Despite the fact that Spring Training isn’t happening this year, the Innings Festival still returned to the February baseball hotspots of Tempe, Arizona and Tampa, Florida. Green Day and the Lumineers are headlining the East Coast rendition in March while Foo Fighters and Tame Impala hit the desert this past weekend. The Arizona location featured a wide variety of baseball legends hanging out and quite a few activities.
But it wasn’t all home runs. SPIN was on the ground at Tempe Beach Park for all of the rocking out and baseball fun. Here’s The Best, The Mess & The Rest of everything from this weekend.
St. Vincent — Dave Grohl might’ve been the biggest rock star there by name, but St. Vincent was clearly the most interesting/relevant one right now. The Foos and My Morning Jacket dominate the “dad rock” category at this point, and even Tame Impala fans wouldn’t use words like “exciting” to describe their stage show — which isn’t ideal for a giant headliner after a multi-day festival. The evolution of Annie Clark and her Bowie-esque style still remains a solid large-stage spectacle 15 years after Marry Me introduced her to much of the world. (Josh Chesler)
Interactivity — All festivals would be better off if they have a batting cage. Sorry, those are the facts. Outside Lands had this way back in 2009, but at a baseball-themed fest, having a batting cage, speed pitch and being able to make a diving catch makes sense. But, having a batting cage at all just makes things even better. Who wouldn’t want to take hacks? Though the lines were surprisingly small since the area was a bit tucked away, which was a win for those who found it. In fact, we should install one at SPIN HQ. Not a bad idea, right? (Daniel Kohn)
Dashboard Confessional’s “Just Like Heaven” Cover — Chris Carrabba and crew busted out all of their classic hits on Saturday afternoon (albeit with a slightly different sound), but perhaps the best of the bunch wasn’t actually theirs. Although obviously very different bands, it somehow made sense for Dashboard to cover the Cure. It worked musically, and I can’t imagine Robert Smith having any interest in baseball or performing in the middle of an Arizona afternoon. (JC)
Ryan Dempster — Look, I remember Ryan Dempster on the Cubs. I remember thinking he was a perfectly serviceable big league starter (which was much further than I ever got in my baseball career). But I can’t say I’d thought about him since the last time there was nothing better than one of his afternoon starts on TV and I was on summer vacation. If anyone had a “breakout performance” in my eyes at Innings Festival, it was Dempster. In addition to his live taping of his Off the Mound podcast (which seems like something I’d totally listen to if I was interested in podcasts and/or baseball), Dempster cracked jokes while throwing in the pitching tunnel (“Is anyone here an orthopedic surgeon?”) and walked around shaking hands, chatting, and giving pitching advice to fans in the baseball-focused area. I probably still wouldn’t recognize him on the street, but I’m certainly more of a Ryan Dempster fan now than I was before this weekend. (JC)
The Layout — Innings Festival is only its fourth year (and was one of the last fests before the pandemic) so the rust can be excused. But… having two stages so far apart that you need either one of those crappy Bird scooters or a golf cart to reach isn’t ideal. Also, folks, let’s not put all of the drinks in one spot and food in another… So. Far. Apart. There’s gotta be a better way, especially when the food lines during peak hours (3-8 pm) were over an hour-long each. If this can get tightened up, this fest has a lot of potential. (DK)
Logistical Issues — Aside from the terrible decision to put the only two food areas on opposite ends of a mile-long festival (see above), there were just a few hiccups at Innings Festival that seemed like they could’ve been avoided. Weird bottlenecks, a seemingly random layout, little signage, and the occasional water shortage were all less than ideal. Combine that with rumors that some of the hotels listed on the festival’s website apparently didn’t exist and the chaos/traffic of a festival letting out directly on to Tempe’s famously raucous Mill Avenue, and it just seems like the organizers could’ve spent a little extra time on the scouting reports for some aspects. (JC)
Non-Baseball Fan Artists — Seems like an obvious one, right? However, few, if any, mentioned their allegiances to their favorite ballclub. Maybe that’s due to MLB being on the verge of idiotically canceling games or whatever, but this is a baseball-themed fest. It might as well have some artists who are knowledgeable on the topic, right? There were a few who are, but it should be more than a fraction. Not everyone is gonna be as diehard as the participants in our baseball preview, but at least be knowledgeable enough to throw out baseball cliches from the stage! (DK)
Throwback Baseball Jerseys — The attendees stepped it up wearing classic gear. Too bad I forgot to wear my Mike Piazza Mets hat to show Roger Clemens. There would have been some real fireworks if that were the case (and if I broke my bat at the batting cage too hehe). (DK)
People-Watching — As a music journalist/fan, you get pretty used to the festival crowd. But the baseball angle really added a different element to things at Innings Festival. The combination of dad rockers, regular festival attendees, and baseball megafans there to meet/speak with/get autographs from their favorite players made for an interesting combination — but those diehard signature-seekers definitely take the cake for the oddballs of the weekend. (JC)
Passed-Out Fans — I get that it’s been a long day, but a surprising amount of fans were asleep in the dirt by Saturday night. C’mon, that’s not sanitary! (DK)