Now in its second year, Innings Festival upped the ante with a stellar lineup for the 2019 event. Boasting heavyweight headliners, appearances by MLB legends and even more food and activities, the Arizona-based festival kicked off the spring season. Skies were clear, the weather was a balmy 75 and breezy and fans of all ages packed Tempe Beach Park to see their favorite bands under the Arizona sun. Atlas was there all weekend- here’s the best of what we experienced at Innings Festival.
The New Jersey 80’s group played into the sun on Saturday afternoon, an already large crowd dancing and singing along. Best known for their hit “Run-Around”, Blues Traveler provided a solid dose of folk-accented rock , even managing to burn out singer John Popper’s harmonica amp in the middle of the performance. Fans lounged on blankets and more than one couple was spotted dancing exuberantly to the band’s excellent set.
Already one of the most eccentric bands in the indie/pop/rock world, Grouplove invited all the freaks to come out and play as the sun set on Saturday. In their first show since September 2018, Grouplove played with force, their massive crowd stretching far into the field in front of them. Dual vocalists Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi’s back and forth onstage made for a dynamic set. Grouplove also provided the wildest moments of the day- making bassist Sean Gadd drink beer from his stage shoes and a seamless (and jawdropping) transition from “Tongue Tied” into a screaming, stomping cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”.
“Thank you very much for listening, your attention span is awesome today!”
This is typical fashion for Cake, one of the weirdest bands in the world. They hung a disco ball and went to town, playing familiar tunes and even a few new ones. Watching the crowd was the most entertaining part- people of all ages and backgrounds knew these songs and were unashamedly belting them out. As the direct support for the festival’s main stage, Cake was a treat.
As the Right Field Stage headliner, Crow’s set was a parade of hits. Her music has bypassed gender and age barriers for a sound clearly loved by everyone watching. Like Grouplove, the crowd stretched as far as the eye could see, and from observing the audience, they were all there to dance. Crow was magnetic, playing through brief technical difficulties like the seasoned stage veteran she is, and keeping the audience fully entertained for the hour long duration of her performance.
Plenty of people were spotted running from Right Field to the Home Plate stage for day one’s headliner- Incubus. The 90s rockers provided the most elaborate production of the day, highlighting the entire band. Singer Brandon Boyd was captivating, his powerful voice and stage presence keeping the crowd watching until the end of the night.
St. Paul and the Broken Bones
Walking up on St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ set was something of a shock. The Alabama soul-rock group is fronted by Paul Janeway, who took the main stage in a black sequined cape. Even more shocking was Janeway’s voice- hitting soaring falsetto and soulful tenor throughout. Janeway is backed by the seven other members of the band, including a full brass section. The clear highlight was “Grass is Greener”, a slow number that caused passersby to stop in their tracks, enthralled by the power of the band’s performance.
Jimmy Eat World
Local legends Jimmy Eat World headlined the Right Field Stage on Sunday night. The set was a barrage of hits- every single song was recognized from the first notes and the huge gathering of fans sang it back. Jimmy Eat World is one of the most consistent live bands we’ve ever seen and Sunday night was no exception. “Hear You Me” was accented by planes flying overhead on their way to and from Sky Harbor (a reference not missed by the band). As always, they closed with “The Middle”, with the audience even demanding more after the last notes rang out.
Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder stripped down his headlining set, taking the stage to thunderous applause. Armed with only a series of acoustic guitars, Vedder treated his fans to a set of covers and Pearl Jam originals. The audience was ecstatic to hear Vedder’s cover of Jason Isbell’s “Maybe It’s Time” from A Star is Born- fitting, as Vedder was Bradley Cooper’s inspiration for his role in the movie. Vedder also sprinkled in several rendition of The Beatles’ music, along with James Taylor and Bruce Springsteen. A stripped back set was unconventional for a headlining music festival appearance, but the enthralled audience certainly didn’t seem to mind, singing louder than Vedder on several occasions.
Innings Festival was a fun-filled weekend, with something for everyone on the menu. We spotted everything from family groups in matching baseball jerseys, to couples enjoying the sunshine and laid back atmosphere. The wide array of food options, along with local vendors ensured that everyone found their niche to take it all in. Also spotted- baseball legends Roger Clemens, Jim Thome and more signing autographs, talking with fans and making every little kid’s big league dreams come true, if only for a moment. Innings Festival 2019 was one for the books.
Story by Olivia Khiel
Photos by Melissa Fossum (Sheryl Crow), Roger Ho (Incubus, Cake), Jim Louvau (St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Eddie Vedder, Grouplove), Charles Reagan (Incubus, Jimmy Eat World)