After working six straight morning shifts last week, a prescription dose of musical catharsis was long overdue, and Saturday’s lineup at Innings Festival delivered.
Now in its fourth year, the baseball-themed Tempe Beach Park music festival has stayed consistent, pulling each year from all corners of rock music: alternative, folk, punk and indie.
Girlhouse had the first performance of the day on the festival’s Home Plate stage, playing an upbeat cover of “A Long December” by the Counting Crows. The cover validated my choice to rock a Counting Crows tee on Saturday and was a good omen for what was a day filled with great music.
As just the third performer of the day, Del Water Gap swallowed the early-festival bullet of sound issues and set delays, both of which were nonexistent throughout the rest of the afternoon. Their 1:30 p.m. set attracted quite the crowd, and the crowd-pleasing rendition of “Ode to a Conversation Stuck in Your Throat” closed the 45-minute set.
The best thing about Innings Festival is the set times. With two stages comfortably distanced, the schedule alternates performances back and forth, with roughly five minutes in between. There’s always a natural crossfade that takes place when walking from one stage to another.
Fans also never have to worry about not seeing their favorite band play that song. No set was shorter than 40 minutes, with most of them clocking in at a full hour, more or way more (looking at you, Dave Grohl).
The Dip brought a unique blend of doo-wop, jazz and classic rock and roll. Their performances had me questioning, “bands like this still exist?” It was infectious and groovy, a little bit Temptations, a little bit Sam Cooke.
Dashboard Confessional has always been a band that has existed in the strange space between the Oasis-influenced pop alternative rock of the late ‘90s and the Fall Out Boy-influenced pop-punk of the late ‘00s. With each song’s opening electric strum, fans were left on edge wondering “Is this ‘Vindicated’?”
But then, in one glorious moment, lead singer Chris Carraba nonchalantly led in, “Here’s a song we made for a Spider-Man movie,” and that cathartic punk chorus hit as hard as expected.
Caamp, an indie-folk group from Athens, Ohio, was the performer I was arguably most excited for on Saturday. Lead singer Taylor Meier came on stage in a sling before letting fans know he was hit by a car the night before, performing remarkably unphased.
I laid supine on the not-so-well-maintained grass during their 2017 track, “See The World.” There’s something peaceful about hearing acoustic folk music with an ear to the dirt. The stand-up bass notes reverberated through the ground as the sun set over the back of the stage.
I laid half-observant of the music and half-observant of those around me.
A man next to me successfully asked a woman for her number after offering to help carry her drinks. A small child walked recklessly through the grass, stirring up speckles of grass and dust into the air and onto my sweatshirt. A younger man walked by shirtless with a neon pink ski mask and a checkered flag belt.
That seemingly endless moment captured my favorite thing about festival culture — the slices of life from every generational and ideological background converging for just one weekend.
Away from the tangential and into the historic, the sunset moment during Caamp set the scene for a hell of an evening finale, with both St. Vincent and Foo Fighters still to come on the Home Plate stage.
The enormous stage looked comically large, yet St. Vincent was still somehow too big for it. The iconic guitarist and singer performed with choreography usually only reserved for network award shows and arena tours.
Dave Grohl walked on stage at 8:46 p.m alongside the Foo Fighters. He stood for a moment taking it in before thrusting two rock and roll fists into the air, garnering an enormous reaction from the ten thousand strong in attendance.
With incredible cinematography, the symmetrical jumbotrons on either side of the stage made the performance feel like a live documentary, synthesizing jump cuts from drummer Taylor Hawkins’ hair blowing in the wind to Grohl’s frantic stage zagging.
Grohl, who once iconically donned the sticks for Nirvana, took over the drums for a long-winded cover of “Somebody to Love” by Queen. The band closed with an iconic 3-song stretch of “Best of You,” “Monkey Wrench,” and “Everlong.”
As I sang along, I went back to the moment in the grass hours earlier. I, too, wondered if everything could ever be this real forever, or if anything could ever be this good again.