“Barricade or die,” I overheard from a trio of Tame Impala fans standing in front of me at the Home Plate stage at Innings Festival.
Hearing a motto like this instantly reminded me of some of my first general admission concerts.
As a young teenager, I glamorized the idea of camping out all day at a single festival stage in hopes of being front row for the headliner. My day at Sunday’s Innings Festival show would’ve been a fantasy for my high school self, who showed up hours before doors opened, stayed long after the last song to try to meet the band and (not so subtly) joined nearby strangers’ conversations as a method of making friends.
No matter the circumstances, I always wanted to be as close to the action as possible.
I dared myself to test out this festival strategy and see how close I could be for Tame Impala’s set at the end of the day. The psychedelic, alternative-pop group has always been a favorite of mine that I wanted to see, but I might’ve walked away from the performance thinking more about the crowd than I did about the music.
Gates opened at noon on Sunday, which meant I was in line outside of Tempe Beach Park at 11:40 a.m. I settled into a spot two rows behind the barricade, taking in my small dose of personal space before the music started for the day.
Fans continued to trickle in until Briscoe, the modern folk and blues band from Austin, Texas, stepped on stage. Audience members in Briscoe shirts and hats were spread across the crowd, eager to see Philip Lupton embrace the 1970s sound with his saxophone and banjo.
To my right, I saw a group of friends, who traveled 14 hours for the festival, with homemade signs, some with a traditional “I Heart Briscoe” message and some with references to the band’s EP “Flower Johnson.” They sang along to every lyric during the 45-minute set, especially making their voices heard as the band closed with their song “Hooped Earrings.”
Petey was next, easily cementing himself as one of the most unique acts of the weekend. His punk sound resembles that of Jeff Rosenstock, with observational and sometimes humorous lyrics about depression and anxiety.
In his studio-recorded tracks, dream-pop-adjacent synthesizers are often incorporated but were instead replaced with more live, distorted rock instrumentation on stage. Though his set was shorter, fans kept talking about Petey throughout the day, recalling and quoting his stage banter.
Time between sets grew longer, leading the devoted front rows to sit in the grass or take turns with friends to grab food. Games of “Heads Up” to pass time earned an audience of competitors, who eventually became teammates as they tried to correctly guess that the song we were singing was “One More Time” by Ariana Grande.
There was a visible camaraderie among the front crowd by the time Fitz and the Tantrums took the stage. The overly optimistic pop group was a refreshing hour of fun music for a day at the Home Plate stage, offering easily digestible hits like “Out of My League” and “Moneygrabber” that the young crowd was bound to dance and sing along to.
Still two hours from Tame Impala, the crowd expanded and moved closer together, standing shoulder-to-shoulder for the War on Drugs. The soft rock band’s setlist included many of Pitchfork’s most highly rated songs from 2021 but seemed to blend together into an hour of swaying and nodding among younger audience members.
From lasers to a halo of strobe lights descending from the stage’s ceiling, Tame Impala embraced being the most visually stimulating performance of the day. Fans attempted to take pictures of the optics while frontman Kevin Parker would play guitar, but no iPhone could capture the deep bass rattling the crowd’s feet or the kaleidoscopic screens that accurately reflected the band’s music.
Hearing songs like “Let It Happen” and “Eventually” was captivating to experience live. Seeing the fans who were passionate enough to brave a day of heat and allergy-inducing grass earn an hour and a half of Tame Impala’s hits was equally satisfying.