With 75-degree weather and lush landscape of saguaros and desert, the sun isn’t the only thing Arizona has to offer during the year. You can also expect the makings of a perfect setting for a weekend at the ballpark, rather Innings Festival 2019 at the Tempe Beach Park. Catching fly balls, pitching, and high-speed action at home plate isn’t the only thing that people show up for, of course. With this weekend’s line up of heavy hitters hitting both the music stage and the batting cages, it was an eventful weekend all around.
The festival does a fantastic job setting up smooth sailing walking to and from stages along the riverbank, giving concert-goers enough time to move to and from stages with no need to rush to catch the next band and more. So, bring your kids, they can handle it! If you plan on meeting any of the baseball legends between a beer break, or juice/water (with Pedialyte) you can do that too, while still enjoying the second half of a band’s set. No need to rush here, just enjoy the games, have some food from any of the awesome food & drink vendors, take a load off under any shady tree, play some games, or visit the record store and get yourself a vinyl record from your favorite concert performers.
Speaking of performers, the weekend started off with no rookie, that’s for sure! Dorothy, stylish as ever, stepped up to the Right Field Stage, and warmed us all up with strong, confident, empowered, female lead rock and roll vibes that we come to expect from her. Over on the Home Plate Stage, Baseball Project stepped up next. Baseball Project couldn’t be more perfectly tied to the theme of the festival, as Scott McCaughey sported his baseball jersey and famous smile interacting with every single baseball and music lover in the crowd. Alternating from the Home Plate Stage to Right Field Stage, next to batter up was Texas’ Black Pistol Fire’s two-man set. Let’s just say this set was pure fire and energy with their performance. After Black Pistol Fire, musical heavy hitters Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers hit a home run, followed by a winning Guster set, where it seemed everyone wanted to drink a beer and ogle over Ryan Miller’s Pac-man shirt. Live coverage of this fun set is sure to be on the Innings Festival page and photographed here on Ghost Cult Magazine, so you won’t miss the personal contact between Ryan and his fans after he jumped into the crowd to grab a beer and sing along with his fans.
Next Blues Traveler batted through some issues. Although John’s amp busted pretty early in their set, the sound still traveled around the park so well that their tribute to Tom Petty’s “Last Dance with Mary Jane” had fans not missing a beat. Depending on which Tom Hanks movie you love: “shit happens!” from Forest Gump or rather, the more appropriate line from A League of Their Own: “There’s No Crying in Baseball!” Group Love stepped up next giving us all awesome vibes, along with all the feels of color and dance that kept concert-goers grooving far after their set was over. The energy mellowed down a bit for Cake as the sunset. Frontman, John McCrea, didn’t come prepared with a tree per usual I’m afraid, so no fan will be planting one this year. That’s okay though! It was certainly made up for in the musical life fed to the crowd during the set. Sheryl Crow definitely inspired some tears from her fans, when she finally appeared on stage after so long. Some fans waiting 17 years just to see her live. Sheryl inspired everyone to reminisce on the good old 1990s, as friends shared stories around the park of when they first heard ‘All I want to do is have some fun.’ Incubus ran to Home Plate Stage scoring the final home run with their energetic one-hour set …and side note: Brandon’s hair, can we talk about Brandon’s hair? Incubus played all of the fan favorites, and even mixed in some Snoop Dogg’s ‘Gin and Juice’ and some Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’ covers in there too. Incubus had everyone singing along and catching their second winds before the first day’s end, guaranteed.
The second day of the festival had people coming back for more, with heavy hitters playing on both stages. Round 2 started off with California’s The Record Company. Why do you need coffee, when you have this power-trio full of true gritty rock and roll?! Next came G. Love & Special Sauce. That self-describing “spark” frontman Garrett Dutton (G.Love) is always felt in his smooth vocals, guitar, and harmonica playing… So! Please be liberal with that Special Sauce all over Ball Park’s hot dogs, and don’t be shy about this Special Sauce; we all want the secret recipe here, no doubt! Mat Kearney was definitely a fitting desert to follow with his hot pink backdrop displaying his name, for anyone that didn’t know. The ball flew out of the park with songs we’ve all come to love and vibe to in our stereos. A few to mention: ‘Ships in the Night’, ‘Nothing Left to Lose’, and even a new song to keep everyone a close fan (check his socials to find out what that is). Veteran rocker Liz Phair, lovely but definitely not an underdog in this game by any means, graced the Right Field Stage next; followed by the fabulous glitz and glamour of St. Paul and The Broken Bones.Shakey Graves was charismatic, charming, and rocked all our pants off – and I’m sure for some quite literally, as some festival attendees proposed marriage to him from the crowd. Hey, Rock and Roll is sexy!
Band of Horses started off nice and slow, letting everyone catch a little break, but didn’t wait too long before hitting us with a fast pitch by the end of their set. By the time they were done, everyone quickly followed the crowd in anticipation for Jimmy Eat World to hit the final ball out of the Right Field Stage. Local heroes Jimmy Eat World’s performance definitely delivered, as they sent many concert-goers back 20 years to the days when Jimmy Eat World took the world by storm when they delivered the album: “Clarity.” Speaking of balls, rather, baseball… the festival did cater to both music and baseball fans alike with appearances by baseball legends: Roger Clemens, Shawn Casey, Bret Saberhagen, and Shawn Estes to name a few over at the Speed Pitch and Batting Cage areas. The former MLB Players were happy to share some pointers and ignite hopes into the future generation of baseball players of all ages! What a great time watching festival attendees hang out, share stories, and take pics with some of their biggest baseball heroes. Left Field Stage host, Ryan Dempster, gave attendees a great way to know more about their favorite players as the sunset each day with up, close, personal and live interview sessions with the players. Even Pearl Jam’s Frontman and uber Cubs fan, Eddie Vedder sat with Ryan on Sunday to share his love of baseball just before taking the Right Field and hitting the final headlining musical home run of the night. Eddie played some familiar Pearl Jam hits (i.e. ‘Immortality’), but also played tribute to legends like Beatles, George Harrison, The Clash, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen. The Festival’s MLB players joined Eddie rocking on stage, standing side by side, for the final hit of the night (‘Hard Sun’, by Indio). I think we all enjoyed that moment, as much as even Eddie himself.
I suppose if you don’t mind the post music festival blues that hits pretty hard the day after, definitely make it a point to visit the Innings Fest in Tempe, Arizona each year and all social media pages and platforms. Hit thier “like/follow” links to make sure that you don’t miss out any of the future announcements since Innings Fest 2020 is already a go. Do it! Until next year players!
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY ISABEL UZCATEGUI