top of page
Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Arizona

Solid Contact: INNINGS Festival Delivers a Dynamic Doubleheader

Story & Photos: Cory Weaver

Batting lead-off for music festival season, the Innings Festival in Tempe, Ariz., equals what many baseball enthusiasts dub “the most exciting play in baseball:” the inside-the-park-homerun. Formed in 2018, Innings is a celebration of baseball and music, and in 2024, it once again made solid contact—like a line drive to the left-center gap.


This year’s lineup had some heavy hitters with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hozier, Macklemore, 311, Phantogram, Young the Giant, Greta Van Fleet and hometown heroes, Jimmy Eat World. Apart from basking in sunshine and 80-degree temps, Innings Fest is a top-10 must attend festival. The two-day, now two-weekend (a newly formed second weekend is cleverly named “Extra Innings”) baseball-forward festival is more than manageable for the festival-goer. There’s plenty of festival activities, such as batting cages and speed-pitch machines in the left field portion of the grounds; “Off the Mound,” a talk show hosted by World Series winning pitcher, Ryan Dempster; and appearances by former MLB stars such as Brett Saberhagen, Dave Stewart, Luis Gonzalez, Mark Grace and Dontrelle Willis.


The staggered, fan-friendly music schedule was also a plus, as those in attendance were able to catch bands on both the Right Field and Home Plate stages, which were about a quarter of a mile apart, just in case someone went over their allotted time slot (ahem, Macklemore). Speaking of which, lets dive into the music.

First and foremost, this year’s festival was all about rock n’ roll, and it’s a breath of fresh Arizona-dry-heat air. While mainstream is sweeping rock n’ roll under the rug and proclaiming its imminent death year in and year out—there’s no denying the 25,000+ daily attendees who came out to this year’s festival. Friday kicked off just past high noon with the Phoenix-based foursome Breakup Shoes, whose beachy low-key surf rock gingerly greeted fans into the festival from the Right Field stage.

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Arizona, Ryan Dempster, Dontelle Willis
Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Arizona, Ryan Dempster, Torey Lovullo

Former Marlin and Cub Ryan Dempster hosted "Off The Mound," a talk show featuring musicians and baseball stars. (L-R) Rookie of the Year and World Series Champ, Dontrelle Willis and Arizona Diamondback's Manager, Torey Lovullo.

From this melodic, welcoming-with-open-arms vibe, the day quickly bled into a no-let-down schedule with San Francisco’s Taipei Houston. The brotherly duo of Layne and Myles Ulrich may have reminded the crowd of White Stripes, but seemed more Local H. The brothers are the offspring of Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, but the only thing they have in common with the co-founder of the biggest metal band of all time is their last name. The brothers wrote, performed and produced their entire LP, Once Bit Never Bored, themselves and there’s no metal to be found—just an abundance of fuzzy bass and unrelenting, white-knuckle rock ’n’ roll.

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Taipei Houston

Taipei Houston, savage rock on the Home Plate Stage

From one rock band to the next, on the same stage an hour later was Bully. Nashville’s hearty, punk-rock take on alt-rock is much more suited for a small, dark venue with only elbow room to be had, but they battled the heat on the sun-soaked stage with as much gumption as anyone could. It almost felt as if frontwoman Alicia Bognanno was yelling the lyrics to “Days Move Slow” and “Feel the Same” at the sweltering heat with as much vigor as possible.


Down the dust-covered warning track of this baseball-themed festival were Toronto’s newly crowned darlings of indie rock, The Beaches. They had just had a helluva week, playing two sold-out shows at L.A.’s Troubadour and performing on Kimmel before trotting on over to Tempe for an hour. Their ultra-charming (yet flecked with Canadian nicety) irreverence is a calling card that few all-female bands are allowed—it seems as if there’s always someone waiting with a baited thumb to press down upon them—much like their predecessors The Go-Go’s when they were too punk for their own sex and had to go pop to be accepted (check out the 2020 documentary called “The Go-Go’s”). These days, the ladies are doing what they want, and The Beaches are no different. They take on most any form of the multifaceted genre that is rock and deliver each time. Thousands flocked to their set, and it’s clear that their days as a festival undercard are over.

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, The Beaches

The Beaches on the Right Field Stage.

Every festival needs a party band and there’s no one better to check that box than the duo of Matt & Kim (sorry, Marc Rebillet). Playing their first show of 2024, Matt & Kim may have admitted that they were shaking some rust off, but the crowd that came to the Right Field stage did not share the same sentiment—they were ready for beach balls and blow-up dolls. An hour-long set with these party rockers is the perfect length.

