A recap of ‘Innings Festival’ 2024

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Innings Festival on Day 1 at Tempe Beach Park, Tempe, AZ on February 23rd, 2024

By Val Tapia, BADS Contributing Writer
Photos by Fred Kuhlman

Fans at The Innings Festival on Day 1 at Tempe Beach Park, Tempe, AZ on February 23rd, 2024

It’s a little tough knowing where to start when it comes to giving my observations of Innings Fest. Now in its sixth year, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s definitely growing in terms of attendance. That my friends is a good thing.

The Innings Festival on Day 2 at Tempe Beach Park, Tempe, AZ on February 24th, 2024

The first thing I noticed very quickly, unfortunately, was the amount of dust in the air both days— and it wasn’t even windy. But I digress.

Everywhere I walked, I could see clouds of dust, which is definitely not good. Thinking back the last two years of the festival, I don’t remember seeing anything like this at all. Fortunately, I wore a mask, which definitely helped. But for those with respiratory issues, I definitely felt for them.

Fans at The Innings Festival on Day 2 at Tempe Beach Park, Tempe, AZ on February 24th, 2024

The good thing was the weather was ideal for a festival. For those who don’t know, Innings Festival combines the start of Cactus League Spring Training and live music on two stages, while a smaller third stage is set up at the baseball field dedicated to former Arizona Diamondback Luis Gonzalez.

Gonzalez was also part of this year’s list of former MLB players who participated in the festival on Saturday. He was in good spirits and happy to take selfies for even happier fans.

On that point, there was a little something for every baseball fan at the Left Field Stage area, also known as Luis Gonzalez Field —whom its dedicated to– as I had just found out that day!

If you wanted to try the Speed Pitch, you had MLB players like Eric Gagne and Brandon Webb there to give some encouragement.

Or, if you wanted to try your hand at the Batting Cage, you had Mark Grace and Matt Kemp to “show off” in front of. In a good way, of course.

I think the players had just as much fun as the patrons overall. It was certainly the area where I noticed more families in general, at least in the afternoon anyway. I suppose having a good amount of food concessions around the Left Field area didn’t hurt either.

I certainly can’t leave out the live talk-show Off The Mound with host and 2013 MLB champion Ryan Dempster. He spoke to some of the musicians who appeared at the festival, most notably Mesa’s own Jimmy Eat World.

I was hoping that some members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers would’ve appeared for Off The Mound, but that didn’t happen.

I certainly can’t forget the Zia Records pop-up store on site. There was quite a bit of vinyl records (some of them autographed) from most of the artists on the Innings roster. It’s a great idea to implement and I’m happy to say it remains one of the mainstays of the festival.

Last but not least, there was indeed plenty of music on the Right Field Stage and Home Plate Stage.

311 at Innings Festival on Day 1 at Tempe Beach Park, Tempe, AZ on February 23rd, 2024

One band that stood out (as far as fan response) was 90s vets 311. If nothing else, they’ve never made any lineup changes in its roughly 34-year history. In short order, that rarely happens in popular music. Kudos to 311 for that.

Whether its songs like All Mixed Up, their cover of The Cure 1989 classic Lovesong, or the show’s finale Down, the enthusiasm from the audience never let up.

Greta Van Fleet at Innings Festival on Day 1 at Tempe Beach Park, Tempe, AZ on February 23rd, 2024

By the time Greta Van Fleet hit the stage around 6:50 p.m., the crowd was noticeably larger. With their (overstated) Zeppelin-esque sound yet (understated) Queen-like stage presence, they kicked things into full gear with opening song The Falling Sky.

I get the whole Zeppelin comparison with them. However, it’s really not that different from a band like Wolfmother. They’re both derivative of 70s rock, albeit with a 21st century contemporary spin. That’s how it should be— nothing is completely original. Nothing.

Red Hot Chili Peppers at Innings Festival on Day 1 at Tempe Beach Park, Tempe, AZ on February 23rd, 2024

What can I say about Red Hot Chili Peppers? It was quite a surprise that they were booked, but honestly, last year Green Day (I imagine) was pretty tough to follow for Innings staff regarding this year’s choice for the headlining spot. But alas, they pulled it off!

Rightly or wrongly, the 16-song set list was more “modern day” Chili Peppers than early, however, the majority of the crowd didn’t seem to mind. In fact, nothing from their 80s catalog was played— at all.

In retrospect, it’s kind of hard to imagine them not playing their glorious cover of Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground (from 1989’s Mother’s Milk). It could be argued that was indeed their “breakthrough” to a larger audience.

Be that as it may, we get songs like Scar Tissue, Californication, and The Heavy Wing. But make no mistake: the musicianship is top-notch in this band. Yet the songs never take a back seat to the chops— and rightly so I might add.

This year, Innings Fest once again hit it out of the park— and it’s not quite done yet. More to come next weekend review, The Extra Innings…

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