Everything We Saw at the First Tampa Innings Fest | Tampa
At least you’ve heard of the Gasparilla Music Festival, so you know you won’t leave a festival that has a stacked lineup without a new favorite band or artist. Innings Fest – previously only available in Arizona – is just another installment of this ideology, and more.
On the grounds of Raymond James Stadium last weekend (not in the stadium itself, but on one of the lawns across the street), thousands of fans gathered to enjoy the bands which they remember when they were introverted in high school. It wasn’t even entirely about the music either. Naturally, the name implies that baseball would also be a major factor, and boy, was it. Literal batting cages, former baseball players from Bernie Williams to Gary Sheffield making appearances, and fans, uh, sporting the badges of their favorite baseball teams. Surprisingly, most sports fans favored the New York Mets or Philadelphia Phillies as opposed to the so-called Yankees, who had a game right next to RayJay on Sunday.
Oh, and a few times a day, former Chicago Cub Ryan Dempster hosted former baseball players in a talk show style, mostly to talk about baseball and other interests.
This festival had it all: three stages (Home Base, Left Field and Right Field), $16 cheesesteaks and two free hydration stations, much like the Florida Blue one seen at the GMF last month. Then, of course, you had the hype behind festival headliners Green Day and the Lumineers, who hadn’t been to Tampa since 2017.
Musically, New York band We Are Scientists on Home Base kicked things off, which dedicated “KIT” to Tom Brady. On stage at Right Field was Toronto-acclaimed all-female band The Beaches declaring their love for the Blue Jays and their desire to move to Florida, likely to get away from all that damn snow. And Wolf Alice, also on the Right Field stage, played more songs than “The X-Files” star David Duchovny on the Home Base stage. Singer Ellie Roswell, wearing a pink dress, sat on stage for ‘The Last Man on Earth.’
Jimmy Eat World was on the main stage for his first appearance in Tampa Bay since a 2017 show at the MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheater, and I think a fair number of fans forgot that with “The Middle”, the group also wrote “Sweetness”, another radio favorite. Incubus wasn’t bad either, with vocalist Brandon Boyd hitting the drums intro on “Megalomaniac,” only to go completely shirtless at the end of “Drive.” Out in right field, 311 was busy tearing it up as Home Base quickly filled up for the impending Green Day set, which will last nearly two hours.
“All my friends are going to say ‘gay’ in Florida!” Singer Billie Joe Armstrong replaced the “redneck agenda” line from “American Idiot” with. At his first gig since his 50th birthday, the bisexual frontman – who has mellowed with age – is immensely pissed off both by the Don’t Say Gay bill and the tragedies unfolding in Ukraine. As a result, almost every song in the set had blue and yellow lights shining on the band for at least a few seconds. “We want to tell the truth, we treat everyone the same! And tonight, we’re all gonna say ‘gay’ together, Florida!” Armstrong shouted during “Holiday.” The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band’s setlist was more or less the same as the US leg of the last summer of the Hella Mega Tour with Fall Out Boy and Weezer, except for the additions of “Stuck With Me”, Insomniac and “King For A Day”, which featured a “Careless Whisper” sax solo from the multi -touring instrumentalist Jason Freese.
Sunday dawned and at 1:30 a.m. Liz Cooper and her band took the stage in front of maybe 100 fans. The grass still had Green Day confetti from the night before, but it was hard to watch your shoes as the Nashville musician ripped through the Home Base stage. She spent a lot of time on the floor, fiddling with her pedals, but when the “Hot Sass” finale rolled around, she attempted to throw cigarettes into the mouths of two of her bandmates, who mainly used as a prop, while Liz turned on her own. “Thank you for joining us for this cigarette break,” she concluded.
After an “All Star Baseball Jam” with Bernie Williams and many others on the Right Field stage – which was not a festival of people who don’t know anything about music – Neon Trees took the Home Base stage. “Do you mind if I say ‘gay?'” asked the absolute queen of a vocalist Tyler Glenn during the group’s “Moving in the Dark” opener. Glenn is back on his feet after suffering a minor stroke in late 2020, and yet his stage presence felt like nothing had happened. “Is there a man touching my butt? I didn’t consent to it,” he joked as a roadie adjusted something in his back pocket. “Actually, I did. We had quite the conversation. There was a surprise cover of ‘Don’t You Want Me’ by The Human League, and of course, the closing was ‘Everybody Talks.’
Skip Marley was saluting his grandfather with a number of Wailers covers on the Right Field stage, and he even ripped off his own already well-received solo works, including his collaborations with HER and Popcaan. OAR tossed playing cards into the crowd during “It Was A Crazy Game Of Poker”, which would actually continue flying throughout the “Missing Pieces” finale. But it was Goo Goo Dolls who was happiest to be in our presence. “COVID fucked me up. It made me mentally ill,” lead singer John Rzeznik admitted on stage at Right Field. “But it makes me sane!” Appropriately, some black balloons bounced through the crowd during “Black Balloon”, all cellphone cameras went out during “Name” and on “Broadway”, Rzeznik had a harmonica solo that led into a guitar solo “Shit!” he laughs, shaking his hands.
On the Home Base stage, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats managed to go through the vast majority of his latest album, The Future, and more. The crowd watched Rateliff sit in front of a mini-organ for “A Little Honey”, and later “whoa-oh-oo-oh” to Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ “SOB”. After the Right Field stage wrapped up with a bass-heavy set, our Sunday night headliner took to the main stage at 9:20 p.m.
The Tampa Lumineers’ first shows without Neyla Pekarek kicked off with “BRIGHTSIDE,” the title track from the band’s latest album, every track of which has been performed. Like it or not, you’ll have to hear “Ho Hey” during a Lumineers concert, a segment where all of the band members joined vocalist Wesley Schultz at center stage. “It’s been five years since we’ve been back to Tampa,” Schultz admitted before embarking on “Angela,” which had to be rebooted due to skepticism around her out-of-tune guitar. “Never Really Be Mine” was inspired by band hero Bruce Springsteen, and “It Wasn’t Easy To Be Happy For You” has been described as “the easiest way to say ‘fuck you’ to somebody.” The band members briefly went into model mode before the electric part of “Big Parade” and during a snippet of The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” halfway through “Leader of the Landslide.” , keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Stealth Ulvang began dancing barefoot to the piano in his class.
Get our photos below, and let’s all hope there’s another Innings Festival in Tampa next year. Arizona has been going strong since 2018 and has had a killer lineup every year.