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Matt & Kim

Party Rock with Matt & Kim on the Right Field Stage.

The midday slot on the Home Plate stage were legends 311. Nearly 34 years of “Livin’ & Rockin” was mashed into one hour, and the set teemed with nostalgia. A lot of bands get tired of playing certain songs–especially if they’ve been playing them for 30 years—whether it’s a loss in interest of the nucleus or maybe they really are just tired of it (spoiler alert: Red Hot Chili Peppers didn’t play “Under the Bridge”). But, the tightness of this brotherhood was on full display as they went from hit to hit to hit—from Music, Grassroots, the Blue Album, Transistor, Soundsystem and more—delivering a set that was worth the price of admission on its own. “Beautiful Disaster” had everyone there to see 311 entranced and everyone there who may have known a few songs wowed. With nearly 10,000 concerts under their belt, it’d be easy to call 311 a well-oiled machine, but that would be an insult to the joy they display on and off stage. 311 is a lifestyle, and for every 20-plus-year fan who attended, a brand-new fan was made.

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, 311, Nick Hexum, P-Nut

Nick Hexum and P-Nut of 311 during "Beautiful Disaster."

I made my way back to the Right Field stage to take in Phantogram—a must see of Day 1 of the festival. The lustrous allure of the duo’s electronic rock ensnares you. As the first note of “Don’t Move” dropped, the crowd frenzied into an ear-piercing roar, and a smile on Josh Carter’s face emerged. Throughout their 11-song set, Sarah Barthel paced the stage from left to right, from bass to drum/sample machine and back to vocals. Clad in all silver, Barthel owned the stage and the sunset—a perfect setting to take in Phantogram. From guitar-driven ballads like “When I’m Small” to anthems like “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore,” the contrast heard in their music defines the group.

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Phantogram, Sarah Barthel, Josh Carter

Phantogram on the Right Field Stage.

Closing out the Right Field stage were hometown heroes, Jimmy Eat World. Frontman Jim Adkins is the Paul Rudd of rock ’n’ roll—he hasn’t aged a day since I interviewed the band in 2001 at Family Arena in St. Charlies, Mo. Coupled with changeless features, his vocals were spot on as the 10,000-plus fans were crazed as they opened with “Praise Chorus” followed by “Sweetness,” and suddenly, it was 2003 again. Twenty years since the release of Bleed American, and they wear it well as they ravaged through 15 songs in an hour, closing out with “Bleed American” and “The Middle.”

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Jimmy Eat World, Jim Adkins

Still hungry: Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World on the Right Field Stage.

The second-to-last band to play the Home Plate stage on Day 1 was Led Zeppelin-birthed Michigan rockers, Greta Van Fleet. The exuberant Frankenmuther, Mich., group channeled their inner Plant and Page, but were caught somewhere between the look of Motley Crue and 1960s sexy pajama cosplay. Whether you hand flappingly shrill-scream love the band or pooh-pooh them as rip-offs, two things are certain: they sell tickets, and they embrace and lift up rock ’n’ roll. Many fans were eagerly anticipating “Highway Song,” and a large number had been waiting at the barriers since the festival gates opened to lovingly gaze upon the Kiszka brothers. Throughout the day, unknown and well-known bands impressed, but there was more of a letdown with the main-stage evening acts, and GVF was no different. Lead singer Josh Kiszka was basically screaming through songs…perhaps to match pitch with the droves of younger fans? And the guitar prowess of twin Jake Kiszka is serviceable, but if you play fast enough it may sound like he’s doing something really cool, which came off a bit sloppy at times. Overall, the group was good, and the crowd rocked out considerably.

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Greta Van Fleet

Brothers in arms: Josh and Jake Kiszka of Greta Van Fleet on the Home Plate Stage.

There’s no reaction like the one that Flea gets when he sprints on stage with his bass. Followed out by Chad Smith and John Frusciante to perform their intro jam, the Chilis were complete once Anthony Kiedis ran on stage and segued into “Can’t Stop” followed by “Scar Tissue” and “Universally Speaking.” This made a very excited crowd that had endured a day of nonstop music and a bit of heat even more excited. Unlike some of their compadres throughout the day, RHCP wasn’t as tight as they have been in the past. On “Snow (Hey Oh)” it was as if Kiedis lost interest on the refrain at the end and just mumbled gibberish into the mike, and Frusciante was extra sloppy at the end as well—a broken string perhaps? But leaving the night to RHCP is a safe bet.

