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The Best, the Rest and the Mess: Innings Fest

The spring classic returns to Tempe with Eddie Vedder, Green Day, and more
Green Day Innings Fest
(Credit: Craig Cummins)

It’s not quite the kickoff of the 2023 festival season (that would be Coachella next month), but Innings Fest is essentially the spring training of the concert calendar. Artists are working on their proverbial swings and shaking off the cobwebs to warm up for the upcoming year on the road. That’s one of the joys of this no-frills Tempe, Az., event in front of a friendly crowd in (mostly) ideal weather conditions. For the second year in a row, we were at the Arizona edition of Innings Fest (there’s one in Florida taking place next month) to take in all the sights and sounds. – Daniel Kohn

Andrew McMahon played hits from all three of his bands at Innings Fest. (Photo by Craig Cummins)


The Best:

Playing the Hits:

From Andrew McMahon performing a trio of hits from Everything in Transit along with “I Woke Up in a Car,” to the Offspring and Weezer both performing nearly every one of their classic tunes (including the latter’s surprise hit cover of Toto’s “Africa”), nearly every big name at Innings Fest made the intelligent festival decision of primarily giving the fans what they want to hear. Green Day might’ve gone a touch heavy on its American Idiot-and-later material given the age of the crowd and other bands, but its pyro-filled set was more about the spectacle anyway. – Josh Chesler


I said it last year and I’ll say it again: every festival should have a batting cage. Of course, this being a baseball festival, it made perfect sense to be aligned thematically. Besides taking a few swings, attendees could also throw a pitch and see its speed displayed on a radar gun and dive onto a field of foam to make a game-saving catch. – DK

Repeat after us: More. Festivals. Need. Batting Cages. (Photo by Craig Cummins)

Randy Johnson, concert photographer:

One of the best elements of Innings is the ability for fans to hobnob with baseball players from the past. This year, local hero and Baseball Hall of Famer Randy Johnson took it to another level. The Arizona Diamondbacks World Series champ has become quite the accomplished photographer in the years since he hung up his glove and cleats, but imagine seeing the Big Unit in the photo pit during Green Day or Weezer? Even better, the man has excellent photographer etiquette. It’s impossible to shoot when someone slightly taller than you is blocking your view, much less someone who is 6’10” like him. Johnson respectfully stood in the back of the pit, capturing his shots while letting the smaller folks get theirs. Now that, my friends, is class. – DK

Baseball x Music = Good

A concert in Arizona in February is a good idea. Having a themed festival to coincide with the start of spring training is a better idea. Combining that with artists who are baseball fans is a terrific idea. Most of the folks who performed are baseball fans, leading to fun moments like when Umphrey’s McGee members and Eddie Vedder (who reflected on 1990s Seattle with Johnson) joined former Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster for his Off the Mound podcast. Booking artists who get the spirit of the fest will allow it to flourish and may help MLB with that pesky marketing issue it has been dealing with for years. – DK

Eddie Vedder on the songwriter day of Innings Fest. (Photo by Craig Cummins)

The Mess:

The layout

Though we grumbled a bit last year about the festival’s footprint, nothing changed. This year, there were slightly more people, which led to more bottlenecks getting from stage to stage, which … weren’t close. Sure, it’s smart to have a festival laid out this way so the stage sounds don’t cannibalize each other. But in the absence of overlapping set times, it feels like there could be some better solution than having to haul ass with barely anything in between the stages, save for several bar stands with incredibly long lines. Tempe is a great place to hold this festival, but there’s got to be another way to set up the venue, right? If that happens, then there could be more to do and its full potential can be reached. – DK

Sound Issues:

There seemed to be some issue with the PA system on the main stage, as the volume was frequently wavering from excessively loud to too quiet to hear. Things seemed to be primarily addressed by the time the headliners hit the stage, but it made for a less-than-ideal listening experience through a good chunk of the weekend. Add in a couple of other odd technical difficulties (Taylor Momsen’s microphone was completely inaudible for the first verse of the Pretty Reckless’ set), and it just generally wasn’t the best weekend for Innings Fest’s sound team. – JC

No Arizona Bands:

Call me old-fashioned, but I’m generally of the belief that most festivals are better if they have at least one or two local bands on the lineup. Whether it’s an opportunity to give a rising act from the local scene its biggest stage or an evening slot for some hometown heroes, it just makes sense — particularly for small-to-mid-sized festivals like Innings Fest. This year, there wasn’t a single act from the Grand Canyon State. Throwing Jimmy Eat World in the penultimate spot on Sunday would’ve given the lackluster second day some much-needed oomph, or what about the Maine or AJJ? Authority Zero could’ve filled an afternoon set, or even someone like JPW opening the side stage. Fuck it — Innings Fest needs the Format next year to set things right. – JC

The Offspring had the crowd dancing like no one was watching. (Photo by Craig Cummins)

The Rest:

Dancing Moms

Look, it’s a well-known fact that white people fucking love the Offspring, and if there was any doubt about that, one look at the Innings Fest crowd should convince anyone. But all throughout the weekend, elder millennial and Gen X moms could be found having the time of their lives (Green Day pun intended) while the kids stayed with a babysitter. To which we say, good for them. They deserve it. – JC

Great Attire

Whether it was the dudes wearing t-shirts with phrases like “Bukkake ruined by carpet” or “I like getting fucked but not by my government,” the lady with the “Daddy Issues” crop top, or the punk rock youth with their battle jackets, there were some interesting sights at Innings Fest. There were obviously plenty of baseball jerseys and band tees too (and the occasional black short-sleeve dress shirt with a red tie, from Green Day’s American Idiot era), but shout out to the people who wore their Sunday’s best. – JC

The custom jerseys were out in full force at Innings Fest. (Photo by Craig Cummins)

Two completely different lineup vibes

Microfests are becoming popular (after the great festival crash about a half-decade ago) because there’s a certain flavor to them. Obviously, baseball is the overarching theme here, but there were clearly two distinct days: rock day and singer/songwriter day. Guess which one was more packed? It’s good to spice things up, but maybe next year, the fest should incorporate a little on each day so things aren’t so tilted in one direction or the other. – DK