The good news? Tempe’s inaugural Innings Festival was a home run; a celebration of America and spring time in Arizona, offering up acts and eats covering all the bases, that is, if perfect weather, good music and delicious food is your thing. The bad news? It’s over, and we’re all back at work.
Hosted by the folks behind Lollapalooza and ACL, yet inexplicably tied to the MLB and Spring training, this Indie rock festival was held at Tempe Beach Park from March 23 to the 25th, running alongside and in tandem with Mill Avenues 41st Annual Festival of the Arts. Thanks to the smooth wristband enter/exit scheme, alternating between the concerts and the arts scene was seamless. For most, this meant a perfect way to balance music vibes with farmers market and crafts shopping, but for this reviewer, it simply made it easier to satisfy the sudden onset of Spinellis cravings between vodka crans. Very masculine I know.
The three day lineup spanned musical acts covering sunshiney indie, to bro tank EDM, to hard rock and even contemporary country. One could trace the changing lineup by the different clothing styles and accessories going to and from the festival entrance. The boundaries stretched from Mill Ave Bridge all the way down to Tempe Center for the Arts, and thanks to some ingenious spacing, no stage got upstaged due to sound bleed.
Friday’s lineup was mondo stacked in my opinion, with Sylvan Esso, Cold War Kids, Queens of the Stone Age, and Eagles of Death Metal all performing. For the uninitiated, Eagles of Death Metal are rock and roll incarnate, guided by frontman Boots Electric, aka Jessie Hughes, a rollicking Jagger understudy in mutton chops and a leather jacket, enamored by the bombast of the 80’s, determined to channel punk fury and hair metal swagger.
Queens of the Stone Age have an absolutely monstrous stage presence and played like the multi-headed beast of yore the Hydra. They annihilated the end of the first night with the fully automatic harmonic riffage of Songs for the Dead and tied things off nicely with a mosh pit. Here’s a secret: I started the mosh pit.
The rest of the weekend brought things more to center, tapping the uber talented Avett Brothers and local heroes the Gin Blossoms on Saturday, making it the ideal setting for cozy beer sipping and sun soaking, though it’s hard to fully enjoy those feelings when Miller Lights are $9 a pop. On Sunday, Chris Stapelton drew a sizable country crowd along with Counting Crows, Dispatch, Luke Combs, and UK guitar prodigy Jake Bugg.
Overall the festival was a pleasant enough fair. Methinks there was a hard fought compromise behind the scenes to attract both the indie college crowd at ASU and the snowbird/spring training/transplant crowd, resulting in a festival lineup that had some fans picking sides, and only picking certain days to attend. But I sincerely hope that Innings Festival comes back around next year, because really, it’s a crime not to enjoy Arizona weather before summer starts to kick back into gear.