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Green Day by Charles Reagan for Innings AZ 2023
Green Day by Charles Reagan for Innings AZ 2023

Innings Festival Day One Reaches Highs and Lows with Veteran Punk Bands

Green Day and Co. Brought the Rock to Tempe Town Lake

Tempe’s Innings Festival naturally has big shoes to fill — dynamic headliners like last year’s Foo Fighters and appearances from esteemed baseball players are expected to draw in crowds that encapture the overlapping section of a sports buff and music fan Venn diagram. By the looks of it, 2023’s festival weekend seemed like it surpassed last year’s attendance numbers dramatically, but during a Saturday speckled with irritating wind gusts and sound issues, the crowds only made the satisfactory lineup harder to get through.

Annie DiRusso kicked off the weekend from the Homeplate Stage, and as I browsed the nearby Zia Records pop-up store tent, she was an engaging indie rock powerhouse even from afar. As her strong Lucy Dacus-like vocals and guitar work soundtracked songs of unrequited love and young adult feelings, it made me wish that Innings Festival had highlighted more female artists on their lineup. Catering to an expected audience demographic is one thing, but featuring primarily non-male artists for an audience of baseball fans (a sport that typically attracts higher proportions of males) feels half-hearted. For future years, I hope the festival prioritizes the intersectionality of both baseball and music, recognizing that it takes more than men to make a successful festival and that female sports fans do, in fact, exist (note: hi, I’m proof of that).

The Glorious Sons followed DiRusso on the main stage with the band’s lead singer parading around barefoot while performing. While most of the last year’s early afternoon acts were younger, rising artists, the Glorious Sons — as well as Right Field Stage artists the Heartless Bastards and Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness — proved to be older. Pods of fans whose ages must’ve been a minimum of 50 or 60 years old appeared to love the band; their toe-tapping and singing along to the setlist’s classic rock influences doused with instrumental teases of modern punk was infectious, making me feel a bit of FOMO for not having known about the band before.

A delightful break in the early afternoon, the Left Field stage’s All-Star Jam Hosted by Jake Peavey was a perfect blend of music and sports. The former MLB player rocked out on guitar backed by a band of friends and locals, even spotlighting a Tempe friend who led a cover of “Come Together.”

After taking a break at the media tent to grab water and jot down notes on the day’s early performers, the ultimate adrenaline-boosting line “You gotta keep ‘em separated” beckoned me to dash over to the main stage.

Sometimes, you end up as a washed-up man in the rock genre, and that’s OK to accept, as long as you don’t try to hang on to your peaked-in-the-90s persona.

Unfortunately, this didn’t reign true for the Offspring.

Momentum was high for the beginning of the band’s set. Crowds flooded around past the grass and VIP bleachers to enjoy the explosive punk group.

Punk is a hard genre to watch age, and it’s especially easy to notice during a festival that lacks focus on the young rising punk scene and instead highlights many older groups. Vocalist Dexter Holland noticeably struggled with breath control at times, and the guitarist formally known as “Noodles” even stumbled during a few guitar licks. The sound system also unexpectedly crescendoed between blaring and muted, making it difficult to enjoy the punk icons’ full set. It was hard to redeem the technical slip-ups, even with a setlist featuring a consecutive stretch of sing-along hits like “The Kids Are Alright,” “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” and “Self Esteem.”

There was no better way to wrap up the day than with a reliable setlist of Green Day’s best hits, a true remedy for a day filled with older rockers who brought attention to newer material. Billie Joe Armstrong is a captivating showman to witness from any spot in the audience — whether he was initiating a Freddy Mercury-like call and response of “ayo”s or encouraging a young fan to stage dive after joining him for the last verse of “Know Your Enemy,” it was impossible to not look forward to what the band was sharing next. Pyrotechnics and fireworks adorned the stage at varied times, reaching a peak during the theatrical, 9-minute “Jesus of Suburbia” as Tres Cool smashed the life out of his drum set and sticks.

Armstrong fittingly bid farewell to the audience with “Good Riddance.” The acoustic track was a breath of air for everyone in attendance, who appeared to undoubtably be having the time of their lives.

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