roll.
Saturday, March 2
Walking to the festival with cloudy skies no one would guess a beautiful day was in the works. Doors opened up at 1 p.m. with a large crowd decked out in wrist bands, hustling to get inside the park.
The day offered bands and artists Dorothy, The Baseball Project, Black Pistol Fire, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Guster, Blues Traveler, Grouplove, Cake, Sheryl Crow and Incubus.
Baseball players Shawn Estes, Bret Saberhagen, Huston Street, Eric Byrnes, Jake Peavy, Ryan Dempster and Roger Clemens attended Saturday to fill the needs of sports fans.
Here are a few highlights from Saturday’s lineup:
Festivities started right away at 1:30 with Dorothy, a high-energy rock ‘n’ roll band with an occasional blues twist. It’s the type of music that makes people bounce on their toes and bang their heads.
The crowd started small, but grew as Dorothy performed for its designated hour slot. The group may have been at the side stage, but performed with a passion as if it was the band’s headlining show. Her voice carried through the field, sounding like a concert hall and not in a park.
Later, on the main stage were Tempe’s favorite sons Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. Fans packed the park to see the return of the band. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the group was very grateful to be back home. The crowd cheered and smiled in approval. The attendees sang every word to every song and danced to each beat.
By 8 p.m., a huge mob of people rushed to get to the other stage to get a good spot to see Sheryl Crow. Although not as hardcore as Dorothy, Crow and her group performed with the same passion and excitement that made the crowd move with her.
She too, expressed excitement to be a part of such a unique festival and invited the crowd to “be good and love each other.”
Many people began leaving for the main stage during Crow’s set to get good spots for Incubus.
The crowd for Incubus was large and compact with, again, many people dancing, headbanging and singing every word to every song. The Incubus crowd could be heard on the way back to the main stage from Crow.
Because Incubus was last, large crowds of people began filing out of the park to get home, get a good night’s rest and get ready for more hair-flipping music.
Sunday, March 3
Lines were shorter, but the sun was warmer. Although the thermometer said 72, it felt warmer with all of the bodies cramming at the main stage. People showed up in a timely manner to see the first group, the LA-based band The Record Company, perform at 1:45.
The lineup of Sunday included The Record Company, G. Love and the Special Sauce, Mat Kearney, Liz Phair, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Shakey Graves, Band of Horses, Jimmy Eat World and Eddie Vedder.
Baseball players in attendance that day were Matt Williams, Roger Clemens, Sean Casey, Rollie Fingers and Jim Thome.
People set up blankets and camped out to ensure their front-row spot to see The Record Company and for good reason, too. The group’s rock ‘n’ roll roots may come across in its albums, but live creates a whole new environment.
“I’ve never had so much fun being cooked in my life,” joked guitarist and vocalist Chris Vos. The Arizona sun beat down on the group, but it still filled its set with the rock ‘n’ roll people crave.
Later in the day, members of The Record Company stood in the back of the field at the main stage to watch Kearney’s performance. Kearney, playful and humorous, joked about his identity with the crowd.
“My name’s Pearl Jam,” he says after a few songs and the crowd laughs. He looks back to his pink backdrop with Mat Kearney in big white letters, “I’d like to point out this nice pink backdrop that I had no idea about. But it should say Pearl Jam, I have no idea who this guy is.”
A draw to families and young kids, many parents were dancing with their kids and swinging them around to Kearney’s upbeat songs. Kearney, a brave soul, leapt off stage, onto the ground and over the barrier. He walked confidently through the crowd and found a young girl around 5 years old to bring back up with him on stage.
Kearney had the girl direct arm swaying of the crowd while he continued to sing. She was eventually returned to her family safe, and Kearney wrapped up his set with excitement for Eddie Vedder.
Vedder came out at 9:30 by himself and a chair was waiting for him. The crowd, again overfilling the field and onto the pavement, sat waiting in anticipation for Vedder to begin.
Vedder was honest and humble while performing, often making fun of himself and the crowd as he went through his setlist. If Vedder messed up, he called himself on it and strummed whichever instrument was in his hand at the time, guitar or ukulele.
He sang many Pearl Jam favorites as well as hits of his own, but also surprised the crowd with a cover of “Maybe it’s Time” originally performed by Bradley Cooper in “A Star is Born.”
He gave out guitar picks to younger fans, one being 14, and offered to pour a glass of wine on stage to his friend Joe Maddon. He spoke about being grateful to see Arizona, specifically Tempe, grow in the way it has and reflects on how small it was during his first time coming to the state in 1991.
For both days, guests had the opportunity to practice specific baseball skills such as catching, running bases, pitching and hitting. During allotted times, the players would be at certain areas for a meet and greet with fans.
Not only could fans show the players their skills, players would watch and give feedback to attendees about what they need to do in order to improve.
On Saturday, former D-backs player Eric Byrnes was at the batting cages when a boy around 13 came to him for a ball to sign. He went into the cage to take a few swings. Once he was ready to leave the cage, Byrnes stopped him, said a few things to him and sent him back to the cage to try again.
During the same time on Saturday, former Los Angeles Angels player Huston Street was at the Speed Pitch cage, where fans could pitch a ball and see how fast they threw it. Street went into the cages with many kids and adults to help them pitch and watch their form.
Fans could also watch Off the Mound featuring Ryan Dempster, a Q and A session with former Cubs player, throughout the weekend. He spoke about his career, training and other topics outside of baseball
People enjoyed the warm weather and the combo of sports and music while sipping Coronas and enjoying the company of friends and family.
Attendees enjoyed a variety of food: from pizza to sushi burritos, there was something to satisfy any craving. Vendors handed out free Pedialyte and offered hydration stations to make sure people were hydrated throughout the weekend.
Energy slowly started to leave Tempe Beach Park as the crowd, now sleepy from the sun and spending more than 10 hours on its feet, trickled out of the park covered in dirt that got kicked up on them from the weekend.
Ears ringing and hearts happy, everyone left Innings chattering excitedly about what band was their favorite or which ball player they loved meeting the most.