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers closing out the Home Plate Stage.

Saturday was a bit cooler temp-wise and, once again, the lineup was formidable. Oakland (via L.A.) indie rock trio Finish Ticket set things off on the main stage with old hits “When Night Becomes Day” and “Dream Song” from their Elektra Records release. Vocalist Brendan Hoye draws comparisons to Young the Giant’s Sameer Gadhia—not bad since YTG would be on the same stage a little later in the day.

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Finish Ticket

Brendan Hoye of Finish Ticket early Saturday on the Home Plate Stage.

Next on the Home Plate stage was Nashville’s post-punk rock ’n’ rollers, The Criticals. Clad in black, they vibe heavy into the realm of The Strokes but deep down, they have a lot of The Hives in them. They led off with “Good Lookin,” an anthem that sounded like an American version of a late ’60s mod Brit-rock tune. I was familiar with the group as I caught them last year when they played Central Stage in Midtown St. Louis, and the group has just gotten tighter and more relentless—a new skin that has made them feel ready for stardom.

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, The Criticals

Parker Forbes and Cole Shugart of The Criticals direct from Nashville on the Home Plate Stage.

What can we say about Young the Giant that isn’t 100% great? They show up, they leave everything on stage, and you love it. You’ve heard “My Body” and “Cough Syrup” a thousand times, yet you sing every word as if it didn’t hit you the same when it was heard in 2008. The thing about great songs from nearly a generation ago is that they’ve become the soundtrack of your life, and you and the band are still around to hear them. YTG is more than just a two-hit wonder and they laid it on with “Something to Believe In,” “Mind Over Matter,” “Superposition” and even threw in a jarring rendition of Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality.” 

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Young the Giant, Sameer Gadhia

Sameer Gadhia of Young the Giant on the Home Plate Stage.

I was really excited for Cannons, since I’ve missed them the past few times I had a chance to see them. The indie alt-rock trio fronted by the ever-gleaming Michelle Joy was the highlight on the Right Field stage on Day 2. Their set was anything but a “Bad Dream.” Joy was engaging, clad in a sparkling, bedazzled one-piece with killer knee-high silver boots—a classic glam look coupled with rock is never a bad thing.

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Cannons, Michelle Joy

Michelle Joy fronts Cannons on the Right Field Stage.

Macklemore was the odd one out here—serving as a ringer of sorts to add another big name to balance out Day 2 with Day 1 of the festival. The only non-rock artist of the weekend added a little spice to the evening, and he hit the stage 10 minutes late for an hour slot. He built up a rapport with the audience who had just been chanting “Ben” off-and-on while they waited for him to grace the stage. He bantered with the crowd about his week-long stay in the Phoenix area, playing glow-in-the-dark mini golf with his son and enjoying his time while in the Grand Canyon state. He lit up the crowd with his hit “Thrift Shop” early on in the set, as well as his other big hit, “One Love,” after a plea for the people of Palestine. After that, he leaned into a lot of his latest songs and, quite frankly, they started to blend together and sound the same. Something that always leaves a bad taste is when an artist decides to go over their set time—which is exactly what Macklemore did. I’m sure he would’ve been cut off if the other stage was closer, but he was allowed to finish off “Can’t Hold Us,” an appropriate response to bucking the curfew of his set and probably the opposite reaction when he’s paying the fine for his misjudgment.

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Macklemore

Fresh from the thrift shop to the Home Plate Stage, Macklemore had the crowd frosty. 

Opposite of the set before on the Home Plate stage was Hozier. In the world of music festivals, I’ve not seen one where Hozier was the headliner, but it completely worked at this less-than-normal festival. Sure, he’s not going to wow you in a way that the Red Hot Chili Peppers did the night before, but the way Hozier can rile some kind of emotion from a deep, dark, compartmentalized place within you proves he nothing less than a star and just a plain good dude. He unites many walks of life and, for the entirety of his set, everything was great—and filled with passion on a weekend that was great. The Irish troubadour has always had a cinematic quality, and his set fell nothing short of. His 19-song setlist, which included all the hits, including “Take Me To Church,” “Jackie and Wilson,” “Francesca” and “Like Real People Do” fell nothing short of a true headlining set. 


Overall, Innings Festival is the perfect lead-off hitter for music festival season, and they hit a homerun, which is really all you can ask of a music festival. See ya next year.

Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Hozier
Innings Festival 2024, photo: Cory Weaver, Tempe, Hozier

Man of the people: Hozier closes out the Innings Festival.

bottom of page