Innings Festival 2023 Day 1 – By Joshua Hertz
For my second year in a row, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to fly south to sunny Tampa for the 2023 Innings Festival! Hosted on the parking lot grounds of Raymond James Stadium, the festival merges two amazing things: live music and baseball. As some may have seen, I have just posted articles previewing the MLB’s 30 teams, which are entering the final stretch of spring training in Florida and Arizona as I write this. Safe to say, I enjoyed this combination of sports and music, and had a great time watching music from the aptly named Left Field, Right Field and Home Plate stages. Fans had the opportunity to interact with retired players such as Wade Boggs and Cecil Fielder, and check out musical acts from all across the genre spectrum. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the artists from Day 1!
Band #1: Briscoe, 1:45 – 2:30 PM @Home Plate
First off was a duo from Austin, Texas, Briscoe. They dazzled the audience with a country, funk and folk inspired sound, mixing in dueting vocals, acoustic guitars and a mix of instruments including banjo, harmonica, and saxophone. One cool moment was when band member Phillip Lupton played harmonica and banjo simultaneously, which was reminiscent of folk singer Bob Dylan.
Band #2: Cydeways, 2:30 – 3:15 PM @Right Field
On the other stage, Cydeways were the next group to rock the Innings Festival. The rock act from Santa Barbara, California pepped up the crowd with pop-punk jams infused with elements of reggae and hard rock. They set the tone for what would go on to be an amazing day of musical sets on Right Field stage.
Band #3: Joey Valence and Brae, 3:15 – 4:00 PM @Home Plate
Introduced by a DJ mixing on old-school hip hop tracks, the rap duo of Joey Valence and Brae energetically took the stage by force. Known for their Tik Tok antics and old-school rap sound, they rapped over their DJ’s turntables, with a performance and style similar to that of the Beastie Boys. They did a great job engaging the crowd, as they encouraged moshing and interacted with fans between songs. They also stuck to the baseball theming, each being clad in backwards baseball caps.
Band #4: Tai Verdes, 4:00 – 5:00 PM @Right Field
Following the old-school set of Joey Valence and Brae was the more modern sounding Tai Verdes. Verdes put together a strong performance in Right Field, generating great vibes with funk and R&B inspired pop sound. A college dropout and former basketball player at local Brandeis sports rival Babson, Verdes was among the youngest performers at the Innings Festival at 27, and has begun a promising career since breaking big during the Covid pandemic. After his set, the great vibes continued back at Home Plate when the next act took the stage.
Band #5: Japanese Breakfast, 5:00 – 6:00 PM @Home Plate
Next up was none other than a fan favorite for many of the indie themed shows on WBRS, Japanese Breakfast. The indie-pop group took the stage with an interesting array of diverse instruments, including a violin, saxophone, and a gong that band leader and singer Michelle Zauner played in conjunction with her guitar. Opening with hit songs “Paprika” and “Be Sweet”, they kept the crowd energized with their high energy indie-pop songs. Their bassist also opted to dress in baseball fashion, donning a Hanshin Tigers jersey. During the song “Slide Tackle” near the end of their set, rain began to come down in Tampa, which excited the band, and led to much of the crowd to pull out their hidden ponchos to continue enjoying the music.
Band #6: Grouplove, 6:00 – 7:00 PM @Right Field
As the rain began to subside, alt-rock group Grouplove took the stage. They kept the energy high with pop-rock hits such as “Deleter”, and the whole crowd joined in during their most popular song, “Tongue Tied”, which they mixed up by incorporating a verse from David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” into the outro. They closed out strong with their hit song “Colours”, which perfectly set up the colorful performance that would come next.
Band #7: Pitbull, 7:00 – 8:00 PM @Home Plate (pictured above)
Back at Home Plate, backed by an entourage of dancers, a backing band, and large electronic screens, a Florida native known as Mr. 305 and Mr. Worldwide, Pitbull, took the stage.(Fun fact, pitbulls are illegal in Miami-Dade County, hence why Pitbull took on the moniker, as he’s “too dangerous” for South Florida) The iconic bald rapper took the stage following an introductory sequence featuring “Eye in the Sky” and “Welcome to the Jungle” to rev up a largely growing crowd of fans, bursting through a cloud of smoke to launch into his hit “Don’t Stop the Party”. He did all that fans would expect and more, with choreography for each song, saying dale at the end of each break, and loads of special effects. His dancers were dressed to match the baseball theme, wearing outfits inspired by the Miami Marlins City Connect jersey, a team which Pitbull worked for as an entertainer before breaking big as an international celebrity. Pitbull continued to amp up his audience with hits such as “Hey Baby(Drop It to the Floor)”, “Hotel Room Service” and “International Love”. Following this, Pitbull and his dancers snuck away to change as his backing DJ performed a quick set, before Pitbull retook the stage for hits such as “Fireball” and “I Feel Good” and a medley of songs he has a featured verse in, including “On the Floor”, “I Like It” and “DJ’s Got Us Fallin’ In Love”. As he neared the end of his set, he used Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” to launch into “Feel This Moment”, before closing out with “Timber” and “Give Me Everything”.
Band #8: Weezer, 8:00 – 9:15 PM @Right Field (pictured above)
To close out the night at Right Field as the sun started to set, rock band Weezer burst onto stage in dazzling lights with their hit “Beverly Hills” . The 90;s rock outfit continue to keep the crowd excited with their iconic “My Name is Jonas” and hit songs “Pork and Beans”, “El Scorcho” and “Island in the Sun”. While leading into the song “Perfect Situation”, frontman Rivers Cuomo asked the crowd if they were ready to get “Weezered”, which has become an internet meme similar to Rick-rolling but with Weezer songs. They played a strong set mixed with old b-sides and album tracks mixed in with various hits such as “Undone(The Sweater Song)” and “Hash Pipe” as well as their popular cover of Toto’s “Africa”. The alt-rock group closed out their set with classic tracks “Surf Wax America” and “Buddy Holly” just as darkness set in.
Band #9: Imagine Dragons, 9:15 – 11:00 PM @Home Plate
Drawing in the largest crowd of the night, Imagine Dragons entered a stage decked out with large video screens playing their hit song “My Life”. Their frontman, singer Dan Reynolds, seemed a bit underdressed for the now brisk Tampa air, wearing nothing but baggy athletic shorts, and showing off his impressive physique. The Las Vegas-based group continued to wow the crowd with performances of hits “Believer” and “It’s Time” before using an impressive guitar solo to lead into “I’m So Sorry”. On top of stellar, booming sound and beautiful graphics on their massive screens, the band also used sparks and smoke to push their showmanship to its limits. Reynolds engaged with audience members, such as kids at their first concert, before walking through part of the crowd during “Thunder”. The band continued to keep the crowd involved during “On Top of the World”, releasing giant balloons to be volleyed around by the crowd. To close out their set, they launched into their breakout hit “Radioactive” before finishing with their newer song “Walking the Wire”, which featured an outro verse from “My Life” that created a finished “loop” of their set, and perfectly ended an amazing first night of the Festival!