Thousands of men and women of all ages flocked to a 25-acre parcel of public land under brilliant blue skies for two days of alternative rock nirvana.
The nirvana alluded to was the third-annual Innings Festival, which took place on Feb. 29 and March 1 at Tempe Beach Park.
The baseball-centric festival brought top-notch acts like The Dave Matthews Band, Weezer, Jason Isbell, Death Cab for Cutie together over the weekend.
It also brought several current and retired MLB players, including former San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox pitcher, Jake Peavy, as well as current Diamondbacks flamethrower, Archie Bradley, to name a few.
The music itself was no slouch either, with a two-day tour de force of AAA format (Adult Album Alternative) favorites playing memorable sets at the event.
Saturday’s exploits included a 45-minute sprint by Timothy Showalter (AKA, Strand of Oaks), with indie stalwarts Dr. Dog providing a stellar set of their own.
The night’s lineup was no slouch, either, with Portland’s Portugal, The Man and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit playing rip-roaring sets of their own.
The former’s 75-minute lineup included a one-of-a-kind introduction that included a clip from Mike Judge’s ‘Beavis and Butt-Head,’ followed by a three-song medley that included parts of songs by Metallica and Pink Floyd, before transitioning seamlessly to the band’s mega-hit from 2013, Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue.
Isbell, formerly of Drive-By Truckers fame, tore through his 75-minute set with gusto, playing a host of fan favorites, while taking time to mingle with the crowd as well.
The affable southern rock front man blitzed his way through the band’s most popular tracks, giving everyone a moment to remember.
Dave Matthews closed out Saturday in front of a frenzied crowd that stretched out in a seemingly endless fashion, providing a perfect finish touch to the festival’s opening day.
Sunday’s lineup was no slouch either, with lesser-known acts, like Wilderado and Nikki Lane providing lovely openers on a sun-splashed afternoon.
Mid-lineup highlights on Sunday included a rip-roaring, rock heavy set by English band, The Struts, as well as a toe-tapping set by Colorado alternative rock mainstays, Big Head Todd and the Monsters.
The lone true folly on Sunday was the sickness that shut down Death Cab for Cutie front man, Ben Gibbard, during the band’s set on Sunday night.
Gibbard did his best to make amends for his untimely setback, telling the crowd, ‘I’m sorry guys, I’m sick as [expletive].”
Such a setback could not derail what was otherwise a perfect two-day event, with Weezer closing out the event to much fanfare.
The indie darlings finished the final day off right, playing their old-time hits, like “Buddy Holly” and “Undone,” while mixing in a recent hit, in their cover of Africa’s “Toto.”
Innings Fest hit all the high notes that a music festival should, with no overlapping sets and a relatively small, but action-packed lineup.
There were several hiccups, such as the technical difficulties that almost derailed singer ZZ Ward’s set on Saturday afternoon.
Those setbacks could not keep the third installment of Innings Festival from being a success, however, as the positives of the weekend far outweighed the very few negatives.
The addition of baseball activities, such as a batting cage and a pitching installation, made the event a one-of-a-kind spectacle—melding music and sports in a way that few others can.
The discussions on the event’s Left Field Stage by professional ballplayers, both past and current, were fascinating to a lifelong baseball fanatic—giving me another reason to venture around the three-stage setup during the weekend.
The five-minute breaks between sets made for a sporty commute between the two main music stages, but never got in the way of enjoying the acts on both days.
All in all, the event, which was put on by industry stalwarts, C3 Presents, was well-run and indicative of an event that has staying power in the Valley.
The lineup for the fourth installment of the festival, on Feb. 27 and 28, 2021, has yet to be announced.
Rest assured that next year’s event will be a can’t-miss spectacle, regardless of who takes the stage in Tempe.
That’s what having a well-oiled machine of a festival will do for you, and that’s just what Innings Festival brings to the Valley’s music scene.
Perhaps the best description of the weekend came from Showalter, who was making his festival debut on Saturday afternoon.
Showalter, who grew up in Goshen, Indiana, waxed nostalgic about his childhood love for the Phoenix Suns and their former star forward, Charles Barkley.
He told the crowd about a former Starter brand jacket he wore with the Phoenix Suns logo emblazoned on its back—tying it all together as a way to thank the city and festival organizers for including him and his band on the lineup.
Showalter told the crowd he felt “spoiled” to be included on a lineup that featured so many legendary acts.
Looking back, it’s hard not to share Showalter’s sense of wonderment, as Innings Festival really did bring the house down for two straight days.